Linotype Compatil

dan_reynolds's picture

What do you guys think of Linotype's Compatil typefaces? (Thorsten posted a press release about them in news the other day, http://www.typophile.com/forums/messages/72/49534.html?1095888070)

They have become quite popular in Germany, but I've never used them, Does anyone have any experience with the typefaces?
http://www.linotype.com/200000/compatil-clan.html

hrant's picture

I goddam love Compatil, and have since the moment I saw it.
It's the most mature typesystem ever.

And the pricing is very interesting: because it's very high, it becomes a sort of semi-exclusive face - not totally yours, but not plastered all over the place.

hhp

jfp's picture

Compatil is the worst typeface family I have seen from Linotype in recent years. Looks making a Dog like a Cow and a Cow like a Snike and reverse. Doesn't work at all.

Now, that Akira K was there, I'm confindent no such thing designed that way will came out anymore from Linotype. :-)

kris's picture

Pretty average. Doesn't really excite me at all. Sorry.

type's picture

It's the most mature typesystem ever.

Compatil is the worst typeface family I have seen from Linotype in recent years.


worst typeface - why?
mature - why?

dan_reynolds's picture

Corporate ASE is a type system with three separate families: a serif, a slab serif, and a sans serif. Compatil has four: a Venetian serif, a transitional serif, a slab serif, and a humanist sans serif.

The letter widths of individual letters in each of the four Compatil families are the same. This is not a monospaced font! "i" is still narrower than "w"

hrant's picture

A number of designers dislike Compatil (and Unica, and other rational fonts), and some of them possibly because they consider themselves artists (whether they admit it or not), and the worlds of expression and logic are partly opposed. So something that makes a lot of sense is in a way threatening to the "culture" of some type designer. Artists can make some types of fonts better than craftsmen, and the other way around too. But even though no person is purely one or the other, the more you're close to one extreme of the axis the more liable you are to focus your hatred on the other extreme. Very few people can be both at one extreme and appreciative of the other extreme.

hhp

hrant's picture

Typographic maturity: the realization that self-expression on the part of the designer has to be subservient to the needs of the users. Also, the implementation of a rich functional palette, as opposed to pretty formalisms. For example, in the case of Compatil, having all the fonts render out at predictable color levels is more important than some designer's preference that slab serifs are more pretty when dark.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

I like to consider myself an artist, although I am not one.

hrant's picture

Typographic maturity: the realization that self-expression on the part of the designer has to be subservient to the needs of the users. Also, the implementation of a rich functional palette, as opposed to pretty formalisms. For example, in the case of Compatil, having all the fonts render out at predictable color levels is more important than some designer's preference that slab serifs are more pretty when dark.

hhp

type's picture

Compatil is the worst typeface family I have seen from Linotype in recent years

I'll ask him about it in Prague.

Dan - did you ask him?

armin's picture

Few fonts make me

hrant's picture

> Technology shouldn't lead.

I agree. But I don't think technology is the same thing as functionality through logic.

As for beauty, not only is it subjective, but I feel the need to always remind myself to look beyond formal aesthetics when searching for true beauty. For example, among all the glyphs Dwiggins has made the most attractive to me is that funky lc "a" which was designed according his "scientific" leanings.

hhp

hrant's picture

> Compatil was created, I think, for a specific "functional" purpose

Well, actually the main reason I like it is that it's not only deep but also very broad; as a system, and through its individual components, it can do all kinds of things, many of them very well. How many fonts like that do we have?

hhp

kris's picture

Hrant, do you like Compatil for what it can do, how it does it, or both?

hrant's picture

I'm not sure what the differences are... Especially since I'm not really a type user. I guess what I like about it is that it seriously treats type design as a craft, that it badly wants to be a useful system.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

Compatil is a BIG project

kris's picture

What I mean by 'what it can do' is the 'rich functional palette' of the type system, the things that it claims to be able to do, the theory behind the system. 'How it does it' is the real-world application of it, theory put into practice.

In regards to fulfulling a brief, then it is rather successful. The idea, the theory of the thing is fantastic, I just don't like it on an aesthetic level.

kris's picture

Typographic maturity: the realization that self-expression on the part of the designer has to be subservient to the needs of the users.

But not utterly subservient to the requirements of the system, either.

jfp's picture

Let explain me a bit more,

I have nothing against such concept of various styles on a same family (well I have done one myself, hum). There is some good use of that, and many families demonstrated good design solution for that concept for long (JvK, Unger, Stone, Majoor, etc).

But what I can't "accept" on Compatil is the way they tried to fit all forms on one same unique structure, missing that the different style can stick to same set of basic forms. Its a too universal approche for my eye.

"Oldstyle" have some obvious characteristics, "Sans" others, etc. If not adjusted with sensibility, your design quickly became a monster, and some element of Compatil are like that, the various styles can't be "Compatibles."

Another thing (from my actual knowledge, based on the type specimen), is pretending doing a universal family but providing no italic is a bit bizarre.

Last, when you look at the design itself of the letterforms, well, the letterforms not balance well to the eyes, like the Frutiger Next too when Avenir Next is wonderful compared.

porky's picture

While a nice concept piece, I'd have to agree with JFP - obliques rather than italics, combined with the inevitable compromises that come from not allowing inherent characteristics of different classes of typeface to express themselves make it look, well, bland. And a bit cheap. IMHO.

