2021-10 | DIN Schablonenschrift A — the abandoned stencil type of DIN 1451
Lettering by Numbers or Hail to the Shape and Grid
Composing letters from repeating elements is a recurring technique. Josef Albers, a Bauhaus teacher chose a radical approach in the mid 1920s. He used the shapes circle, rectangle and triangle for construction of new alphabet letters. [Schablonenschrift and later Kombinationschrift, 1929] His contemporaries Joost Schmidt and Herbert Bayer took a very similar approach. This technique also inspired Jan Tschichold and Paul Renner to create their simplistic stencil alphabets. Paul Renners Futura Black from 1929 is the most kown and commercially successful example.
The approach of being able to create letters apparently quite easily must have impressed the members of Deutsche Normenausschuss (today German Institute for Standardisation [Deutsches Institut für Normung, DIN]). At least from 1943 on, a stencil design called «Schablonenschrift A» (Stencil Type A) and the specimen and its building template was added to the DIN 1451 standard. This type is no longer part of the DIN standard. It was probably removed at the end of the 1970s.
Easy 7x7 Grid
The grid is based on a square that is divided seven times from both sides. But the design also uses half grid squares. The stem weight is 1.5 units. In some places, such as the number 3, there are even quarter grid squares. The seven divisions are enough for quick orientation, but there are actually 28 units - no problem if you are working on graph paper.
Those responsible were well aware of the limited legibility of this stencil type. Therefore, it was pointed out that the type 1. should only be used for lettering without the highest demands on legibility and 2. single letters and the arrangement of capital letters only should be avoided. This can be seen on page 6 of the 1943 version of DIN 1451 standard. In the 1950s, this information was expanded and precised: «The Stencil Type A is intended for simple lettering without great demands on legibility, made with oilboard or brass. It applies to single words and short command sentences; it should not be applied to single letters and to the arrangement of multiple capital letters. The letter bars should not be painted over.»
Schablonenschrift A (Stencil Type A) was rarely used
Despite its inclusion in the DIN standard, it is difficult to find documented applications of this type of stencil. This does not mean that there were no applications, but they may have been rare. If you do find some examples, it might look a bit different. There were usually the much better legible standard DIN types (Normschrift), which were also available in very good quality as brass and zinc stencil sets. Also, the profession of sign painting was very common in those days, and so on historical photos on military equipment one tends to see hand-painted letters corresponding to common DIN type.
If you know of any examples of the use of Stencil Type A, or if you have any documentation, please let me know.