Reading in mind –Linotype Library presents new font system – July 18, 2001

Compatil opens up entirely new avenues for typography and type application – a whole range of applications from websites to annual reports are covered by a single system.

Bad Homburg, July 18, 2001

Font designers have always tried to create comprehensive font families that can cover as many applications as possible. The new Linotype Compatil™ is the first complete type system to support a whole range of possible combinations, enabling all typographic elements to be used in order to optimally reproduce the message of a text on different media.

"Our new Compatil™ type system is universal in use and can be employed for virtually all aspects of corporate communication – from websites to annual reports – as well as bookwork and mass composition for books, magazines and newspapers", explains Bruno Steinert, Managing Director of Linotype GmbH, Bad Homburg. Bruno Steinert and his team of type experts has broken new grounds in resolving this difficult task. Linotype Compatil™ has been designed as a type system that can meet the high requirements of communicating financial matter. During many years of judging the "Best Annual Report" contest organized by the Manager Magazin, Prof. Olaf Leu and his analysis team at Mainz Technical University drew up an extensive range of requirements that Linotype Library’s team of experts incorporated into their new creation, extending and developing the concept as their work progressed.

Silja Bilz is responsible, along with Prof. Reinhard Haus, for project design and concept. She talks about the many benefits of the new type system: "The overall metric and visual concept which has been used for Linotype Compatil™ means that type styles can be mixed at will and can be interchanged perfectly thanks to identical letterspacing within the individual weights. Our type system combines aesthetic criteria with an entirely new technical approach in a quite unique way and opens up new dimensions in terms of design and application."

The type system in detail
Linotype Compatil™ derives its name from the word "compatible" and represents an intelligent and modular type system. The 4 type styles in the system – with a total of 16 weights – form a unique typographic network, offering variable combinations. There are no limits to the font user’s creativity. A whole range of possible combinations ensures that texts, tables and graphics are expressed in exactly the right way. Linotype Compatil™ features a sans serif, various old style faces, a slab serif and the appropriate small caps sets. A special and unique feature is that all type styles have the same letterspacing within the weights (e.g. regular or bold); they have exactly the right proportions and together they ensure an optimal solution.

Linotype Library’s font designers stress that, even in this age of the Internet and TV, it is essential to be able to absorb information quickly by being able to read it with ease, a factor which is becoming increasingly important both on screen and on paper. It is the role of the typeface to increase legibility and to ensure typographically perfect results for text design work. The new Compatil™ type system was developed with precisely these needs in mind.

Linotype Compatil™ is available immediately on a hybrid CD-ROM for Windows PC and Macintosh computers. The price is in Germany EUR 2,940,15 plus shipping costs. Licensed for 20 CPUs of up to two companies.

Background – the concept:
Compatil™ – the name says it all

The name Compatil™ derives from the word "compatible", a term that ensures that different elements in the computer world fit together perfectly and can be combined into a system. In the typography world, it means that aspects of aesthetics, legibility and digital font technology have been combined into a modular font system.

Embedding fonts into a modular system is something that may sound unusual to begin with. But it is based upon a complex and pioneering concept which signals a turning point in type design for modern communications. It is important today not just to ensure that each individual character is of the very highest quality, but that all the elements concerned can be combined into a comprehensive and
uniform type system.

The Linotype Compatil™ type system enables typographical design to be adapted to the specific needs of the text content. Every conceivable type of emphasis is possible – from delicate and slender to bold and eye-catching. Compatible metrics and sophisticated proportions satisfy the technical requirements, while an identical text color enhances the aesthetic aspects.

The aesthetic concept behind Linotype Compatil™ combines various emotional forms of expression of compatible styles. Compatil™ Text – because of its specific semantic profile – is mid-way between "narrative" and "objective". Its features include "reportive, reserved and stringent". Compatil™ Fact lies somewhere between "objective" and "informative" and comes across as "sober, functional and stable". Compatil™ Letter is sophisticated stable" and can be categorized as lying between the parameters "informative" and "poetical". Compatil™ Exquisit comes full circle and occupies a position somewhere between "poetical" and "narrative" and can be characterized as "narrative, representative and high-quality".

These fundamental forms of expressions and emotional characteristics cover all possible areas of applications ensuring effective text design. This profits all aspects of corporate communication, ensuring that Linotype Compatil™ is a key element in a company’s corporate identity. Its excellent legibility both on paper and on screen make it ideal for financial communication. Improved design of the numerals make financial account texts and tables far easier to read than is normally the case.

Summary: Linotype Compatil™ combines maximum utilization with simple yet effective design and the highly innovative composition of the type system. The ease-of-use and ability to freely interchange characters of different styles within the same weights sets no limits on the typographer’s design creativity.

Background – the creation:
Compatil™ – a major achievement that is both artistic and conceptual

The development work on the new Linotype Compatil™ type system took almost two years. This was because of the need to ensure the perfect combination of different type styles into a system for universal use.

The way in which the creators of Compatil™, Silja Bilz and Prof. Reinhard Haus, formulate their vision is almost akin to the search for perpetual motion, since their goal is to "visually emphasize the formal intrinsic character of all the parts while simultaneously underlining the perfect harmony of the different styles". The designers had to break new ground in their work, since the task of developing a type system required a quite innovative concept and represented a real financial challenge, as such a complex project of this type also had to be economically viable.

Just how well this concept actually functions in practice is demonstrated by Linotype Compatil’s extensive range of applications. The original idea was to implement the different possible font types envisioned by the Mainz analysis team and Professor Olaf Leu for different applications in the field of financial communications. As the first applications show, however, many other areas of applications have also opened up – ranging from corporate communication to book and newspaper composition. What is more, these are also possible on various media platforms.

