Meeting Adrian Frutiger

I am often asked the question “what is your favourite typeface?” – the truth is that it depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I prefer something refined, like a Bembo, Dante, or Centaur. On other days I would like nothing better than a nice fat Rockwell or Clarendon, and occasionally it has to be a plain sans serif – no fuss, no schmuss. But if I were told that I could only take one typeface to a desert island, and that I’d have to live with it for the rest of my life, there is only one choice: Univers.

Ever since I first started learning about type during my apprenticeship as a typesetter, I appreciated the clarity of Univers. It is a truly modern typeface, modernistic even, that has prevailed in the nearly fifty years since its release. Every stroke and curve is drawn with purpose and confidence; in my opinion, Univers is about as perfect as it gets.

It was during my studies at Basel School of Design that I really learned to understand typeface design, and the discipline that it takes to create letters that effortlessly work with each other. It was also during my time at Basel School that I had the opportunity to meet Adrian Frutiger, in his Paris office where he was working at the time. I received a warm welcome and after some minutes chatting about my background we soon fell into an easy discussion. The memory which sticks with me from that afternoon is that throughout our entire conversation we did not speak about type, but we did speak about art.

I learnt that in order to balance the discipline and restraint required to make great typefaces, Adrian Frutiger enjoyed creating abstract artworks. He would draw and paint shapes, or create lino prints, usually one- or two-colour. The only concession to type that I could see in his artwork was the precision with which the shapes were drawn. Despite being amorphous, not one part of a shape was out-of-place or without purpose.

By the time I left the studio it was already starting to get dark. An encounter that was meant to last minutes had turned into hours. That afternoon at Adrian Frutiger’s studio I gained a sense that it was art that inspired him to design typefaces the way he did. Where his art was amorphous and generous, his type was tight, weights and proportions clearly defined and harmonized; where his art was about inspiration and the sheer joy of beauty, his type was about function and aesthetic. I believe him when he says “a typeface is to be read, not seen”. Only when the reader no longer sees the typeface have we, as designers, accomplished our work. It is art which always wants to be seen.

Adrian Frutiger passed away on 12 September 2015, aged 87. Earlier this year the type community also mourned the loss of Hans Eduard Meyer, and Hermann Zapf, both of whom need no introduction. I’d like to thank them all for their generosity, time, and advice. It is now up to our generation who have benefitted from their experience, to pass on our knowledge and guidance to the next generation just as generously as they did.

Bruno Maag



Aktiv Grotesk for the People

On 1 October 1949 Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after the War of Liberation that had lasted three years. Following the war many reforms were introduced by the Communist Party in the PRC, not least a simplification of the Chinese writing system to help fight the levels of illiteracy in China. In contrast to this, the Republic of China (modern-day Taiwan) maintained Traditional Chinese as its official writing system, alongside Hong Kong, and some other regions.

Today both Mandarin and Cantonese are written using the Traditional Chinese writing system in Taiwan and Hong Kong, while Simplified Chinese is used to write Mandarin in the PRC. Traditional Chinese has around 13,500 characters, while Simplified Chinese has a minimum of around 8,500 characters but may include as many as 27,500, depending on the chosen standard. Aktiv Grotesk is available with support for all relevant Chinese glyph sets. For Traditional Chinese, we include the glyph set covered by Big5 (Taiwan) and HKSCS (Hong Kong), and for Simplified Chinese the coverage of GB 2312 and GB 18030, both used in Mainland China and Singapore.


The China Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI) oversees the continuous updating of the two standards GB 2312 and GB 18030, adding new characters as new words are introduced. Fonts which are to be distributed within Mainland China as part of apps, embedded into mobile devices, or installed in operating systems, must comply with GB 18030 and be certified by CESI before they can be commercially distributed. Aktiv Grotesk GB 18030 Certified is approved by CESI and complies with all rules required by the Chinese government, making it ready to be licensed and distributed.

Aktiv Grotesk offers a comprehensive font solution for customers who wish to take their branding across many languages and a broad range of media. As well as Chinese for Mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, the family also supports Japanese, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, and Hebrew.


It’s all in the name

Expectant parents agonise over the name that they will bestow upon their child. When the gender of the child is not yet known, the agony doubles. The sex of the child is not the only factor that determines the name. There are other considerations to factor in. How unique should the name be without becoming ridiculous and leading to bullying? Does it have any religious associations? What languages will it possibly need to work in? And last but never least – will the grandparents approve the name. Selecting a name is a minefield that requires careful navigation, and quite often leads to hearty arguments between the expectant couple.

Choosing a font name is no less agonising. After months of designing and engineering a font family, getting it right for all the possible uses, it will need to be released. So it needs a name. As with naming a child, many factors have to be considered. We like the font name to evoke a sense of semblance with the expression of the design. We always say the name out loud to ensure its sound is pleasing. We consider whether it can be easily pronounced by people speaking different languages and that there are no undesirable meanings.

