Presentation details
DIN 16

A mechanical typeface rooted in handwriting

Albert-Jan Pool

Friday 14 September | 14:15 – 14:45
Location: Seminar Room 202

Presentation | Theme: Hand made | Duration: 30 minutes

This presentation discusses the esthetical and technical problems that will occur when we have to find a design solution for a typeface which is rooted in handwritten lettering is set out to be executed with simple mechanical means.

In the young republic of Weimar (1919–1933), unification and standardisation soon became important themes. Originally founded in 1916, to coordinate the specifications of war industry products, the “Normenausschu der Deutsche Industrie” (Committee for German Industrial Standards, uniting AEG, Bosch, Siemens and others) turned the idea of standardization into reality. After the War, Standardization was envisioned to be one of the means to put post-Word War I Germany back on its feet again. After having to fight for the for acceptance of the idea of standardization throughout the mid-twenties, practical results such as the standardization of paper sizes (this is where the A4 paper-size comes from) caused a breakthrough in acceptance. Standardization soon became one of the main ingredients of the quality, image and success of Germany’s industrial products. In the early years, the way the committee worked, was rather fundamental than practical. It was generally accepted that before one could publish a standard, the design of the sheets on which they were published should be standardized as well. Not only the basic layout, but also the relative proportions of the thicknesses of lines used in the illustrations should be thought over, as well as the style in which the lettering explaining the various elements of these drawings should be standardized. This is why the German standard for lettering on technical drawings is amongst the first standards that were published. It was issued as DIN 16.

In this presentation the development of DIN 16 (for lettering) and its relation to DIN 1451 (mainly intended for signage) is discussed. It shows the difficulties that occur when models originating in handwriting are being adopted for techniques that make use of engraving or of lettering-rulers for drawing pens. It also shows how writing-experts such as Soennecken had to cope with the ideals of engineers. From a type-designers point of view it is quite obvious that one will run into many problems when one has to design a typeface that on the one hand should serve as a model for fluent hand-lettering and on the other hand be identical with a set of drawings for mechanical execution of the same design, using just a few lines and arcs on a coarse grid. Obviously the various DIN-Committees of Drawings and Lettering ran into all of them. Difficulties, esthetical problems as well as engineers follies are shown and discussed. The presentation contains a lot of historical material that has not been published yet. The inclusion of a short video documentation of technical lettering executed with a DIN Graph, a lettering device which has become obsolete is planned.

Speaker details

Albert-Jan Pool Type designer, Typographer Dutch Design | Germany

Albert-Jan Pool was born July 9th, 1960 in Amsterdam. He studied in The Hague at the Royal Academy of Arts. Initiated by professor Gerrit Noordzij the Academy had become an incubator of type design. Albert-Jan was one of the co-founders of Letters], a group of young Dutch type designers. Many of its members (Frank Blokland / Dutch Type Library, Petr van Blokland, Jelle Bosma, Luc(as) de Groot, Bart de Haas, Henk van Leyden, Peter-Matthias Noordzij / The Enschede Font Foundry and Marie-Cecile Noordzij-Pulles and Just van Rossum and Peter Verheul) have become well-known type-designers. After his study he left for Hamburg, Germany. From 1987 to 1991 he was Type Director at Scangraphic in Germany. And from 1991 to 1994 he was the manager of Type Design and Production at URW in Hamburg. During this time he completed his type families URW Imperial, URW Linear and URW Mauritius. By January 1995 he started his own studio Dutch Design in Hamburg. FF DIN and FF OCR-F were among his first projects. He had been teaching typedesign at the Muthesius Hochschule in Kiel from 1995 to 1998 (as well as typography at the Hamburg Academy for Marketing and Media). Together with type-consultant Stefan Rugener of AdFinder GmbH and copywriter Ursula Packhauser he wrote and designed a both useful and provocative book on the effects of type on brand image entitled 'Branding with Type', which has been published by Adobe Press. Next to Dutch Design he co-founded FarbTon Konzept + Design. The new company was founded in 1999 with Jorn Iken, and Klaus-Peter-Staudinger, as well as with Birgit Hartmann who is also the mother of their daughter Pia-Elina (born 1999). He created several corporate typefaces such as Jet Set Sans together with Syndicate Brand & Corporate for Jet / Conoco in 1997, C&A InfoType together with Factor Design for C&A in 1998, DTL HEIN GAS for HEIN GAS Hamburger Gaswerke in 1999 and Regenbogen Bold for Regenbogen, a political party in Germany in 2001. His research on the history of the DIN typefaces has been published in TYPO magazine ( and in the online-magazine Encore ( As from january 2006 he is concentrating on Dutch Design again. He has extended the FF DIN family with Easteuropean character sets, which have recently been included as OpenType Pro fonts together with the Cyrillics designed by ParaType. 2005 Albert-Jan Pool left farbTon and took up teaching at the Muthesius Hochschule and the Hanseatische Akademie again. Currently he is working on new variations of FF DIN such as FF DIN Round, Stencil, Mono and Extended.

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