DIN 1451

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DIN 1451.svg
Category Sans-serif
Foundry FontFont, Linotype GmbH

DIN 1451 is a sans-serif typeface that is widely used for traffic, administrative and technical applications. It was defined by the German standards body DIN - Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization) in the standard sheet DIN 1451-Schriften (typefaces) in 1931.


Early DIN-Fette Engschrift specimen. Fette Engschrift is a single weight of the DIN 1451 typeface.

The DIN 1451 typeface family includes both a medium and a condensed version; an older extended version is no longer used since the early 1980s, but may still be encountered on older road signs in Germany. DIN 1451 is the typeface used on road signage in Germany and a number of other countries. It was also used on German car number plates as from 1956, until replaced there in November 2000 by FE-Schrift, a typeface especially designed to make the plates more tamper-proof and to optimize automatic character recognition. The typeface has gained popularity due to its wide exposure through its release as a PostScript typeface in 1990. Since then it is also used by non-governmental organisations and businesses. For graphic design and desktop publishing, several type foundries offer redesigned and extended versions of this typeface.


German road sign with DIN 1451 Mittelschrift and Engschrift typefaces

In 1931 the DIN institute published DIN 1451. It contained several standard typefaces for mechanically engraved lettering, hand-lettering, lettering stencils and printing types. These were to be used in the areas of signage, traffic signs, wayfinding, lettering on technical drawings and technical documentation.

The origins of DIN 1451 Engschrift (Condensed) for hand lettering go back to 1905, when the Königlich Preußische Eisenbahn-Verwaltung (Royal Prussian Railway Administration) standardized the lettering to be used on all its rolling stock in a master drawing (pattern drawing) known as Musterzeichnung IV 44. In 1915 the then Prussian-Hessian Railways decided that all lettering on railway platforms and stations had to be executed according to the 1905 master drawing as well. As a by-product of the merger of all German railway companies into Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1920, the Prussian railway typeface had already become a national de facto standard before the DIN Committee of Typefaces took up its work for DIN 1451 a few years later. The DIN Committee of Typefaces was headed by the Siemens engineer Ludwig Goller (1884–1964), who also led the central standardization office at Siemens & Halske in Berlin between 1920 and 1945. DIN Mittelschrift (Medium) serves as an accompanying weight of regular width. DIN Breitschrift (Extended) was also included, but it has never been widely used. In order to enable quick and easy reproduction, all drawings were based on a coarse grid and could be executed with compass and rulers. The standard sheet DIN 1451-Schriften (typefaces) was released in 1931 as a pre-norm. With some minor changes DIN 1451 was officially released as a norm in 1936. In 1938 Temporary Order No. 20 required DIN 1451 to be used on the new German Autobahn (motorways). This and other similar regulations resulted in DIN 1451 dominating German public lettering until today.

In 1923 Stempel was the first type foundry that produced printing types according to a DIN Standard. The design follows DIN 16, an earlier standard for oblique lettering on technical drawings which had been released in 1919. In 1929, the Berthold type foundry released a similar typeface. DIN 16 had also been made available as lettering templates engraved in celluloid material for drafting use by the company of Filler and Fiebig in Berlin.

Within the scope of public and technical lettering the use of the DIN 1451 typefaces spread rapidly, once they were adopted. They were released as celluloid lettering stencils for smaller applications, as larger metal stencils for application to machinery, vehicles and airplanes, and as cast metal lettering for street and building signage. Printing types according to DIN 1451 have never been produced though. During World War II DIN 1451 was also adopted for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The 1943 version of DIN 1451 also included a showing of Cyrillic characters, although their design did not match the weight and proportions of DIN Mittelschrift.

Geometric sans serif lettering and typefaces were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. At the Bauhaus the design of lettering on coarse grids was advocated by Herbert Bayer and Joost Schmidt during the Dessau period. Although being designed in a similar way, the DIN typefaces lacked elegance and did not take advantage from these design trends.