Its like making the perfect car for all purposes. An exciting sports car that can do 150mph on the highway, that carries the family shopping from Sainsburys, thats easy to park and has enough room for the kids, big comfy seats, while being fuel efficient, safe, 4 wheel drive and low pollution.

Likely?

jfp's picture

Car analogy is well done David!! very fun!



+++
(Anyway, David, where I can see that car in action?)

hrant's picture

> Its a too universal approche for my eye.

I dislike "universality" as much as you (probably more) but I think it's important to remember the "design brief". A style's preferred characteristics (for example that an old-style should have a smaller x-height*) are important, but not sacrosanct - matching apparent size between the styles for example can be just as important. It depends on the intent, and because it "bends" the styles, Compatil becomes more useful in certain ways it couldn't have if it didn't bend them.

* Which is why Iowan Old-Style for example seems awkward - we probably agree. (Although the caps are great.)

> providing no italic is a bit bizarre.

That I can agree with, even though I believe that for users slanted Romans aren't as bad as we might like to think.

hhp

hrant's picture

Kris: I think the main thing Compatil can do which extremely few typeface systems can is create a calm underlying harmony (for example by maintaining apparent size) in publications that need to mix many styles.

As for subservience, I'm the one always opposing a strict hierarchy between things like historical integrity, formal harmony, etc. so I totally agree with you there.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

Compatil DOES have true italics. They were made available last week, and are only available as a whole package, through an exclusive corporate license (so, you won't find them as individual weights on the web site).

The reason for the strange proportions (all four subfamilies shar the same character widths) was so that you could change text from one style to another without having line wrap change, which can be important in business communication purposes. (Of course, when you change weights, character widths do change

eriks's picture

The reason for the strange proportions (all four subfamilies shar the same character widths) was so that you could change text from one style to another without having line wrap change

If the end result of changing style is the same greyness of the page and the same line lengths, why bother changing in the first place? Don

dan_reynolds's picture

Oh, I can think of lots of reason why large corporations would want to have different styles of type leave the same impression on a page, Erik.

Think of DaimlerChrysler

eriks's picture

but it is easy to see that Compatil's antiqua is better, and that all of Compatil's figures are better designed too

Sorry, Dan

dan_reynolds's picture

Well, Linotype is not a graphic design studio. We make typefaces for other graphic designers to use. Compatil was designed in response to a direct request from a client, and Linotype

hrant's picture

> Dan

William Berkson's picture

A couple of comments at the 'Making Faces' seminar in New York last week are relevant to the issue of whether the 'brief' for Compatil is a good or a misguided idea.

Matthew Carter was asked about his redesigns of Cheltenham for the New York Times. The questioner noted that some of the titles that had before been in different typefaces were now being taken over more and more by Cheltenham. Was this a loss?

Carter said that whether to use more or fewer faces was really a matter for the Times to decide, but he personally didn't really see any advantage to a great many faces. He explained that historically the same face was just not available in different sizes and weights, so newspapers were more or less forced to use many typefaces. He did note that he designed, IIRC, five different versions of Cheltenham for the Times, for different uses.

The other comment was from David Berlow in answer to a question about the proliferation of families with a huge variety of weights and widths - much in evidence in both the Font Bureau and the HFJ foundry's faces. He retorted "We didn't start this you know," --explaining that the demand for a variety of weights and widths came from publications themselves.

Reinforcing the merit of a variety of weights was another comment from Matthew Carter. He was in general refreshingly modest, but one slide he was clearly proud of, saying 'this is where I earn my keep.' It was a picture of a serif face with 3 different weights superimposed. The lines of the different weights were close, but the relationship between the different weights was clearly non-linear, and the serifs and joins were treated differently.

What I took from this was that all the optical and other adjustments of a face for different sizes and uses in a publication is actually quite useful and valuable, but the multiplication of faces in a single publication is questionable.

William Berkson's picture

>how many weights is too many?

Maybe I wasn't clear. What I understood is that a multiplication of weights for different sizes and purposes is useful, but that different faces, with different underlying structures, such as an old face and slab face is a problem.

How many weights it would seem is dictated by the needs of the publication. Newspapers, which have a lot of information and charts and pictures to present, often in narrow columns - and which want to be 'skimmable' - seem to have a much higher demand than most books.

Miss Tiffany's picture

The logic behind Compatil is intriguing, but I'm not so sure it works for me. I suppose if I had a huge corporation for whom I was doing interchangeable work it would come in handy. Technology shouldn't lead.

Miss Tiffany's picture

On second thought ... I suppose the glyphs themselves seem a little ... erm ... safe for me. Which does translate into corporate, which doesn't mean it is necessarily a bad thing.

However, before digital type, before photocomposition, Dwiggins (and many others) were designing for Linotype with all sorts of constraints and still managed to create beautiful type that worked and looked good in spite of those constraints.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Yes. I agree that it is subjective. Completely Subjective. If it weren't we'd not have so much from which to choose. I also agree that, perhaps, technology and function are different. Compatil was created, I think, for a specific "functional" purpose, and so it should perform. I'll just leave it at that.

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