Joker Medium Swash Caps B from Handselecta
Handselecta is a type foundry that turns graffiti handstyles into typefaces. The founders both have backgrounds in graffiti and are working with other writers to turn their work into typefaces. They seem to be some of the few people making quality graffiti typefaces, and taking the idea beyond novelty fonts. As they say on the “Thesis” page of the Handselecta website,
Our intent is to intelligently extend the art form of graffiti into the world of typography and graphic design…Just as calligraphy was the inspiration for type designers of generations past, today’s urban glyphs are the inspiration for a new typography of tomorrow.
I’m interested in what others from the type and graffiti communities have to say about past and present “graffiti fonts,” please post a comment if you have any thoughts.
The Beowolf typeface
Here’s an interesting typeface from relatively recent history. Beowolf is an experimental typeface that’s an exception to the rule of standardization in typography. Each printed letter’s outline is randomized, making it different from others of the same letter.
PostScript allows the designer to build a font program that modifies, changes or switches letterforms. Beowolf is the first font (1989) we build with a randomisation routine. All points on the contour of a (fairly) normal typeface are given a space in which they can freely move. So instead of each letter having one fixed form, the shapes move and wobble. Every single letter this typeface will print will be unique. If characters are repeated in a text they will have different shapes.
It’s an interesting example of intentional irregularity in a digital typeface. One of the biggest differences between graffiti and typography is the standardization of the letters. While Beowolf’s irregularity is computer generated rather than handwritten/painted, it is an important exception that crosses one of the usual boundaries between graffiti and typography.
Here’s another cool Typotheque typeface, it’s called Klimax. There are two styles, Plus and Minus, “the heaviest and the lightest possible styles that can be made” according to the description on their site. It’s Plus that really catches my attention. It reminds me of blockbusters, a style of extremely fat graffiti lettering. Espo’s work is a good example, click the image for more.
An Espo blockbuster in Manhattan.
This post is a little more on the typography side, but I’m really excited about the typeface “History” from typotheque. It’s unique because it’s essentially customizable. It’s composed of 21 different layers which can be combined by the user to create drastically different looking type. The layers are said to be inspired by typographic history. You can try it out here, this is the online application that lets you mix the layers:
Obviously combining pre-designed layers is not really making a new creation, but it is pretty amazing as a concept. I don’t actually own this typeface, so I’m wondering how practical it actually is to use. I also like this quote from their website’s description of History:
While careless use can generate freakish results resembling Frankenstein’s monster, more careful experimentation can produce not only amusing, but surprisingly fresh and usable typeface samples.