The transferable-lettering-sheet company, Letraset made several variants available in the 1970s. Also the Berthold type foundry adopted the DIN typefaces for their optomechanical phototype setting systems such as Staromat. In 1980 the DIN typefaces were redrawn by Adolf Gropp (1911–1996), a lettering artist from Frankfurt. The drawings were made on a finer grid. This enabled an exact definition of details such as the amount of overshoot of round characters (e.g. C, G and O) below the baseline and above the cap height. Also characters such as S for which an accurate construction drawing had never been made were now defined using lines and arcs for the new cutting plotters that were to be used for the lettering on motorway signage. A number of the glyphs were changed, in particular those for "a", "6" and "9" as well as "t" in DIN Engschrift. By the mid 1980s, Linotype adopted the redrawn DIN typefaces for digital photocomposition. Together with Adobe they released it as DIN Mittelschrift and DIN Engschrift in 1990. Thus the typefaces became part of the Adobe/Linotype PostScript typeface library. The use of DIN typefaces started to appear in the work of cutting edge graphic designers and design studios such as Uwe Loesch in Germany, Tel Design in the Netherlands as well as David Carson and April Greiman in the USA. Soon other leading designers began using DIN Mittelschrift and Engschrift, making it a popular option to other sans serif faces.

While the 'official' DIN designs are standardised, considerable room exists for personal interpretation in matters such as spacing, provision of new weights (such as light or extra-bold, or extended), causing a range of digital interpretations to exist.

FontFont Versions[edit]

FF DIN[edit]

In 1995, Dutch typeface designer Albert-Jan Pool designed this multi-weight family on request of FontFont as FF DIN.[1] The FF DIN family, unlike DIN 1451, uses regular weight names. Five italic weights and five condensed weights were added in 2000 and five condensed italic weights were added in 2009. With time Eastern European, Greek and Cyrillic character sets have been added as well. In 2011, MoMa, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, added the first digital typefaces to its permanent collection. Perhaps due in part to the immense popularity enjoyed by FF DIN since its release 1995, it was one of just 23 designs to be included. FF DIN debuted at MoMA as part of the “Standard Deviations” installation in the contemporary design gallery. The article series "The history of the design of a contemporary typeface" provides more information about the origins of the typeface. Typographica editor Stephen Coles has particularly praised it for the quality of its hinting for onscreen display.[2]

FF DIN Round[edit]

In 2010 FF DIN Round, a typeface family consisting of five weights was released. It was also designed by Albert-Jan Pool. The brochure FF DIN Round – digital block letters [1] provides additional information on both the design and the history of round sans serif typefaces.

Linotype Versions[edit]

DIN-Schriften (Adobe-Linotype)[edit]

It consists of DIN 1451 Mittelschrift and the condensed DIN 1451 Engschrift fonts. Originally DIN Mittelschrift and DIN Engschrift were distributed within a package called DIN Schriften. The package also included DIN Neuzeit Grotesk Light and DIN Neuzeit Grotesk Bold Condensed. DIN Neuzeit Grotesk was defined in DIN 30640 in 1970 and is based on Neuzeit Grotesk, a geometrical sans serif typeface designed by Wilhelm Pischner for D Stempel AG in 1928.

OpenType version supports ISO Adobe 2, Adobe CE, Latin Extended character sets. OpenType features include alternates such as the older forms of "6" and "9" that had been changed in 1980.

DIN 1451 Pro W1G MittelSchrift[edit]

It is a version of DIN 1451 MittelSchrift supporting ISO Adobe 2, Adobe CE, Latin Extended, Greek, Cyrillic character sets.

DIN 1451 Cyrillic Mittelschrift[edit]

In April 2010, Linotype announced the release of Cyrillic version of the original DIN 1451 family, in OpenType Std font format.[3]

DIN Next[edit]

It is a variant based on DIN 1451 Engschrift and Mittelschrift, designed by Akira Kobayashi of Linotype, and Sandra Winter in 2009. Changes include fixing inconsistencies in the old fonts, rounded corners at terminals to emulate the machine cuts of the original fonts, altered terminal angles to reproduce the machine cuts of DIN 1451.

