osp blog

Adjustment of a bone under the skin

Last LGM and its typographic excitements has brought the DIN - Das Ist Norm - Loch Ness project to the surface of the Saint Laurent river again in a discussion with Denis Jacquerye from Deja Vu. Back in Brussels, we meet Denis in the temporary OSP Studio at Rue de la Senne to begin to define on what criteria and with which tool to work (name dropping : stroke parts - stroke fonts in FontForge - svg fonts in Inkscape - Metafont - ...). So we browse through some of the pictures we brought back from the DIN archive.

From the different versions we have seen in the archives, it seems that the main DIN letters models are based on solo strokes drawn on a grid at small size. It was the regular usage for most of the texts in the engineering environment. The thickness of the tool used (pencil, drawing pen, ball nose mill) defined the boldness of the strokes and the round or less round shape of their extremities, like flesh on bones.

Later this was also applied to larger lettering, so strokes became surfaces and the drawing began to be defined by the contour, by its skin. Simple geometric extrapolation from strokes were operated, using the unit of the grid as unit for the thickness of the stroke, to normalize sizes. In the oblique letters, the angle of the shape at the end of strokes became angled and goes farther than the regular width, defined by the grid. So, as these letter parts could be less open in their 'fill' version than in their 'stroke' one, the core was moved a little towards the inside of the glyph to fit in the grid.

That shift from calligraphy to typography is traditionaly hidden in the progressive adaptations by generations of letterers. But in the case of the DIN lettering, as a norm, the movement must be described in detail. And that effort produced the beautiful figure that appeared before Harrisson and me two year ago on a screen of the library of the DIN Institute...