Twin families inspired by Walter Käch’s educational letterforms 🍎🍏 —

Hello Friend,

We’re excited to send you the exclusive, pre-release font files of ABC Walter, a joint scholarly effort by Dinamo and Omnigroup.

Apart from the excitement of being sent back 2 school, this has been a new kind of revival project for us, one that’s not based on a pre-existing typeface. Instead, our point of departure has been a tool used to teach students how to draw letterforms, designed by type educator Walter Käch in the mid-twentieth century.

A Dinamo release for the young...

...the middle aged...

...and the old.

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Walter Alte and Walter Neue are two related yet ideologically opposed families who you would not want to sit between at Thanksgiving dinner. The triple styles of Walter Alte are a faithful study of Käch’s lessons, while Walter Neue is an extension, update, and digitally-minded interpretation.

Walter Neue: 14 styles

Walter Alte: 3 styles

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Our former teachers first showed us Walter Käch’s 1949 manual-like folder Schriften, Lettering, Ecritures: The Principle Types of Running Hand and Drawn Characters during class: Inside, you’ll find instructions on how to draw various type classifications. Käch was Adrian Frutiger’s own teacher and many of his ideas about type are clearly ancestors of Univers (and other familiar giants like Helvetica).

Walter Käch, Die Normalgrotesk (Blockschrift) Methodischer Aufbau des Alphabets unter der Berücksichtigung der Gesetzmässigkeit der römischen Kapitalschrift, 1962.

Walter Käch, Schriften, Lettering, Ecritures: The Principle Types of Running Hand and Drawn Characters, 1949.

Hey Walter 🥰

After taking the educational folder as a starting point, Fabian happened to find a second, more personal folder in the Basel antique bookstore Libelle mit H&B at Spalenberg, filled with Christmas cards from “Familie Käch” along with handwritten annotations. Tucked between its pages was a photocopy of unknown educational letterforms, which Fabian took home. These letters, along with others from Schriften, Lettering, Ecritures became our primary source material.

Old Walter in the (Swiss) Wild:

In Switzerland, students of type often learn about Käch in school, as was the case for Fabian and Johannes at Dinamo as well as Leonardo Azzolini and Simon Mager at Omnigroup. In many ways, Käch’s educational letterforms are a kind of Swiss proto-grotesque: His lessons have not only left their fingerprints on modern type history but also on various corners of every day Switzerland.

Spotted in Basel

Spotted in Lausanne

Ever scrolled down a shopping basket before?

Merging parallel efforts

Back in 2013, both Fabian at Dinamo and Leo and Simon at Omnigroup had separately been studying and digitizing individual Käch characters for their own graphic design projects. Dan Solbach then used an early version of Fabian’s Walter Alte Rauchwaren as the custom typeface for Kunsthalle Zürich’s 2015 redesign (more on that here), while at the same time, Omnigroup used their digitization for the identity of Museum Brot und Kunst in Ulm, Germany.

After finally meeting Leo and Simon during a workshop at ECAL in Lausanne in 2016, we decided to join forces and bring our parallel efforts together. Once we shared our vows, we split the tasks. Omnigroup’s Leo was the heavy lifter behind Alte Walter, taking over where Fabian had left. Simon steered Neue all the way to the finish line. From their helicopter perspective, Fabian and Johannes jumped in whenever assistance was needed while also providing a space for conversations, feedback, and spiritual guidance.

First recorded meeting between Dinamo and Simon Mager, Frederik Mahler-Andersen, Unknown, Thibault Brevet, Joel Vacheron, and Leo Azzolini. October 2016, Café du Simplon, Lausanne.

Fabian, Leo, Simon & Maddy preparing this newsletter.

Johannes & Simon (& Fabian 😬).

The research: Three sources

From our gathered sources, we located three distinct styles that seemed to belong to the same idea of how to draw letterforms.

To be clear: These letters weren’t conceptualized by Käch as part of a single, functional family. Rather, they were intended as examples of letter construction for study. What we found only covered A-Z, a-z, and numbers, and featured slightly different character shapes while being close to each other in weight.

Source 1, Rauchwaren: Uppercase letter samples in a slightly lighter Regular weight.

Source 1, Rauchwaren: Lowercase characters.

Source 2, Normalgrotesk: Letter construction deep-dive.

