New Erik Spiekermann Typeface Axel Premieres At TYPO Berlin 2009

This 14th edition of TYPO Berlin was a special one for organizer FontShop Germany. The computers at the FontShop booth in the entrance hall of HDKW introduced their completely overhauled website to the German audience. But that wasn’t the only premiere at the conference. Just in time for the re-launch of its website, FontShop also released a brand new typeface by Erik Spiekermann: Axel, an economical, highly legible font family optimized for on-screen use in office apps such as Microsoft Excel.

A TYPO visitor exlores the new FontShop Germany website against a backdrop with Axel.
Graphic and type designer, and FontFeed founding father Professor Dr. Erik Spiekermann is — amongst others — internationally recognized for his information design work. So it comes as little surprise that he would create Axel, a family of technically clever fonts specifically designed for use in constricted spaces (tables, columns, …). Why a special font for spreadsheets? Surveys have shown that multi-functional applications, such as Excel, are used for many more types of projects than just budgeting and bookkeeping. Users input words instead of numbers in over 90% of the cells. And the columns are usually too narrow for those words. Widely-used system fonts like Arial, Verdana and the likes either take up too much space or they are hard to read (i.e. Arial Narrow). With Axel, FontShop has created a typeface that is narrow without looking “condensed”.

Erik Spiekermann says about his latest oeuvre — which he developed together with Erik van Blokland and Ralph du Carrois

I was fulfilling my own needs: a simple, legible and economical system font, which looks particularly good on the monitor. We work with tables much more on the monitor than on paper.

What is special about Axel is less its aesthetic refinement for the reader than its usefulness to people who work at monitors every day.

  • Similar letters and numbers are clearly distinguishable (l, i, I, 1, 7; 0, O; e, c …).
  • Increased contrast between regular and bold.
  • Style set linking for Office applications (bold key).
  • Small caps instead of italics for emphasis.
  • High legibility on the monitor via “ClearType” support.
  • Good complement of numbers (superscript, subscript, fractions…).
  • Real WYSIWYG in Microsoft Excel.
  • Pleasing look on paper.

Excellent legibility on the monitor: comparison of Axel with widely-used system fonts at 10pt in Excel in Windows.

A clear, economical typeface when printed, Axel uses up to 30% less space compared to widely-used system fonts (reduced image).
Try Axel out for yourself:

If you think only businesses and agencies can afford Axel, think again. FontShop Germany decided to use Axel to launch their new website, offering Axel for download at the introductory price of only €9.90 ($/€19.90 outside Germany) for the set (four styles, licensed for 1 to 5 users) until June 30, 2009. Erik Spiekermann is very happy about this special price:

I never thought there could be a font in that kind of quality for the same price as a music album.

How is such a steep discount possible for a quality commercial typeface? Because FontShop AG is the publisher, and wanted to release a font family for a price that renders illegal copying pointless. And because FontShop wants to give as many users as possible the opportunity to apply this new typeface in their work. It certainly doesn’t herald an industry-wide price drop, nor is it a criticism towards our partners. On the contrary — after the initial launch period the family will cost € 79.90 (both prices exclusive of VAT). So don’t waste any time and get Axel while it’s still so cheap.

* ClearType is a technology introduced by Microsoft for rendering fonts on LCD monitors, and increases visible resolution by selective control of the RGB pixels with subpixels.
Header Image: Erik Spiekermann at TYPO Berlin 2008 © Gerhard Kassner

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  1. Congratulations!

    Posted by Walter on May. 26, 2009
  2. Great looking font. But I never understand why don’t the authors spend few more weeks/months in order to implement Cyrillic support. That should cover a new target of buyers (Eastern Europe and Russia).

    Posted by Cyrilic user on May. 26, 2009
  3. congratulations great post of the great type

    Posted by el norberto on May. 26, 2009
  4. Same here as in the post above: I would love to buy this font – especially for this price but it will be unusable for me without my language specific glyphs (just seven more needed in Polish!).

    Posted by sevenglyphsmore on May. 26, 2009
  5. Great font, thanks. Even with the lack of non-western glyphs (meaning its use for someone like me, speaking a Cyrillic-alphabet language, will be very limited) it’s still brilliant.

    Totally worth € 20.

    Posted by Aleksandr Simonov on May. 26, 2009
  6. After half a bottle of wine, I reckon Axel is ‘alright’, however on closer inspection Verdana still cranks I’m afraid.

    Posted by Nicholas Mersky on May. 27, 2009
  7. Why is Axel € 10,– on the German site and € 20,– here?
    Looks great though.

    Posted by Arjen van Voorst on May. 27, 2009
  8. After half a bottle of wine, I reckon Axel is ‘alright’, how­ever on closer inspec­tion Ver­dana still cranks I’m afraid.

    However Verdana runs a lot wider (it is the widest of the proportional faces in the comparison above) which makes it less favourable for setting table matter.

    Posted by Yves Peters on May. 27, 2009
  9. I never under­stand why don’t the authors spend few more weeks/months in order to imple­ment Cyril­lic sup­port.

    It’s a lot more work for the same ridiculously low price I guess. Maybe they’ll expand the character set later.

    Posted by Yves Peters on May. 27, 2009
  10. Why is Axel € 10,– on the German site and € 20,– here?

    Because it is an extra special promotion for the re-​launch of the German web­site. Jürgen’s announcement on The FontFeed is for the international (non-German) audience.

    Posted by Yves Peters on May. 27, 2009
  11. Wow! I was excited when Calibri was introduced, but can’t wait to install Axel. Now if we could make this as ubiquitous as Verdana, Arial, etc. Excellent work. Thanks Erik.

    Posted by John Scheers on May. 27, 2009
  12. Another reason to not make a full Cyrillic character set a priority is the fact that sales of fonts to that market are ridiculously low. As long as most fonts in use in that market are borrowed, stolen or otherwise illegally acquired, I’d rather spend my time doing something else. People seem to forget that making typefaces is very time-consuming and not my hobby. Spending another 80 hours making Cyrillic and then selling a dozen fonts for a few dollars, euros or rubles does not make much sense, unless you’re employed by the state or have other means of regular income. I don’t.

    Posted by erik spiekermann on Jun. 1, 2009
  13. That said, non-Western character sets are used beyond the markets Erik mentions so expanding language support is always a consideration. It just often makes sense to release a new design in basic Latin first and then work on expansion if its success warrants it.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Jun. 1, 2009
  14. I liked it enough when it was the default size, and I thought it was very pleasant at the maximum size, but I was *really* impressed when I shrank it to the smallest size. Totally legible — and even in character! — on-screen while teeny-tiny. Good stuff.

    Posted by Jake Freivald on Jun. 14, 2009

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