Dalton Maag Wins Four Awards at Granshan 2014

We are delighted to announce that Dalton Maag has won four awards in the Granshan 2014 International Type Design Competition, for non latin typefaces. The competition, which is in its 7th year, judges typefaces in categories relating to their script system. Our designers were awarded prizes for Cyrillic, Arabic, Thai and Bengali typefaces.


Intel Clear Cyrillic, designed by Tom Foley, Mary Faber, Hanna Donker & Stuart Brown. 2nd prize in the Cyrillic category


HP Simplified Thai, designed by Pilar Cano. 2nd Prize in the Thai category.


Intel Clear Arabic, designed by Naïma Ben Ayed, Damien Collot. 1st prize in the Arabic category.


Nokia Pure Bengali, designed by Amélie Bonet. 3rd prize in the Indic category.


London Design Festival – Typography in the Digital Landscape

Typography In The Digital Landscape – LDF2014 from Dalton Maag on Vimeo.

Last week, I participated in an evening panel event with collaborative design studio Method’s David Eveleigh-Evans, to discuss type and typography in a digital landscape, expertly moderated by John Walters, editor of Eye Magazine. The event was hosted by Method’s London studio and featured installations that explored the interaction between typography and people.

The conversation between John, David and myself revolved around type and how information is consumed. In particular, how editorial, layout and type create a responsive experience. Presenting information on a laptop is a very different proposition to presenting the same information on a mobile phone. Does the change in medium not require a different treatment of the information, in all its expressions? One possibility is that a typeface responds to the device by changing its proportions dynamically for best functionality.


How can we encourage creators of content, not only authors but the digital designers, to actively think about how the typeface affects tone of voice of the content? One installation explored this by having audience members speaking into a microphone, and the computer responding with a typeface from Dalton Maag’s font library, depending on pitch and volume parameters.

The furious pace of digital development is forcing everyone to rethink their economic models. There is no dispute that creators have to be paid; the conversation must be around access and font licensing models, and software in general. During the development of Dalton Maag’s website, conceptualised by Method, it emerged that new, and simple licensing models were needed to help content creators achieve more typographic diversity.

Method and Dalton Maag both hope that this event is only the start to a debate around bringing digital creators together. As digital content production increasingly requires specialisation, not unlike the days of letterpress content, events like this provide a platform to bring together specialists and experts in their respective areas, to help each other create inspiring work.

Bruno Maag

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It’s never been easier to use our fonts

Developments in digital technology over the last few years have dramatically changed the ways in which fonts are used. Only ten years ago the main use for fonts was still in print, but today they’re first-and-foremost used in a digital world; fonts are now consumed beyond a user’s desktop computer or a company’s network server, on mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, watches, and wearables, drawing together content from websites, apps, and the cloud. In twelve months’ time we expect that our fonts will be commonly used in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet.

All of these developments have brought change to how customers access and use fonts. So it’s clear to us that traditional ways of licensing fonts, with licences that are not straightforward to understand or are difficult to administer, are misaligned with today’s user expectations. While some initiatives, such as cloud-based fonts, are offering an alternative, they still don’t fully satisfy customer needs. To address this we’ve reviewed our approach to licensing and now offer five simple, flexible, user-friendly licences.


Our most exciting innovation is that we now offer everyone the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ with trial fonts, functionally identical to the commercial versions, available under our new Trial Licence. This licence allows our fonts to be used in non-commercial pitches to clients, in testing, and in academic or student projects. When you’re ready to use the fonts for real, you just need to buy the appropriate commercial licence.


We have listened to customers who have told us they sometimes don’t need everything offered by the industry-standard minimum five-user licence, or by the all-in-one approach which our current licence brings to webfont use; they feel that they’re being forced to pay for things they don’t need. So we now offer a single user licence at a very affordable £15 per font style for all of our Single Edition fonts.

We have also listened to corporate customers who are looking for ultimate flexibility in how they can use our fonts. So we now offer a licence for any of our fonts that allows unlimited use within the organization with no limit on number of users, number of domain names, or number of apps, and with no time restrictions, for £9,375 per font style.

It is for digital media – websites and apps – that we make the biggest changes. We have heard from customers time and again how cumbersome it is to constantly monitor and report on visitor numbers and downloads. So we now offer Webfont and App licences that don’t rely on any traffic or distribution statistics, they’re priced according to the number of domain names or apps to be covered – there is no limit on downloads, visitor numbers, or page views. And to provide ultimate flexibility, the licences can be purchased annually, or in perpetuity.


