Hot off the press and the 2nd instalment from the Typographic Poster Series, this edition features the illustrious, Sans-Serif typeface DIN.
No. 002_ DIN
The DIN family of fonts, with their slightly sever profile and a regimented rigidity to them, is a widely popular one. At first glance, it might appear similar to fonts like Helvetica and Arial, but perhaps with a little less refinement and more personality, which lends itself well to design that wants to be minimalist but not entirely indistinct. Here, we’re going to look at the rather interest history of DIN, and how it has made a journey over-a-century long to still be so widely used.
The history of DIN
As suggested, DIN has been around for over a hundred years, with an ancestor in a 1905 design known as IV 44, defined by the Royal Prussian Rail Administration. As the Prussian State became interconnected and defined by the network of railways, a unified font was created for that network.
In 1936, the first DIN typeface, DIN 1451, evolved from IV 44, fitting further into the realist of grotesque style defined by a modern lack of flourish or unnecessary design. DIN stands for Deutsches Institut fur Nomung (the German Institute for Standardisation) and tells the story of a Germany that was becoming more centralised, gaining a distinct national identity that was exemplified by the growing use of DIN fonts on road signs, street signs, license plates, and official forms of all kinds.
If you look at photos of what a pre-war German street looks like, you can immediately recognise the bold-yet-neutral lettering on the street signs. From there, FF DIN, the most commonly used modern variant, was reborn from DIN 1451 in 1995 by the FontFont Foundry, to bring that subtly German design into the realm of modern graphic design.
Precision German Engineering
Like other grotesque typefaces, including Helvetica, DIN is straightforward and basic, sporting strongly defined lines and an emphasis on readability. However, as old as it is and as far as it has come, it still bears some of the tweaks and accents in its lettering that might be considered “superfluous” in fonts like Helvetica and Arial. It’s lowercase l’s and 7’s have a slight serif to them. It has all the hallmarks of that centralised German efficiency and officiality that make it grotesque but still bears a slight stylisation, hallmarks from more eccentric typefaces that lend it just a little more personality than other grotesque fonts.
Use of DIN
FF DIN is still widely used in Germany as the go-to typeface for signage, particularly for public uses such as road signage, street signage, and it’s still very present in the railways of Germany where it was born. It has been used outside the country, however, by brands like Adidas, the ACLU, and PNC Financial Services. It’s a straightforward, strict font that comes with a slightly industrial look and is best used for those wanting clarity, legibility, and a sense of seriousness and even severity in their text.
DIN is a bold font, one that’s entirely business first, and its origins make for an interesting story of how it got that way. Beyond being highly effective in modern signage and branding, it makes for a curious study of how the shaping of countries and evolution of cultures can be seen through the progress of typefaces through the years.