William Drenttel | Essays

Twin (Cities) Type in Flux

An article in late July in The New York Times discusses the new typeface commissioned for the City of Minneapolis by Jan Abrams, director of the University of Minnesota Design Institute, that moves when the wind blows.

Twin is an example of a morphing typeface, as far from metal type as it is possible to go. And in Just Van Rossum and Erik van Blokland's new font for Minneapolis (Twin refers to the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul) a series of 800 drawings delineate formality with serifs, informality with curves, and weirdness with — well — you can imagine.

More interesting still than this is the accompanying software program allowing viewers to customize their own variation of the font, by entering a value from 0 to 100 to skew the formality/informality divide according to whatever strikes them. Ellen Lupton calls them "mood letters." Erik Spiekermann muses on their adaptability to other shifting barometers ... the stock market, for example.

It's a brilliant new model for type's capacity to be truly expressive. What's next -- musical accompaniment? The potential evocations of shifting typographic styles within a single font are both fascinating and limitless, for software developers, for font designers, but mostly for readers. Is this what Gutenberg imagined when he invented movable type?

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Posted in: Graphic Design, Social Good, Typography

Comments [2]

I was at TypeCon 2003 when this face was announced (and shown to the public for the first time). It was absolutely amazing to see how technology is changing typography literally right before my eyes. Every generation seems to have its advancements within typography (especially in the 20th / 21st centuries), but it was quite amazing to see it unforld before my own eyes. Cheers to Just + Erik!
Peter Smith

I enjoy fun (by definition, I guess), and often even un-serious behavior, but there's what I might call an anti-seriousness in the Twin typeface that bothers me. The code is pretty cool though.


Jobs | July 19