Summary of Our New Licences

Trial Licence


End-User Licence

From £15 per font style for one user

Webfont Licence

£48 per font style per domain name for 1 year

£480 per font style per domain name, perpetual

App Licence

£48 per font style per app for 1 year

£480 per font style per app, perpetual

Unlimited Licence

£9,375 per font style for an unlimited number of users within your organization

Contact us for details of our Redistribution Licence, which allows you to distribute our fonts as part of a software application or hardware device and for bespoke solutions for licensing your suppliers and contractors all in one transaction.


Digital Evolution – Bruno Maag

During a recent conversation, I was asked to give my impression of how the type industry has changed since I started my apprenticeship in 1978. For one, I can say that the job I apprenticed in doesn’t exist anymore. And, when I started with my apprenticeship, type design wasn’t an industry in its own right but attached to typesetting equipment, as a means to sell more machines.

Bruno certificate (web)

When I set up Dalton Maag we designed typefaces with print in mind. Display on screens was a secondary consideration, if at all. The BMW typeface we designed with our colleagues at Interbrand in Cologne, in 1999, required that the fonts also looked good on screen. That was probably one of the first projects where, from the start, both print and screen were considered conceptually, although print was still prioritised. Of course, specialist applications, such as interactive CD-ROMs required type for the screen but often type would be presented as image files.

BMW typeface

BMW typeface

One such project was for Dorling Kindersley in 1995 to create a bitmap font for its interactive CD products, for 72 dpi colour screens. Using Fontstudio – a font tool which is no longer available – allowed me to create the bitmaps for 9pt Garamond Italic, with a colour foreground and white background. Carefully selecting the shades between white and full foreground colour I created an anti-aliased character representation that could clearly be identified as Garamond Italic, despite the horrifyingly low resolution. Interestingly, my work showed that only 5 shades between fore- and background colour were necessary to emulate the design so well.

Soon screen display had to be considered with every project, and gradually the emphasis of use changed from print to screen. Generally fonts needed to be designed and engineered for resolutions of 72 to 120 dpi and extensive hinting was necessary to create even textures of type on the screen, as well as emulating the actual design features as closely as possible. In addition, the design and hinting needed to be considered for black & white, anti-aliased (gray), and ClearType rendering.

b+w hinting

An example of anti-aliased character


An example of a clear type character

For the last five years the vast majority of the fonts we have designed have been primarily aimed at screen based devices. That the fonts work faultlessly in print is naturally expected. This has been made possible with the high resolutions available on contemporary devices, some with over 500 dpi. Hinting is rarely necessary anymore for smart phones and tablets but still needs to be taken into account if fonts are applied to other digital environments such as desktop or laptop computers, and legacy devices.

Although the output environment has changed, we have found that the actual process of designing and engineering the font has not changed that much. We still create initial sketches and design concepts which are tested for their creative originality and usability within the intended environments. Throughout the entire implementation process, when executing the design concepts to all the necessary characters, we bear in mind and anticipate the effects of design decisions on different platforms.

The major challenge of creating fonts for a digital environment is the diversity of output platforms. We cannot predict how and where fonts are used, and how the fonts are rendered. Because we have had the fortune of living through the entire digital revolution, we have the skill to design fonts that can live in the digital legacy, as well as in the digital present. Who knows what the future brings…

Bruno Maag



Matching Arabic–Latin scripts in logotypes


Azza Alameddine is a native Arabic speaker from Lebanon and has been working for Dalton Maag for a few months. Azza recently ran a workshop for colleagues discussing the characteristics of Arabic typography and explaining best practice for matching Latin and Arabic scripts in logotypes.

“It is our responsibility as type designers to educate graphic designers, typographers and branding agencies about the richness of Arabic calligraphy and the infinite typographic possibilities that can emerge from it.”

Azza Alameddine


Old cities, old calligraphy

Arabic typography started in the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century, a few centuries after its Latin sister. If we can still see the major calligraphic scripts (Ruq’a, Naskh, Nasta’liq) in the streets of old Middle Eastern cities today, it is because talented masters of calligraphy have refined the proportions and shapes over the years, and the styles have survived because they were clear, legible and beautiful. The artistic development of different scripts also meant that there was more room to express the subtle sensibilities of context. We can actually see that some of the styles used in a specific context back then are still used in the same way today.

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Calligraphic Naskh in a 13th century manuscript. Typographic Naskh in a 20th century book.

New cities, ‘new’ typography

Although Arabic typography has always had its shortcomings, it has noticeably regressed in aesthetics and functionality in recent decades. In more modern cities in the Gulf, the geometric Kufi typefaces seem to be setting a trend in the matchmaking culture. Although Kufi has not been used as a reading script since the 13th century, its emergence eight centuries later as an Arabic counterpart for Sans Serif Latin typography (in display but also in text) seems questionable.

