Sweden Has Its Own Font

But they’re worried it’s maybe a little too nationalistic (at least for them).

Matter
Published in
3 min readOct 22, 2014

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By Sven Carlsson

Type has a way of speaking to us. I mean, of course it does: Type spells out words. So let me rephrase that: Typefaces have a way of speaking to us.

Comic Sans can’t be taken seriously. Helvetica, ubiquitous, clean, used everywhere from corporate logos to the New York City subway, is often used for clarity and neutrality.

But what if you need your font to represent a whole country?

That’s the aim of Sweden Sans, a typeface commissioned by the Swedish government. It’s designed to give a consistent voice to the country’s international promotions, from Sweden’s official compilation of pop music to a slick new national website.

Courtesy Soderhavet

According to its creators, Stockholm design agency Söderhavet and font designer Stefan Hattenbach, Sweden Sans is a “modern” but edgy typeface with some local tweaks — a filled ring over the letter “å,” for instance, and a line that cuts through the zero — and takes its inspiration from old street signs.

Sans is meant to encapsulate fuzzy Scandinavian concepts — progressivism, authenticity, lagom (Swedish for “just the right amount”). So how does it do it? “It’s a pretty open typeface. They’re simple shapes,” Hattenbach says over the phone. “We’ve worked on the spaces between the letters to try to keep it light and airy.” Wide holes inside of an enclosed “p” or “o” might have the same effect. To a type nerd, things get technical, and fast.

Courtesy Soderhavet

“I think it’s pretty easy to tell that the descriptions are a typical sales pitch,” says Rikard Heberling, a graphic designer based in Stockholm. But ultimately Sweden Sans is more about promoting “the…

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