The Linotype Compatil Type System

The idea to develop a new typeface tailored to the special requirements of annual reports was born out of the “First Heidelberg Forum for Annual Reports 1988”.
The challenge was to provide a type system that delivered readability and multiple tonality while maintaining harmony throughout the wide range of different characters required in an annual report.
Linotype worked closely together with Professor Olaf Leu and his Analyse Team at the University of Applied Sciences, Mainz, who have been commissioned by Manager Magazin to judge its annual competition "Best Annual Reports" since 1996. Reviewing work from 130 companies represented on six different stock markets, they made a number of observations over the years and raised several questions, particularly in regard to the legibility of the average annual report.
Modelling an annual report in certain language and tonality essentially involves having a type system that can handle all eventualities. It must have multiple weights for emphasis as well as different styles for tone of voice and expression. It must have small caps to deal with the many acronyms, initials and uppercase characters required for product and company names, as well as the many styles of numbers that appear within the text. Most importantly it mut have a structure that allows for the easy manipulation of figures.
Development work on the Compatil type system took almost two years. It was a unique project requiring the perfect marriage of four different styles in multiple weights into a type system suitable for variable use.
The original idea was to implement the four different type styles for different applications in the field of financial communications. However, as this brochure demonstrates, Compatil has a much wider range of applications than that.
The Compatil type system combines aesthetics with the ability to function on all aspects of communication across the whole media range.

A Modular Type System

The need to read and absorb information quickly and easily has never been greater.
The amount of information available to us, either on paper or on screen, grows daily. It is essential to have a typeface that is both extremely legible as well as aesthetically pleasing.
Linotype’s Compatil is the first type system that incorporates such a comprehensive range of typographic features‚ delivering optimal legibility and design potential

The metric and visual concept that is used for Compatil allows type styles to be mixed and interchanded seemlessly due to identical letterspacing within individual heights. This universal type system can be employed for virtually all aspects of corporate communication – from websites to annual reports as well as for mass composition for books, magazines and newspapers.
The Compatil type system is a model of technical innovation offering a new level of design quality. The system is comprised of four different type styles:
Compatil Exquisit, Compatil Fact, Compatil Letter and Compatil Text.
By maintaining a consistent letter width throughout each of the four type styles, this system allows the same character from each of the styles to be interchanged with one another, without having any effect on the width of the text.
Having equal proportions and identical gray tones inside each of the styles and weights allows all of the system´s typefaces to be comfortable combined with one another and gives one the widest range of aesthetic combinations possible.


Exquisit, Fact, Letter, Text

Compatil combines simple yet effective design with a highly innovative type system. The ability to easily set text with different but compatible styles opens up unlimited horizons for typographic creativity

The Compatil type system was created to allow different tones of text to be expressed and emphasised through compatible type styles. These expressive and emotional characteristics cover all possible applications and are fundamental for effective typography.

Compatil Exquisit gives the feelings of a poetic and narrative nature and posses discriptive, distinguished and classic qualities.
Compatil Fact combines the qualities of being objective and informative and comes across as sober, functional and stable.
Compatil Letter gives the impression of being informative and poetic and is discriminating, balanced yet robust in character.
Compatil Text has a semantic profile that is midway between narrative and objective. Its features are reserved, factual and authoritative.

Making Numbers Easier to Read

Financial communication is at the heart of corporate communication. Numbers in the form of tables and columns, or integrated within text blocks represent a considerable challenge for typographers.
Small caps numerals are important iin financial reports because of the frequent occurence of company names and dates and figures, which is why Compatil has small caps numerals with matching currency symbols.
All of the numerals within the Compatil system have the same width‚ which means that for the first time it is possible to interchange the weight and style without having to alter the letterspacing

The key features of this innovative new type system is the ease with which the small caps numerals can be exchanged with the capital numerals. This presents new opportunities for typographic emphasis in text.
When setting financial accounts, a designer must present numbers and text with the greatest possible clarity. It is also important that the numbers can be read quickly without error (see second figure), yet are not too visually dominant.
When designing Compatil particular importance was attached to develop the openness of the forms, especially with critical numerals like zero and six, three and eight.

