Presentation details
DIN 1451

The unofficial 'corporate type' of Germany?

Albert-Jan Pool

Saturday 15 September | 16:15 – 16:45
Location: Dance Studio Room 225

Presentation | Theme: Cultures | Duration: 30 minutes

Contrary to most other countries, in Germany hardly any “20th Century Vernacular Lettering” can be found. In this chapter the influence of the introduction and use of a standardized typeface “for all lettering purposes” on the visual appearance of the German public environment is discussed.

The typefaces of the German industry standard DIN 1451 were developed as from 1925. Though being an engineers product, the propagation of geometric typedesign by the Constructivists, the Bauhaus and New Typography lead to a quick and overall acceptance of the idea as such. Due to the political situation during World War II the DIN typefaces were introduced in Germany’s neighbour states. Partly this happened on behalf of the German occupation of those countries. In most cases the main reason for its quick spreading origins in technical and economical interests in the thirties. Although between 1945 and the early 1990ties “offical typography” usually declared the DIN typefaces as “typographic accidents” their usage has been continuous and widely spread throughout the whole country. Despite of economical, political and artistical debates, the DIN typefaces, as well as their technical and national variations, survived throughout a wide range of applications after 1945. This goes for Germany as well of most of the countries in which the DIN typefaces had been introduced before 1945. Partly because of technological limitations, sometimes because of ignorance of bureaucrats or technicians towards design.

The striking point on the general use and acceptance of the DIN typefaces is that it have been mainly designers who:

Looking back, the number of long-living objects (street names, signposts, motorway signage, devices, machines, keyboards, games, technical drawings and -products as well as consumer goods “Made in Germany” that have been lettered using DIN typefaces is enormous. My hypothesis is that the visual impact of all of this mostly non-designed typography using DIN standard typefaces is larger than many official and well-designed publications. Moreover, it builds one of the core-elements of German “look and feel”. As a conclusion we may say that in Germany the letterforms of DIN 1451 not only help to get the people around the country, but also is one of the basics that defines Germany’s visual identity. The presentation includes a virtual travel through “DIN Country” in which I visualize the overall presence of (vernacular) typography using DIN typeface in a typographic landscape that is slowly being taken over by the Helveticas of the sixties and Arial of the nineties.

As the presentation deals with possible effects of standardizing an aspect of design, those who are involved with the business and creation of Corporate Design, Corporate Type and Core Fonts may benefit from it. The discussion on the role of a standard typeface within the visual identity of a country may be interesting and valuable for type directors at advertising agencies.

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.

[ All speakers | All presentations ]