This Awesome Typeface Stretches Like a Rubber Band
Graphic design is a lot like architecture: The finished product is defined by a series of constraints and available space. So it makes sense that Natasha Jen, a graphic designer and partner at New York’s Pentagram office, loves working with architects. She created the graphic identity of the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and also for New Practices New York, which showcases work by new and innovative design firms. For her latest work, Jen’s team created a dynamic typeface for the American Institute of Architecture’s annual Heritage Ball.
She calls the blueprint-blue typeface Herita-Geo. It stretches horizontally like a rubber band, then snaps back into place. When she and her team started brainstorming ideas for the event, held earlier this month, they knew right away they didn’t want a pictorial identity. “We didn’t want to draw champagne bottles and all that,” she says. “We wanted to convey a vibrance through typography.” Jen wanted to translate the practice of architecture—making a building fit into a pre-set space—into typographic form. “Architecture is about transforming how we experience space,” she says. “So we thought, how can we express that through typography?”
The goal was to create a typeface that would scale and stretch from edge to edge without losing the inherent shape of the letters. It needed to be dynamic, but rational as well. The designers began by focusing on how the typeface should behave. “We didn’t want it to be random because architecture is an incredibly disciplined practice,” she says. They decided the typeface would stretch only horizontally, which Jen says works better on a screens. To ensure each letter can be pulled without deforming, the team designed a 90-degree horizontal bar into the extended version of individual letters.
The extended letterforms feel slightly reminiscent of Paula Scher’s recent revamp of the New School identity, but Jen’s solution has an entirely different feel. It smartly pulls visual double-duty by giving the dual-lined letters a clean, geometric feel, which means that while it looks great on paper, it really shines when you see it move.
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