The first font family published by FontShop AG made its debut at TYPO Berlin 2009. The spreadsheet-friendly typeface was born out of Erik Spiekermann’s personal need for an economic and readable typeface optimized for use on screen, and a recognition that most users don’t use tables only for numbers, but also for text typically too long for their provided columns.
Narrow, but not “condensed”, Axel (pronounced “excel”) is meant to conserve space. Substantial contrast between bold and regular weights, easily distinguishable characters (l, I, i, 1, 7 etc.), and small capitals for emphasis, increase readability and visual hierarchy. The Axel family includes style linking and ClearType support, making it fully compatible with most office environments.
Spiekermann about the name of his font: My contribution to the world of spreadsheets is called Axel. It has been writen about quite a bit already, like FontFeed but the naming still seems to need explaining. Axel saves space while still being legible, making it a welcome typographic alternative for those poor people who have 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 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.