What are the success factors and unique features from an artistic perspective? Thanks to an optimal symbiosis of aesthetics and technology, Linotype Compatil™ combines the individuality and the force of expression of all four type styles into single entity. Despite the many differences of all styles included in the system, all the proportional relationships are structured in a harmonious system which allows complete interchangeability within the basic weights and associated display weights and allows mixing within the system.

For the first time ever, this allows graphic emphasis beyond the normal needs of typography. Up until now it has not been possible to structure a combination of letters from different type styles. Linotype Compatil™ now changes all this. This new font system therefore goes far beyond the purpose originally intended.

Two key principles are paramount:
1. It is important to ensure that the different forms of the font system interface perfectly. This involves assigning specific features to the individual styles and coordinating these. Compatil™ Exquisit is in the style of a Venetian type and is perfect for lending a concise and festive feeling to a text. Compatil™ Fact is a sans serif in the form of an American Gothic, a type for ensuring a feeling of conciseness in texts and statistics; Compatil™ Text, an old style face lying between transitionals and classicism, gives texts a somewhat cooler and factual appearance - and is therefore ideal in conjunction with Compatil™ Fact; Compatil™ Letter is best suited to office communication needs, making text both concise and robust. It is equally suitable as an alternative for complementing Compatil™ Exquisit and Compatil™ Fact.

2. The intention was to create a concept within which all system fonts feature identical letterspacing and stroke thickness within the various weights, while also emphasizing the individuality of each font type and ensuring the proportional integrity of the system as a whole. This originally gave rise to four different font types – Linotype Compatil™ Fact, Linotype Compatil™ Text, Linotype Compatil™ Letter and Linotype Compatil™ Exquisit. All of these were available as Regular, Regular Small Caps, Bold and Bold Small Caps. This system was created so that new styles could be added later. Consequently, all four fonts are perfectly matched in terms of their stroke thicknesses and proportions. No graphical "breaks" or disharmonies can occur. The entirely new feature is the standardized letterspacing concept encountered in all four font types, together with the associated kerning. As with a modular system, this means that all system fonts can be combined and varied at will and, in extreme cases, the individual letters of a word can be swapped around.

Easy to use, immense diversity of applications

Font designers Silja Bilz and Reinhard Haus talk about the possible uses for Linotype Compatil™ – particularly in financial communication.

Linotype Compatil™ provides font users with a level of convenience that has so far not been possible by mixing fonts or combining different font types. It opens up a whole range of possible uses. The clear structure of the Compatil™ type system makes it extremely easy to use. The typeface is unrivalled and meets the highest requirements in terms of legibility and aesthetics. This provides the user with a broad spectrum of typographical applications which were previously unsuitable for use with a type system.

The prevailing trend towards dynamic proportions has been taken into account in all characters making up the Compatil™ typeface. The Compatil™ is economic in its space requirements, is very easy to read thanks to the high x-height of the lower-class letters and, consequently, is also ideal for narrow-column typesetting. The Compatil™ therefore meets all the requirements that it needs to satisfy for universal typographic usage.

There are a number of aspects that need to be taken into account in order to profit best from the diversity of the font system. All typefaces within the type system can be mixed and combined with ease. The identical letterspacing facilitate absolute interchangeability within the individual weights (Bold, Regular), display weights (Bold SC, Regular SC) and styles. The letterspacing of the Bold weight cannot be identical to that of the Regular weight for aesthetic reasons (legibility and visual appearance). Users therefore need to make a distinction between absolute interchangeability and combinability within the system.

Combinability is made possible by ensuring ideal optical and proportional relationships. This is because, when selecting ways of adding emphasis and differentiation, the 4 styles of Linotype Compatil™ can be combined very well in their look and feel due to their intrinsic characteristics. Their metric conformity means they can be inserted with ease. It is important to emphasize that the Small Caps numerals and financial numerals (upper case letters) have the same letterspacing and are absolutely interchangeable.

Numerical forms and numbers are particularly important in financial communication, and especially when typesetting financial accounts. It is vital with annual reports to ensure that the information is represented in the best possible quality. In addition to communicating purely financial aspects, annual reports also play a key role in reinforcing a company’s corporate identity and becomes a form of image brochure which is being constantly updated and which needs to be convincing in terms of content, appearance, language and its ability to communicate financial aspects. It no longer has the sole purpose of simply conveying numerical material. Because of their high page counts, annual reports have to satisfy high typographical design requirements in terms of legibility and clarity of presentation. It is often the case, however, that numerals from different typefaces are unsuitable for use in mass composition and tabular composition. They have a disruptive effect and disturb the overall image.

It is important that numbers in financial accounts can be read quickly and easily and are not too eccentric. They must take a secondary role to the information. Open design forms are another important design feature to ensure easy legibility. Particular attention must be paid to ensuring the openness of the form – particularly with six, zero, three and eight. But it is not just open forms which are important for ensuring users are able to quickly identify numbers, the form of the terminals is also critical. These should allow the reader to distinguish easily and must integrate harmoniously into the overall feel created by the font.

Further information about the Font Technology Forum is available at

Linotype GmbH – a member of the Heidelberg Group – supplies cutting-edge font technology and can boast one of the world’s largest libraries of original fonts. Its portfolio currently includes more than 4,700 PostScript and TrueType fonts for Mac and PC. Linotype FontExplorer, a browser and navigation system, can be employed for optimum results. Since the beginning of this year, it has been possible to order all fonts both on CD and online for immediate delivery.
This press release is available as pdf file. Please download:
English version (4,2 mb)
German version (4,6 mb)