Easy to use

Compatil presents a whole new range of possibilities by giving designers the opportunity to combine four different type styles with ease

The average annual report is about 120 pages long. This means that reading has to be as pleasant as possible and without unnecessary distractions.
An annual report is unique when it comes to the number of different characters used in texts. Acronyms and initials as well as upper case characters for product and company names which look particularly unattractive when set within body texts where no small cap styles are available. There are usually many numbers encountered in the body text which are also of cap height. All this together with brackets, slashes and percentage symbols can create a disharmony that is extremely offputting to the reader.
Before Compatil was available, designers would spend a considerable amount of time attempting to bring together workable combinations of typefaces to cover all of these requirements. Now the advantages of the Compatil system, with its clear and harmonious forms, are immediately apparent, as can be seen in this comparison with other well-known typefaces with their different stroke thickness, x-heights and width.

Mix and Match Benefits

• Same x-height in all styles.
• Same character width in one weight across all styles.
• Same gray tone in all styles.
• Same caps available in all weights.
• No reflow when changing styles.

Financial Communication – perfect appearance

The Compatil type system is versatile and can be used in various applications to create typographically unique layouts depending on the way the four styles are combines

Typefaces are usually designed for one specific media or function in mind, be it for books, headings, on-screen reading, newspapers or other purposes. The Compatil type system covers a much broader spectrum. It takes into account all aspects of communication, combining aesthetics with a level of functionality that addresses a whole range of media. It is economic in its space requirements, is very easy to read because of its large x-height and consequently, is also ideal for narrow-column typesetting.

Office Communication – precise and structured

Compatil Letter has a very open form making it especially suitable for use with the uncoated papers typically used for office documents. This maintains the integrity of the individual characters by reducing the risk of in-fill and blurred outlines that occur with standard office printers.

Book Setting

The ease of reading is achieved through pronounced changes in stroke thickness between the inner contour and outline over the course of the line. Also it is achieved by emphasizing the slanted axis for all rounded characters, the pronounced serif for ascenders facilitates fixation, and therefore legibility. As with all type, Compatil has an ambiance over and above its primary function. While readers are unaware of this, it contributes considerabily to making reading a more pleasurable and less tiring experience.

Newspaper and Magazine Design

The objective with newspaper design is to ensure a dynamic exchange between the body text type and other types – headline, subhead, caption, etc. A newspaper type must be very stable and have a large x-height and open characters for fast reading. Both Compatil Letter and Text ensure balanced contrast between printed und unprinted areas, largely due to stroke thickneess and contour of the various weights. The four different styles within the type system stimulate creativity and provide a wide variety of typographic expressions. They also are very suited to classical forms of typography, given the ability to select and mix all of the options, appropriate for magazine design.

Digital Media – easy on-screen reading

Special attention was paid when designing Compatil to create an optimum on-screen appearance. They key features are excellent form and high-quality XSF (eXcellent Screen Fonts) hinting. The hinting protects characters from being lost at low resolutions.

Compatil online publication

Read also the 42-pages brochure about Compatil.

Compatil®, along with Avenir® Next, Eurostile® Next, Optima® nova, Univers® Next (formerly Linotype Univers), Frutiger® Next, Sabon® Next, Syntax® Next (formerly Linotype Syntax) and Palatino® nova belongs to the typefaces of the Linotype Platinum Collection. These fonts were carefully digitized and have the high quality demanded by professional typography. All fonts of the Platinum Collection were produced according to the Linotype tradition of quality. Linotype and its authorized partners offer these fonts as Platinum Collections CDs or as single fonts or value packs.

Online publication

Available is an online brochure on Compatil that you can read directly from your screen.

PAGE article issue 11/2001 about Compatil is available as pdf file. Please download:
pdf file german (903,8 kb)
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