Tag Archives: Aktiv Grotesk

Finding the Way with Aktiv Grotesk

We recently came across an interesting use of our Aktiv Grotesk typeface at Massey University in New Zealand on their new College of Creative Arts, Wellington Campus building – Te Ara Hihiko. Nick Kapica of SV Associates was responsible for designing the building’s wayshowing using Aktiv Grotesk. He was kind enough to give us some more information about the building itself and how the font is used within it.

(images courtesy of Nick Kapica)

“The wayshowing for Te Ara Hihiko, the new creative arts building at Massey University, relies on the placement of typography within the built environment to not only communicate the required building information but also in doing so engage the viewer in visually understanding the space.

“The building has been designed by Athfield Architects and is centrally situated within the Wellington campus of Massey University. Built into a rapidly sloping section of land, entry points are possible on three different levels. Throughout the campus the University has used letters to denote building levels and these levels remain consistent throughout the entire campus… Many visitors to the campus are initially confused by the unusual lettering system, so in Te Ara Hihiko a feature has been made out of the five letters, A, B, C, D and E thus introducing new visitors to this concept quickly as they enter the building. Although the building has a name (Te Ara Hihiko) it is officially Block 12, all other building on the campus are denoted with a block number. Large typography, 12,  on the exterior façade introduces the typographic language that continues within the building.

“New Zealand has two official languages, te reo Maori and English, and this has been acknowledged in the completely bilingual, non hierarchical wayshowing. The only capital letters used are those denoting the five levels, all other typography is lowercase.

“All typography has been set in Aktiv Grotesk. The large characters; A, B, C, D, E and 12, are set in bold and  have 1800 mm cap height, all other typography is in regular. Directional information has a cap height of 30 mm, location and door names has a cap height of 60 mm and door numbers a cap height of 20 mm. The building name breaks out of this system and has been applied to the façade on both sides of the building at the entrance on level B and C in sizes most appropriate for the location.

“This system aims to educate and inform the visitor about the physical nature of the building rather than simply guide them from signpost to signpost.”

Aktiv Grotesk Advance


Over the last few years we’ve gained quite some experience designing the more complex non-Latin scripts. This has mostly been through our work with Nokia, but also with some other projects such as the dual language Arabic-Latin signage font for Metro Dubai, or the packaging for McDonald’s which also has an Arabic script.

In our own library we’re laying the foundation for a ‘global’ font with Aktiv Grotesk Advance, that one day will hopefully contain enough scripts to cover the majority of languages that are spoken in the world. This is, of course, a huge undertaking, considering that Aktiv Grotesk now consists of 16 font styles, and that in excess of 100,000 glyphs will have to be created to add the new scripts. We feel we’re ready to tackle it.

We’re planning to release Aktiv Grotesk Advance by the middle of May 2013. This project has been quietly under way for some time and does not yet include the new font weights recently published. The Advance Edition is an extension of the existing Corporate Edition and will include many more Latin glyphs for many minority languages and Greek Polytonic, to allow setting and reading of classical Greek. It will also feature Hebrew and Arabic Extended, supporting the many and various languages that use the Arabic script. Hebrew and Arabic will also be separately available as Aktiv Grotesk ME Edition.

We will also be publishing Cordale Arabic at the same time, to expand the range of our Arabic font styles with an elegant Naskh style typeface. Cordale Arabic can already be seen being used by the Qatari based bank QNB, who received a special advance copy of the font.

Bruno Maag

From Graceful to Strong, the New Faces of Aktiv Grotesk

Aktiv Grotesk.

Since its release in 2010, Aktiv Grotesk has proven to be a successful grotesque design with a calm and confident voice. Now, eight new styles expand the range of expressions, from a beautiful Hairline to a bulky Black weight, with matching italics.

The Hairline weights elevate any message into a state of grace. Very delicate at medium sizes, the Hairline weights were designed to shine in big sizes, that allow them to reveal their careful refinement.The nature of very thin strokes means that there is no room for mistakes. Even the tiniest imprecision results in a visible error. The diagonals are particularly difficult to design, as the pixel grid system does not cope well with anything other than vertical and horizontal lines.

The Black weights, as the opposing side of the yin-yang of this font, deliver strong, loud and clear messages. White space is at premium on such dark letterforms and new challenges arise. Knowing where to compensate for the excessive weight, and by how much, is a constant issue.

If the user fancies something less extreme, new intermediate weights Thin and ExtraBold were designed to work with the already existing Light, Regular, Medium and Bold. With this comprehensive update, Aktiv Grotesk has become even more versatile.

You can see all eight new styles on our website.

Aktiv Grotesk Dances into New English National Ballet Campaign

From today, Dalton Maag’s Aktiv Grotesk is being used in a brand new campaign for the English National Ballet as their new logo and font. The campaign, by creative agency The Beautiful Meme, features stunning photography of English National Ballet dancers wearing couture garments by Vivienne Westwood. The idea behind the campaign is to turn over the traditional stereotypes of ballet, and get people to look at the English National Ballet with fresh eyes.

For the logotype, we modified Aktiv Grotesk to create a unique form for the ballet company. The starting point was Aktiv Grotesk Bold, with the spacing and leading of the individual characters being refined to create the perfect typographic balance for the words “English National Ballet”. The most major modification was to replace the standard Aktiv Grotesk “g” with a new two-storey version for greater aesthetic appeal.


Aktiv Grotesk was chosen for its clean lines and modernity, which challenge the traditional images of ballet. Ben Haworth, Creative Director of The Beautiful Meme, gave us an insight into their creative process and why they decided that Aktiv Grotesk was the perfect font for this campaign.

“The decision was made quite early on to deviate from any visual preconceptions of ballet predominantly including script or baroque serif typefaces. We wanted a brand typeface that would reflect and support Tamara Rojo’s artistic vision of communicating a core truth that everyone in the Company has something to say,” said Ben

“Aktiv Grotesk seemed the perfect vehicle to profess the English National Ballet’s new bold and confident position. It’s an exquisitely drawn typeface that has the creative quirks and character to distinguish from other more clinical grotesque fonts. Its clean and contemporary feel also has a degree of neutrality which is key for future collaborative projects across a wide range of the arts to enhance the vision of the ENB being the UK’s most creative company.

“This was our second collaborative project with Dalton Maag, and once again their professionalism and creative insight was a huge benefit for a young company such as ourselves. From chatting ballet over lunch last summer, to creating a bespoke Aktiv double story ‘g’ for the logotype, it’s been a fantastic journey and an absolute pleasure.”