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Haettenschweiler sample coloured.tiff
Category Sans-serif
Classification Realist
Designer(s) Walter Haettenschweiler
Foundry Microsoft

Haettenschweiler is a realist sans-serif typeface, that is very bold and condensed. Intended for headlines and display text, it is based on an upper-case only design called Schmalfette Grotesk (German for bold condensed sans-serif) by Walter Haettenschweiler that was released in 1954; the company Photoscript later created a lower-case for it.[1][2] Haettenschweiler is installed with Microsoft Office products. It is used in the Nottingham Forest logo, with a modified R and a lowercase E at upper-case height; it is also used for the Solace Systems logo.

Haettenschweiler is often compared with the later Helvetica Inserat and British imitators Compacta and Impact, all of which were popular in the early-to-mid 1960s. Haettenschweiler has narrower characters than Impact. The uppercase R has a curved tail similar to that in the Helvetica family.

Schmalfette Grotesk attracted attention in the 1960s after it was used in the book Lettera 4 (1954) which Haettenschweiler had written with Armin Haab, and then in the German magazine twen. The Lettera series collected lettering designs (mostly hand-painted) and original designs, and was often used by designers as a source of inspiration.[3][4] Microsoft's history of the font notes that after Lettera 4 was published the design 'was immediately picked up by designers at Paris Match who cut up pictures of it to make headlines' until it was publicly released. Similar methods were also used by British designers, as it was not available in Britain.[5][6] Geoffrey Lee, who designed Impact in 1963, wrote that "many of us admired the vitality and colour of what we knew only as Schmalfette, and used it by old-fashioned cut and paste. Use was limited as it was never made in metal as far as I know, and existed then in capitals and numerals only."[7] Lee wrote that a motivation for designing Impact was to allow a similar design to be used by British designers, since at the time continental metal type was expensive and complex for British companies to licence and use. He also commented that he felt that the lower-case characters added were not so useful: "Later someone added (or found) a lowercase for its new existence. I personally find the style lacks the attractive feel of the caps." Matthew Carter would later design Helvetica Compressed for similar reasons.[8]

This type of design has been criticised for having low legibility in smaller point sizes, with low contrast between background and text colours, or at a distance, with (for example) 8 and 9 seeming very similar. Counters are minimal and normally fully enclosed, a common feature of 'Grotesk' typefaces, while apertures are very narrow. This folded-up effect gives it a striking appearance at the cost of legibility. The problems are particularly large in lower-case, where the fine detail of the characters mean that strokes run closer together than in the capitals.[9]

A 2010 Princeton University study involving presenting students with text in a font slightly more difficult to read found that they consistently retained more information from material displayed in so-called disfluent or ugly fonts (Monotype Corsiva, Haettenschweiler, Comic Sans Italicized were used) than in a simple, more readable font such as Arial.[10]


  • Haettenschweiler, Walter and Armin Haab. Lettera 4: a standard book of fine lettering. Hastings House, 1972.


  1. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Walter Haettenschweiler 1933 – 2014". Graphic Journey. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Haettenschweiler font information". Microsoft. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  3. ^ . ISBN 0803842821.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ . ISBN 9780803842823.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Schmalfette: Tall, dark and handsome". Graphic Journey. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Blast from the past". Design Journey. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Lee, Geoffrey. "Comments on Typophile thread". Typophile (archived). Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Covert, Adrian. "Why Apple's New Font Won't Work On Your Desktop". FastCoDesign. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Diemand-Yauman, C.; Oppenheimer, D. M.; Vaughan, E. B. (2011). "Fortune favors the bold (and the italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes". Cognition 118 (1): 111–5. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010.09.012. PMID 21040910. 

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