Throughout these explorations we also have to bear in mind that the length of the font name is technically restricted, particularly when it is designed to live in legacy environments. Font style descriptions such as Extra Bold must be included in the font name length. And lastly, when everyone is happy with a chosen name, we must research to find out whether it’s available as a font name. If it hasn’t been taken already we’ll apply to register the Trademark.

In early March we launched a new font, Albero. We agonised, tested and we researched and we were certain that it was all clear. Shortly after launch, however, one of our industry competitors alerted us to a potential naming conflict with one of their fonts. Albero had only just been launched so it was an easy and sensible decision to withdraw it from our website to avoid any conflict or confusion. The font is now available again as Bligh, another great addition to our font library.

This episode illustrates that font names must be taken seriously, as much as naming a child is a serious undertaking. There is more to a name than just the name.

Bligh is now available on Download your free trials now.

Bruno Maag


Dalton Maag wins 3 Awards at Hiiibrand 2014

Three Dalton Maag typefaces have been honoured with awards in both the Latin and Chinese categories of the Hiii Typography 2014 international typography design competition. Hiiibrand run awards across the entire design industry, from photography to illustration and product design.

Judges selecting the winners were Kan Tai-Keung, award-winning designer and inkbrush painter; Klaus Hesse, award-winning German designer; Natasha Jen, Partner at Pentagram in New York; and, Sagi Haviv, internationally renowned graphic designer and teacher at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Why not try out Soleto and Blenny for yourself by downloading them as free trial fonts from our website.

Soleto wins the Jury Award

Judge Comments: “Sober, elegant, good proportions, modern. Ideal for body text composition.”— Philippe Apeloig (French)



Blenny takes home Silver in the Latin group


HP Chinese receives a Merit




Sharing the art of type design.

Packing up late, waking up early, croissant on the way, coffee on the tube, another on the train… early March, we had the chance and great pleasure to visit the Plymouth School of Art and Design. Kamal Gohil, BA (Hons) Graphic Design Programme Leader, kindly invited us to give a talk about what we do as font developers and to run a workshop focused on font design for branding. At Dalton Maag we never miss an opportunity to share our experience, therefore we like to allow the time needed to prepare materials and give the students as much input as we can in a short time. The visit was split into two parts with an afternoon talk on the first day followed by a day of workshops.

The talk:

The talk took place in the college lecture theatre where students and teachers were welcome to join for a deep overview of some of our latest projects.


Damien presenting Lush Handwritten. Photo credit: Tatsu Ishikawa

The lecture had four sections each one focusing on case studies that illustrate different aspects of our branding work. We started with two examples of corporate typefaces which differ on client size and functionality. We then showed how subtle modifications to our already existing library fonts can create a fully customised font bringing uniqueness to a brand. Lastly, we showcased some of our logo refinement jobs.

Eleni presenting Intel Clear. Photo credit: Tatsu Ishikawa

Our presentations gave the audience an overview of our entire design process; from getting to know the brand to the font engineering. It is valuable for students to understand how we approach a brief and design concepting and then the font development. The lecture theatre was booked for two hours and a half, which gave us time to emphasize the small details and to explain how we approached issues at every stage of the projects. We had time to engage in a discussion with the students not only about the presentation but also on our taste in type, inspirations, etc.

The workshop:


Over 35 students attended the workshop. Photo credit: Allie Couch

The workshop was about getting hands on with logo design. Participants had to take the first 2 letters of their name and surname to create a 4 letter word and think about a possible meaning behind it. Therefore an initially completely random word becomes a product name, or an abbreviation for an institution. They could then either pick up a font of their choice and modify it or design characters from scratch, using this as a starting point for a wordmark.


Some type basics and vocabulary made for the students. Photo credit: Allie Couch

Materials were available for them to refer to at any time, including type classification, type vocabulary and information about proportions and spacing; guiding them in the first stages of a type design project.

The students got into the exercise with efficiency, doing research, sketching and playing on screen with curves and shapes. We helped them focus their attention on type details, and guided them in the achievement of a consistent design in line with their respective brief.

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

Photo credit: Allie Couch

One of our strengths at Dalton Maag is the method we have in place for reviewing each others work. Discussions and checks are part of our day to day work; a workshop is the opportunity for us to guide students on how to improve their work taking into consideration feedback, advice and critiques. At the end of the workshop, students have achieved a design that has come from their own decisions and that they are able to explain and argue.


All designs ready for review. Photo credit: James Usill

The output:

The students headed into the practical exercise with good basic knowledge thanks to the talk: they learnt about the relationship between branding and typefaces, they learnt the ingredients of type.

Therefore, the workshop was an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of  type. With a little help and guidance they got to understand the functional and emotional qualities of a font choice. They learnt how to produce something that is close to a potential future task of a graphic designer. Last but not least they learnt through feedback and exchange of knowledge.

We left Plymouth with great excitement, thanks to the teachers, the students willingness to learn, and the great hospitality of everyone.

Eleni Beveratou and Damien Collot, Font Developers