Sabina Chipară uncovers the softer side of an industrial strength design for her DIN Next Shapes typeface.
Sans serif DIN Next is an eminently usable typeface - sturdy, reliable, and drawing on a 100-year history of industrial usage including road signs and the German railway system. So what happens when you strip this classic back to its bare bones, and play with its famously serious tone of voice? Sabina Chipară found out for her DIN Next Shapes design.
“We thought it would be interesting to have something that follows the skeleton of DIN Next, but has different components,” says the designer who, as part of her research, experimented with reducing several well-known typefaces to their basic, underlying forms.
“The idea is you always have the skeleton, and then you put on the flesh - which is the thickness and decoration on top of it,” she adds. “So they are a bit like humans. You have the bones, then all these little features that make us how we are.”
Geometric shapes felt like the most obvious element to ‘clothe’ the DIN Next skeleton with, as they follow the typeface's forms and are easily adaptable. Although Chipară explored the possibility of using a script to populate the letters, in the end placing them by hand proved to be a more effective (if laborious) way of staying true to the supporting structure.
Replacing solid lines brought particular challenges for smaller details such as accents, which required the same spacing to be left without changing the size of the shape. Chipară also needed to find the sweet spot between a dot small enough that it wouldn't obscure DIN Next's DNA, but not so small that it affected legibility.
“If the shape was too small the form would have been lost, but if it was too big it would have become like the Michelin Man,” she explains.
In addition to the dots, Chipară also experimented with three shapes - snowflakes, hearts, and stars, each of which bring their own twist to DIN Next. Each is available as a separate font - Light Dots, Light Flakes, Light Hearts and Light Stars. The result is a typeface that bears all the reliability and clarity of DIN Next, but re-tunes its voice into something much more whimsical.
“DIN Next is obviously mechanically drawn, so the voice is very solid, but with DIN Next Shapes its rigid structure becomes much more playful in a way, so it could be used for very different purposes.”
DIN Next Shapes works well for branding, packaging, and in any environment where designers are looking for something that’s dependable yet lighthearted.
Chipară even suggests mixing DIN Next and DIN Next Shapes for an identity or logo, or using the two together in environments that require one typeface to catch the eye, and another to convey essential information. And of course, because the structure beneath is the same, DIN Next Shapes offers the same high level of legibility.
The typeface is available in OpenType CFF and TTF font formats, and includes over 800 glyphs with pan European language support including Greek and Cyrillic. It also offers OpenType features including stylistic alternatives, ligatures and fractions.