Source 2, Normalgrotesk: Letter constructions we identified in a slightly heavier Regular weight.

Source 2, Normalgrotesk: Note the horizontally aligned open end strokes!

Source 3, Röntgentherapie: High-contrasted titles in a Bold weight.

The release: Twin Families

Typically, there are two ways to go about revival projects: we’ll either select the “best collection” of letterforms and attempt to capture their spirit while growing the character set from a pre-existing ~20 to ~600, OR, we’ll take the source material lightly, letting it inform a rather loose, digital-native interpretation.

This time around, we realized that starting with a collection of letters instead of a complete and coherent typeface was a huge opportunity. Why not produce two separate-yet-spiritually-connected families?

Stem and style analysis, for the mathematician’s eager eyes only.

Walter Alte is true to the three styles we were able to pinpoint in our research—it’s not so much a “typeface family” as a documentation based on three different sample words.

Walter Neue is our extension and interpretation of Alte—it’s not so much the “idea of a typeface” as a typeface itself, with fourteen styles, seven weights, Italics, stylistic alternates, and more.

ABC Walter Alte

Out of the three faithfully revived cuts, Walter Alte Röntgentherapie has the highest contrast, while Walter Alte Normalgrotesk is the most constructed and mono-linear. Walter Alte Rauchwaren is smoother and slimmer, sitting in-between the first two stylistically with its roots firmly planted in the garden of Helvetica.

Normalgrotesk and Rauchwaren both occupy a classic Regular weight class, whereas Röntgentherapie is Bold. Each style embodies Käch’s obsessions with aligning stroke endings perfectly, strictly defining a single stem thickness, and meticulously considering the formation of circles and triangles.




Core Characters

Also a core character

ABC Walter Neue

If Walter Alte is what perfect students in the first row produce, Walter Neue belongs to the students in the back. We kept the feeling of the font’s original in place but allowed for exceptions when it came to contrast and alignment. Walter Neue is readable and functional, with high contrast only in its heaviest weights. It’s altogether softer and less rigid than its studious older brother, featuring rounded dots (i, j, ä, ö, ü) and punctuation marks that lend it a friendlier edge.

The trick why this looks so cool my friend is the negative tracking.

Swiss-german spelling of styles: A nod to the project’s roots

Instead of aiming for an A+, most of the decisions behind Neue were made in favor of digital, real world comfort, with fourteen styles, several weights, Italics, and more providing flexibility for a variety of applications.

Walter Neue core characters, shown in the "Mittel" weight.

Full character set including circled numbers, math operators, symbols, etc.

Fuck me up?! The end strokes of open letters like S, s, C, and c align perfectly horizontally across all weights.

Walter in early use

Along the way, a few projects served as proof-of-concept and edge case testing, which in turn reinformed our design process.

Dan Solbach’s redesigned Kunsthalle Zürich in 2015, and continues working with the institution to this day. His exhibition posters, more than 20 to date, were shown this year at Weltformat festival in Lucerne. We love Dan (and I hope it’s mutual).

Identity, catalogue, and signage system for the Museum Brot und Kunst in Ulm, Germany. Design by Omnigroup.

Find a better name for a museum.

Signage system prototype.

Omnigroup also used Walter Alte for the “Maladière Moderne” in Lausanne, located in the Maladière bus stop. Originally built for the Expo 64, the site was used to host a series of events, exhibitions, and interventions that question modern architectural heritage.

With Bruno Aeberli, EMI Architekten, and Sub architects⁣ Piovenefabi.

The Maladière bus stop.

Pictures by Alan Hasoo, Roland Bernath, and Omnigroup.

JP and Davis of Actual Source used Walter Neue for the publication accompanying the award-winning HBO series Euphoria, published by the young, New York-based arthouse movie powerhouse A24. They also used it for the new identity of the Utah Museum of Modern Art. These two instances mark the most recent applications of Walter.

From storyboards to casting calls to costume design, the publication brings together over 1,000 pages of untold stories and never-before-seen visuals.

8-volume boxed set.

The beauty of repetition.

Now, Walter continues his travels

Where will Walter be tomorrow?

With just one current listing on and a dusty, collector’s item reverence surrounding it, Schriften, Lettering, Ecritures is far from reach for many. We hope that our digital versions will reach newer, fresher eyes—beginning with you 💗!

Dinamo + Omnigroup x