The family includes 21 fonts in 7 weights and 2 widths, with complementary italics for the widest width fonts. It supports ISO-Adobe, Adobe CE, Latin Extended character sets. OpenType features include small caps (lightest 4 weights roman fonts only), old style figures, subscript/superscript, alternates.

Alternates include:

  • Uppercase C and G with flat stroke or diagonal endings.
  • Serif and sans-serif forms of uppercase I.
  • Single-storey lowercase a.
  • Lowercase q with an upstroke at the descender end.
  • ß ligature composed by long-s and long-z.
  • 1 with base serif.
  • A closed 4.
  • Rounded 6 and 9.
  • Slashed 0.
  • 7 and capital Z with horizontal strokes through their diagonals.

DIN Next Rounded[edit]

It is a rounded variant of the font family, designed in 2009

The family includes 4 fonts in 4 weights and 1 width, with no italics. OpenType features include old style figures, subscript/superscript, alternates.

DIN Next W1G[edit]

This version adds support of Greek and Cyrillic characters over DIN Next, designed by Linotype Design Studio in 2010.

The family includes 14 fonts in 7 weights and 1 width (widest from DIN Next), with complimentary italics.

Cyrillic version of the fonts were released separately as DIN Next Cyrillic in OpenType Std format.

DIN Next Arabic[edit]

It is an Arabic variant designed by Nadine Chahine in 2011 as a companion to DIN Next. The design is a hybrid of Kufic and Naskh structures suited for titles and short runs of text. The font includes the basic Latin part of DIN Next and support for Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. It also includes proportional and tabular numerals for the supported languages.

The font family includes 7 fonts in 7 weights in 1 width, without italics. OpenType features include fraction, proportional figures, contextual alternates, discretionary ligatures, initial forms, terminal forms, glyph composition/decomposition, isolated forms, medial forms, required ligatures.

DIN Next Devanagari (2012)[edit]

It is a version for Devanagari writing system, designed by Kimya Gandhi.[4]

The font family includes 5 fonts in 5 weights (Light, Regular, Medium, Bold, Heavy) in 1 width, without italics. OpenType features include localized forms, stylistic alternates, above/below-base substitutions, akhands, below-base, conjunct forms, half-forms, Nukta forms, pre-base substitutions, Rakar forms, Reph form, Vattu.

Other releases[edit]

As the original DIN design is out of copyright, other companies have offered digital releases (or obtained rights to resell Linotype's). Parachute, Elsner+Flake, Paratype (with Cyrillic characters) and others have issued revivals of some DIN styles, often upgraded with additional weights.[5] Fontsite renamed its release 'Fette 1451'.[6]

An extensive set of digitisations is that made by Peter Wiegel with donations requested from users under the OFL. This includes the regular style (Mittelschrift) in two grades for printing with less and more ink spread, and the less well-known Breitschrift.[7][8][9] He also digitised the rounded DIN 16 and inclined DIN 17, using the names TGL 0-16 and 0-17, the names under which they were known in the German Democratic Republic.[10][11]

Usage examples[edit]

The pre-1994 German number plate format (DIN-style), no longer issued but sometimes still in use.

Uses in corporate branding and media[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spiekermann, Erik. "Comments on Typophile thread". Typophile. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Twitter post". Twitter. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  3. ^ International typography gets a Cyrillic boost
  4. ^ DIN Next Devanagari - Font News
  5. ^ "Parachute DIN". MyFonts. Parachute. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Fette 1451". Fontsite. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Wiegel, Peter. "DIN Breitschrift". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Wiegel, Peter. "Alte DIN 1451". Peter Wiegel. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  9. ^ Wiegel, Peter. "DIN 1451 H". Peter Wiegel. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  10. ^ Wiegel, Peter. "TGL 0-16". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Wiegel, Peter. "TGL 0-17". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • DIN 1451-2: Schriften – Serifenlose Linear-Antiqua – Verkehrsschrift. Deutsches Institut für Normung, 1986-02.
  • Made with FontFont: FF DIN – The history of a contemporary typeface, article by Albert-Jan Pool in collaboration with Jan Middendorp, BIS Publishers, 2006.

This is an updated version of the series of articles in Encore Magazine that were published in 2004–2005.

External links[edit]