The truth is, what we call Kufi today (or some call a hybrid between Naskh and Kufi), is actually a simplification of shapes imposed by the rigidness of Latin typography and rationalised as inspired from ‘Kufic’ calligraphy. If to western eyes matchmaking of the Kufi and sans serif seems to work, to an Arab reader it looks completely primitive and obsolete.


A Latin sans-serif logo matching a very badly designed Kufi-style Arabic;
The top part of ‘jeem’ is square, the ‘dal’ is too closed and too wide.

Arabic is known for its cursive, flowing and horizontal feel. Reading is made optimal when letters don’t really align, teeth are not repetitive; in other words, when modularity is reduced to a minimum. You can imagine then why the geometric typefaces seen everywhere in the Gulf feel as if Arabic typography is taking a step backwards. Geometric typefaces are not a good option for reading. They strip out all the characteristics that make text legible at the expense of matching their features with those of the Latin. A similar rigidity is found in the real Kufi script which is why it was abandoned a long time ago.

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Quran in Kufi script from the 8th century.      Recent magazine with ‘Kufi’ used as body text.

Although you could argue that looking at a logo is not really ‘reading’ and as a result Kufi could be a good option, in reality the script was never part of Arabic reading habits or visual culture. The only time Kufi might seem like a good choice is if matched with a display, bold, modular Latin. And so, by default, setting it in long texts is widely abusive to Arabic typography.


Arabic-Latin logo matching workshop

Azza’s workshop aimed at highlighting bad conceptual decisions that are often made when matchmaking Arabic–Latin typography today and finding alternatives to these.

The workshop started with an introduction to the different styles of Arabic calligraphy and the contexts in which they were most commonly used over the centuries.

Next, Azza showed recent pictures of calligraphy, lettering and typography taken from the streets of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iran and the United Arab Emirates to illustrate the current visual culture in the Middle East, and draw a parallel between each style’s old and current use. The aims was to bring awareness to the participants about the function of each style.

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Some examples of bilingual signs in the Middle East. Latin sans-serif with a Naskh, Ruq’a and Nasta’liq companion in that order. Matching is not an important issue in vernacular lettering, as priority is given to legibility.

The matchmaking concept

Arabic calligraphy is rich in scripts and each one is used for a specific purpose. But, when matchmaking Latin and Arabic, often designers used to the Latin script make choices which are not suited to the Arabic. People are used to seeing particular styles in particular contexts, so the choice of corresponding Arabic style is often made to fit with the feel and function of the Latin typeface rather than its features. A good matchmaking should convey the feeling of its Latin counterpart rather than its typographic features and traditions should be respected.

Workshop participants made their choices according to what had been explained: Ruq’a is informal, Diwani is fancy, Naskh is traditional, Kufi is display….Few of them were familiar with the Arabic script, but the concept was grasped by everyone and they started by copying the corresponding shapes from existing calligraphic typefaces. They had two hours to figure out the letters, draw them, and then try to match the contrast and proportions of the Latin. They did a great job in such a short time, and although not refined, the results are very interesting.


H&M in Ruq’a as the Latin is informal. William Montrose


Vivienne Westwood in Diwani to give it a swashy display feel. Ueli Kaufmann


Balmain in Thuluth for the majestic feel. Michele Patanè


Moschino in Kufi because it is appropriate in this case. José Solé

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Marc Jacobs in a slightly modulated Naskh because it’s the most appropriate choice in this case. Riccardo de Franceschi

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Paul Smith in a Ruq’a/Diwani hybrid to translate the informal handwriting but also the fancy feel of the brand. Damien Collot


 Gucci in Naskh because the Latin can work as text. Deiverson Ribeiro


It is very important that we accept and respect that not all scripts convey the same feeling when given the same features. Actually Latin and Arabic are quite opposites in many ways; this is why even an interpretation of features is sometimes not possible. When you are matching scripts, they should respect your audience’s reading habits, work on their own, and at the same time live in harmony.

To twenty first century designers, calligraphy seems too traditional and ‘uncool’. Everyone wants to experiment with new styles and do something that nobody has done before. But the truth is, if you want enhance Arabic typography, the calligraphic legacy that the Ottomans have so generously inherited us must be preserved.

In the 15th century, calligraphers have refined Naskh to give it a sharper, more modern feel. Calligraphy is not set in stone; it can be modernised in many ways through typography. As long it maintains its primary function (writing beautifully), it can, with the right talent, be adapted into today’s reading habits and challenges.

And so, it is our responsibility as type designers to educate graphic designers, typographers and branding agencies about the richness of Arabic calligraphy and the infinite typographic possibilities that can emerge from it.