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Haettenschweiler sample coloured.tiff
Designer(s)Walter Haettenschweiler
Robert Norton (?)
Date created1954

Haettenschweiler is a sans-serif typeface in the grotesque style that is very bold and condensed. It is intended for headlines and display text.

Schmalfette Grotesk[edit]

Versions of the font that are now commonly used are descend from an upper-case only design called Schmalfette Grotesk (German for bold condensed sans-serif) by Walter Haettenschweiler that was published in 1954.

Schmalfette was published in the book Lettera (1954) which Haettenschweiler had written with Armin Haab.[1] The Lettera series collected lettering designs (mostly hand-painted) and original designs, and was often used by designers as a source of inspiration.[2][3][4]

An early reuse of the design was in the German young peoples' magazine Twen.[5] Microsoft's history of the font, possibly written by Robert Norton (see below) 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.[6][7]

Adaptations and digitisation[edit]

According to Microsoft's release notes, the Haettenschweiler font in common modern use descends from a later phototypesetting adaptation by the company Photoscript, who created a lower-case for it; its owner Robert Norton would later become Microsoft's font consultant and may also have written Microsoft's unsigned article on its history.[8][9][10][11][12] The font Haettenschweiler now bundled with much Microsoft software is a digitisation credited to Eraman Ltd. and Monotype Imaging.[9][13] Haettenschweiler himself did not receive royalties for the design, and commented: "I never received a single cent, but at least they named it after me."[14]


Haettenschweiler's highly compact, tightly spaced and industrial design is a prominent example of the aggressive, menacing style of graphic design that despite its poor legibility was popular in the 1960s and 70s, and was often used for purposes besides newspapers, such as book covers.[15]

This type of design has been criticised for having low legibility in smaller point sizes, in situations 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 a lower-case (which, as previously noted, Haettenschweiler himself declined to design), where the fine detail of the characters mean that strokes run closer together than in the capitals.[16]

Related typefaces[edit]

Several fonts were created in the same style in the early-to-mid 1960s, including Helvetica Inserat and British imitators Compacta and Impact. Haettenschweiler has narrower characters than Impact. 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."[17] 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 license 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.[18]

A number of alternative digitisations of Schmalfette exist. A custom digitisation is used for the American television show Charlie Rose for branding.[19] Another is "Schmalfette CP", by CounterPoint Type Studio.


A 2010 Princeton University study involving presenting students with text in a font slightly harder to read found that they consistently retained more information from material displayed in fonts perceived as ugly or disfluent (Monotype Corsiva, Haettenschweiler, and Comic Sans Italic) than in a simpler, more traditional font like Helvetica.[20]

It is used in the Nottingham Forest logo, with a modified R and a lowercase E at upper-case height.

The font is also seen in the Cartoon Network show The Powerpuff Girls, as the text was used for the end credits and promos for the show.


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


  1. ^ "Entwerfer und Gestalter". Webpaper.nzz.ch. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  2. ^ . ISBN 0803842821. {{cite book}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ . ISBN 9780803842823. {{cite book}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Grafiker "Haetti" ist gestorben". Zugcultur.ch. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Walter Haettenschweiler. Obituary". Form.de. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  6. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Schmalfette: Tall, dark and handsome". Graphic Journey. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  7. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Blast from the past". Design Journey. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  8. ^ Neil Macmillan (2006). An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press. p. 141. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  9. ^ a b "Haettenschweiler font information". Microsoft. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  10. ^ Dempsey, Mike. "Walter Haettenschweiler 1933 – 2014". Graphic Journey. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  11. ^ Barker, Nicolas. "Robert Norton - obituary". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 June 2001. Retrieved 11 May 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ Berry, John (20 April 2001). "The Mischievous Mind behind Microsoft's TrueType Fonts". Creative Pro. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Die Microsoft-Schrift aus Zug". Zug Cultur. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  14. ^ "Schmalfette". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  15. ^ "Permanent Headline - Fonts in Use". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  16. ^ Covert, Adrian (3 June 2014). "Why Apple's New Font Won't Work On Your Desktop". FastCoDesign. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  17. ^ Lee, Geoffrey. "Comments on Typophile thread". Typophile (archived). Archived from the original on August 26, 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Charlie Rose: One of the strongest talk shows on television finally has a typographic identity that carries as much weight". Fonts in Use. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  20. ^ 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. S2CID 1003005.

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