Only one thing could make Axel better

I try not to have heroes. I don’t see the benefit. How do you explain the downsides—which every person must have somewhere—when you idolize someone? Still, there are people that one looks up to. As designers, there are projects that you look up to, too. As a type designer living in Germany, I don’t think that there is any way around Erik Spiekermann‘s body of work. It is quite prolific, and I doubt that any living designer has changed the national landscape with his thoughts or actions more.

Since I travel about 20 hours per week on trains and subways—maybe even 30—I see Erik Spiekermann’s work every day. While the Frankfurt transit network doesn’t use any of his typefaces, both the German national train system and the Berlin underground do. Also, whenever you try to sell your fonts to German customers, you know that Erik’s designs are somewhere in the back of their minds. They look at your letters and ask, “are these narrow enough?”

Now I am going to be looking at even more of Erik Spiekermann’s well-crafted letters… every time I open up Excel. I’m probably not alone in writing this, but I hate Excel. I think that Microsoft is actually a great company; they’ve done more to bring script support to all parts of the globe than anyone else. They have some neat fonts bundled with their OS, too. But Excel is a chore. I have both the Mac and PC versions, yet I try to get by with Apple’s Numbers whenever I can. Erik has gone along and done something that will make my work-life with Excel a little less bad.

Image from the FontFeed article on the Axel typeface.
Image from Read their article about Axel here.

Axel is a new typeface from FontShop Germany. Or FontShop Berlin, or FontShop Deutschland (I never know what to call them…). That’s right, you read this correctly! Axel is not a FontFont, from FontShop International, or FSI. Axel seems to be a collaborative design by Erik Spiekermann, Ralph Oliver du Carrois, and Erik van Blokland. Plus, Jens Kutilek did the hinting. It is expressly created for use in Excel, on screen. In German, the sounds for the word “Excel” and the name “Axel” are virtually interchangeable.

German customers can license the four cuts of Axel from FontShop for just €9.90 (plus tax) through the end of June. International customers can get it until the end of the month for about 20 euros, I think. After July begins, I guess that Axel will become a normally priced font. Jürgen Siebert has been blogging that Axel can even be used for @font-face embedding, which could even kick off a mini-revolution, as Axel has ClearType hinting, and almost all of the fonts that web designers think they want to embed are actually just PostScript-hinted, and would look like dog shit on the web.

Going back to heroes, I did have idols when I was younger. One of them was Axl Rose, who was the only famous person with red hair that I had any sort of exposure, too. If only I had any musical talent, just think of what I might have become! But I was destined to work with letters instead. Still, I think that Axl would have been an even more kick-ass name for this typeface…

I bought Axel at TYPO-Berlin, and I’ve already made it the default font on both my Mac and Windows versions of Excel. I recommend that you go do exactly the same thing. I guess that the place for non-Germans to go now is here.


  1. Now I have to go out and buy that font! :-)

  2. Dan Reynolds 31 May 2009 at 23:06

    Chris, I have to admit that I don’t buy all that many fonts. Fonts are tools, and I only need so many tools. At least one for each task, I guess. I don’t design as many documents as I’d like, really. When I design something for print at Linotype, it is going to be set in a Linotype face of course! And when I do something on my own… well, I like to try and fit one of my own typefaces in if I can. At Reading I used a bit of Arno, and that was kick-ass…

    But I licensed Axel because… well… the fonts fill a niche that I can see needs to be filled in my workflow. And Axel is a bargain to boot. So what can you do?

  3. Thanks for the free advertising. I am flattered and slightly embarassed. The reason I didn’t name the font Axl is that all my typefaces have four-letter names: Meta, Info, Unit. ITC Officina came earlier and is the exception. I wanted to name this one Exel, but the people at FontShop in Berlin were a little afraid that the big company in Seattle might take exception to the obvious reference. I don’t think that would have been a problem, but then I am not the distributor. Axel is homophone with Excel, and it has four letters.

  4. […] to work in Excel and other spreadsheet apps every day. So these users tell me. But one of them, Dan Reynolds, thinks it could have been even better by being called Axl. All my typefaces have four-letter […]

  5. […] Leute, die täglich in Excel arbeiten müssen. Das haben mir viele Nutzer gesagt. Einer von ihnen, Dan Reynolds, meint hingegen, dass die Schrift noch besser wäre, wenn sie […]

  6. Dan Reynolds 1 June 2009 at 12:05

    No need to be embarrassed… I do have to blog about something. And as I mentioned to Chris above, I really don’t license that many fonts. The combination of designers, design, economy of space, and customization for a specific workflow was just the hook I needed in this case. Plus, my hat is off to the whole crew for the excellent way that Axel was brought to market… pre-, during, and post-Typo Berlin. With a price like that, licensing becomes a whole other question. I’ve bought albums on iTunes that I listen to way less than I use Excel, so…

    And the four-letter-font-names… that is a good system, too. I just have a soft spot for Axl-without-an-e!

  7. […] et. al Schrift Bin ?ber einen Link bei gestolpert, der mich zun?chst hierhin: TypeOff. Blog Archive Only one thing could make Axel better und dann dahin: New Erik Spiekermann Typeface Axel Premieres At TYPO Berlin 2009 | The FontFeed […]

  8. […] four fonts are just US$19. That’s a limited-time offer, so be quick. Also, see what Dan of TypeOff has to say about Axel. Also featured on the […]

  9. i don’t usually buy fonts (i’m a student), but at this price i just did. hooray for affordable quality fonts.

  10. […] four fonts are just US. That’s a limited-time offer, so be quick. Also, see what Dan of TypeOff has to say about Axel. Also featured on the […]

  11. […] four fonts are just US$19. That’s a limited-time offer, so be quick. Also, see what Dan of TypeOff has to say about Axel. Also featured on the […]

  12. […] four fonts are just US$19. That’s a limited-time offer, so be quick. Also, see what Dan of TypeOff has to say about Axel. Also featured on the […]

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