Compacta (typeface)

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Compacta typeface specimen.png
Designer(s)Fred Lambert
Date created1963
VariationsLight, Regular, Bold, Black

Compacta is a condensed sans-serif typeface designed by Fred Lambert for Letraset in 1963.[2] It is visually similar to the typefaces Impact and Haettenschweiler, though Compacta has a distinctively square shape in comparison. Letraset was a dry transfer system, widely used by amateur or small-scale lettering projects, although many professional designers used it as well.[3] Compacta was Letraset's first original typeface design, and proved widely popular.[4] Rights to it were acquired by Linotype and others, leading to it becoming available in other formats such as digitally.

Compacta Bold on Letraset transfers

Compacta was reportedly designed to be similar to stencilled alphabets of the 1920s and to the 'much lusted-after' Schmalfette Grotesk, an upper-case only predecessor to Haettenschweiler, which had attracted attention among British designers but was not available in the UK.[5][6][7] Impact was released slightly later for similar reasons.[8] Lambert taught typography at the London College of Printing as well as working for Letraset; he also curated the Graphic Design Britain anthology, as well as a book on lettering.[9][10][11] The style of lettering Compacta is based on has been called gaspipe.[12] It is also quite similar to the masthead of Private Eye (which is caps-only), designed by Matthew Carter around the same time.[13][14] Carter would later design Helvetica Compressed for similar reasons.[15]

Popular media[edit]

The Compacta typeface, as shown on World Wrestling Federation's television program logo of SmackDown!, used from April 29, 1999 and August 26, 1999 to August 9, 2001.

The dense, industrial appearance of Compacta was a popular genre in the early 1960s, and Rolling Stones albums such as Aftermath and 12 X 5 and the Who's I Can See For Miles either use Compacta or are in a similar style, as does the first edition of The Bell Jar.[16] Compacta has remained popular on album covers, being used by Portishead and The KLF on all their albums.

Outside the UK, it was used as the titles and credits font for shows such as Emergency! and The Six Million Dollar Man, as well as on-screen by NBC Sports from 1991 to 1995, in the TV series Baywatch, the logotype to Devo's 2010 album Something for Everybody,[17] and in the logo of Team Fortress 2. This font has been used by the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team since 1993 as well as the logo typeface for WWF SmackDown! from 1999 to 2001.


  1. ^ "Download Compacta font family". Retrieved 2013-05-02.
  2. ^ "Compacta - Webfont & Desktop font". Retrieved 2013-05-02.
  3. ^ Lamacraft, Jane. "Rub-down revolution". Eye. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  4. ^ Loxley, Simon. Type: the secret history of letters. p. 186. ISBN 9780857730176.
  5. ^ "ITC Compacta". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  6. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Schmalfette: Tall, dark and handsome". Graphic Journey. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  7. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Frederick Lambert: Graphic Design Britain". Design Journey. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  8. ^ Lee, Geoffrey. "Comments on Typophile thread". Typophile (archived). Archived from the original on August 26, 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  9. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Frederick Lambert". Design Journey. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  10. ^ Menten, Frederick Lambert ; edited by Theodore (1972). Letter forms : 110 complete alphabets (American ed.). New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 048622872X.
  11. ^ Lambert, Fred (1970). Graphic design Britain 70. London: Studio Vista. ISBN 0289798418.
  12. ^ "Tungsten". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  13. ^ Walters, John. "Matthew Carter's timeless typographic masthead for Private Eye magazine". Eye. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  14. ^ Carter, Matthew. "Carter's Battered Stat". Eye. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  15. ^ Drucker, Margaret. Re: essays by Johanna; Mosley, James (2003). Typographically speaking : the art of Matthew Carter (2. ed.). New York: Princeton Architectural. p. 53. ISBN 9781568984278.
  16. ^ Raimes, Jonathan; Bhaskaran, Lakshmi (2007). Retro graphics : a visual sourcebook to 100 hundred years of graphic design. San Francisco: zChronicle Books. p. 132. ISBN 9780811855082.
  17. ^ "Images for Devo - Something for Everybody". Retrieved 2013-05-02.

External links[edit]