Tag Archives: Library fonts

A Font Called Grueber


In early 2008 I was visiting Burg Hochosterwitz, an impressive medieval castle. I noticed some interesting architectural drawings in the fourteen gates that lead up to the castle, with lettering that showed some majuscule letter-shapes that I had never seen before. The style was roughly what we would describe as a mono-linear slab-serif style. The letter W drew my attention because of it’s unusual construction. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the serifs had an unconventional trapezoid shape, which I found interesting as well.odd w

But the letters did not come from a typeface, they were hand-drawn. And the lettering on these architectural drawings was clearly not executed by a calligrapher or a person that was used to dealing with letters; the quality was not very good, the shapes changed slightly from word to word and the letters seemed to be drawn with the same tools that the person used for the drawings.

What was particularly interesting to me was that the upper-case characters that usually are constructed with diagonals such as A, V or W were constructed only with round and straight segments. I took some photos on site and I tried to do some further research on these drawings. The creator was an Austrian architect and historian called Paul Gruëber (1852-1924). In the early 1900’s, he had analysed the old castle’s gates and drawn architectural plans. Copies of these plans are displayed in the gates, and this is what I saw.

plans-(3) plans-(1) plans-(2)

In autumn 2008 I joined Dalton Maag as an intern and I got the chance to work on a project of my choice. I had the chance to show Bruno and Ron my sketches and ideas for the font which ended up being Grueber. I learned what font design is all about, and it was a pretty steep learning curve, as all I had as a starting point was the inspiration of a small set of uppercase letters, executed in a crude and inconsistent way.

After I had decided on how the uppercase shapes would be constructed in detail, and what the serifs would look like, I added the rest of the majuscule set. After that I came up with a matching lowercase design. These design decisions were not all made straight away, it was an evolution and involved constant refining. And after weeks and months the concept seemed to take shape.

Development Development2

During this process it became clear that the unusual shapes of some of the upper case letters were perhaps a bit too extreme for usage in text, and therefore we made the decision to draw conservative shapes for these letters. This made the font a lot more usable and legible. But I didn’t want to lose the original quirky letters that inspired me and were the reason for starting the project. So the decision was made to include them as a set of alternative letters via OT feature, which seemed the perfect solution.


For the bold weight, I wanted to go for a fairly extreme weight to create enough contrast to the already strong Regular. The extreme weight meant that some serifs had to go. It wasn’t really a problem, it actually gave the bold weight an interesting character and a very unique design.


The Dalton Maag Team decided that they liked the typeface enough to include it in the library, but by then my internship was over, so I finished the work from home. Shortly after this, I was offered a position at Dalton Maag — so although the font has never been a best-seller, for me it paid off, and it means a lot to me personally.

Lukas Paltram
Creative Director

Tátil use Effra in Brand Refresh

Tátil, the Brazilian design studio responsible for the Rio 2016 logo, are currently updating their branding after twenty years with their old identity. The question of which font to use to complete their brand was something that they spent some time thinking about, because they knew that it was going to be an important part of their new identity. They chose Dalton Maag’s Effra.

tatil logoeffra banner

Tátil is now the largest Brazilian design agency and is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. In Brazil, which is a fast moving market where companies come and go, this is definitely something to be proud of. Their growth has been a natural process, and it seemed equally natural to look at reviewing their branding at this point.

The new Tátil branding is bold and colourful, so they wanted a font that wouldn’t be competing for attention with the visual expression of the brand. However, they also didn’t want to fall back on the same sans serif fonts that are used in many other corporate brands. They needed a contemporary font that would age well and Effra offered the right balance of character and simplicity.

In particular, Tátil loved the elegance of the Light weight, which contrasted well with the stronger features of the Heavy weight. A strong relationship with our Brazilian office meant that experts were on hand to offer advice with licensing and implementation.

Tátil will be using Effra in all their printed materials and on their website. Their new website will be launching soon.

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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.”

New Horizons for Effra

We’re constantly working to increase the coverage of our fonts, so that they cover more languages and become even more international. Effra is one of our most popular typefaces, with clean lines and a versatile range of styles, so we’ve increased the character set to include Greek and Cyrillic alphabets.

effra corp2

The Effra font family was named after the Effra river which runs through Brixton, the area of London which is home to our UK studio. It has its roots in one of the earliest sans serif designs commercially available, Caslon Junior, designed in 1816. We originally updated the design, and expanded it to take in our Standard character set. The brand new Corporate Edition of the font expands the character set further to add Greek characters, and an extended Cyrillic character set that includes Serbian alternates. This means that Effra can now speak to over 2 billion people using their native script system.

As usual, careful attention was taken to give the new scripts the same texture and feeling of the original Effra. For the Greek, for example, the letter ‘omicron’ may look like the latin letter ‘o’, but in fact it’s a touch more condensed. Because the Greek alphabet uses several round letters, we have to make them all a fraction narrower so they won’t run too wide on running texts. The x-height of the Cyrillic is slightly higher than in Latin and Greek, because of the busy and squarish nature of most Cyrillic lower cases. It’s all about matching the feeling and texture.

We know that a lot of people have been waiting for the new scripts for this font, so we’ve released this font unhinted and will be updating it to add the hinting in the near future. The update will be free to download for anyone who has already bought the Corporate edition.

effra corp

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.