The French have design style…thanks to the war. No Comic Sans, no Hobo Sans, just pure unadulterated DIN and not a spot of bad kerning.

The home of the European Parliament, one massive Cathedral, and millions of boulangeries – Strasbourg is the capital and principle city of the Alsace region.

During the Second World War Strasbourg has changed nationality from French to German many times, with Nazi Germany leaving its stamp on the city. Interestingly Hitler even had French road names replaced with German ones, one named after him, crudely placing a new road name over the french version.

As a result the people are a mix of French-Germans, with influences from both sides of the Rhine, which runs through the heart of the city.

The Germans seemed to have left their mark on this French city. Its a strange feeling walking around the streets and seeing decorative French typography mixed with the Bavarian typographic styles defining German culture.

For a British designer entering the city you can immediately see the influence the Germans have had on the city, each poster lining the streets is perfectly designed, neat, tidy and simple. Graphic Design work over there seems to be thought about, and perhaps the french influence here – considered. I can imagine a bespectacled, Polo neck wearing, wine sipping Frenchman in a design studio somewhere in Strasbourg studiously thinking for hours about how much kerning is needed between the letters G and T.

Other great examples are seen throughout the city, as I sat on a river cruise like a right tourist, I learnt about where Mozart played his piano and where they used to hang criminals but also saw many more examples of great design work.

It’s not normal for a person to look at a street sign and think to himself, “Yes – You’ve used DIN 1451, ah good.”

Let me bore you for one minute: DIN 1451 is a sans-serif typeface that is widely used for traffic, administrative and technical applications. It was defined by the German standards body DIN – Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization)

Sorry, but could you get more German than that, “German institute for Standardisation”.

dinmittelschrift

DIN 1451, its easy on the eye and comfortable, it improved the whole look of the city (to me), and is highly legible. But the best thing about it is that its so understated, so quiet, unique and well thought out. Perfectly planned and ideal for funneling tourists from Boulangerie to Boulangerie

Whats the application here then, use more DIN? Nope, because its not website friendly. Cheers. But if I could, I’d use it everywhere, but lets not overuse such a good thing. What this interesting unassuming font made me realise is – how important legibility is especially for your website. I’d have been lost in a swathe of blind panic if Barfüsserplatz wasn’t written in DIN but was however written in joyful Comic Sans.

Often the most important aspect of your website design should be legibility, you can have interesting pretty pictures and neat animations, but if your website isn’t legible and doesn’t function efficiently then it’s a waste of time. Choosing the right font is part of the process, it doesn’t have to be DIN, it just has to be clear, fit for purpose and signpost visitors around your website clearly.

Your website visitors want to access the Information as quickly as possible, and leave an enquiry if its something they are interested in, or indeed buy your product. Keeping the navigation and call to action easy to read throughout your website is essential, often less is more. As a website design agency its our task to make all these aspects work together in harmony – making sure the design is simple clean and clear goes a long way to achieving this.

Then I got on the M25 and saw a van using Hobo Sans to advertise an electrical firm. Brilliant.

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