I have been criticised before for playing favourites and profiling some foundries and studios more than others. At the end of the day I am an independant designer finding time to write about the stuff that inspires me in my spare time - so if a particular foundry is consistently doing awesome work that I find exciting you’ll see more of them here. This is the case of NM type. All of their projects are smart, robust and executed to the highest quality. The foundries latest project is no exception.
Movement was born as a collaboration with Design Indaba, and draws inspiration from the perfomance of contemporary dance. Movement’s letterforms express the shifting form and weight in a South African dancer, Andile Vellem’s body.
It is brilliantly conceived, inventive and beautiful, “NM type has brought the art of dance into type design. Shapes written on air, by the movement of the dancer, are captured in a typeface to be used in print and on screen.”
A free-to-use variable font, the type family has four design extremes, representing different use of weight and space; Direct Black, Direct Thin, Indirect Black and Indirect Thin. Direct represents quick and bound movement, and letters with straight lines. While indirect represents slow and flexible movement, and letters with curved shapes. The variable font also includes any weight and curvature in between the extremes. I caught up with Noel Pretorius and Maria Ramos (the NMType talent) to learn more about this clever typographic experiment…
How did the collaboration with Indaba and Andile Vellem first come about?
The team at Design Indaba invited us to be speakers at the festival. They had seen our work for Jägermeister and offered us a platform to create something new. We said we wanted to create a typeface inspired by dance. They liked the idea and we started working together. The collaboration began last October when we were introduced to the choreographer and dancer Andile Vellem from South Africa. His movements were the inspiration for the structure of the characters. We used his performance to define the key features of the design.
What were the biggest challenges to overcome translating the movement of dance into a font?
We needed to adapt proportions and find patterns in Andile’s movements. To be a functional display typeface all the characters needed to belong together. We used his performance as a reference for the design. Through research we also discovered the dance theories of Rudolph Laban who described movement by the inner intention of the dancer. His ideas became guiding principles for our design.
What are you favourite features or details in Movement?
The diagonals that cross the main body of the character (see A or R) create that sense of movement we were looking for. Even though it made the design more complex, it was also fun to play with loops in letters like B or G. When creating the variable font we needed to make decisions of when to close those loops and when to keep them open. The X is one of our favourite characters in this typeface and would not have designed it like this if not for Andile’s artistic contribution. That is the power of experimenting as you never know where you will land. By keeping an open mind you can create something new.
What did you learn from this project that you are applying to your current work?
We want to continue bringing together art, history and design. We would like to keep a balance between idea based retail fonts, custom fonts and experiments like the one we did with Andile and Design Indaba. We believe every typeface needs to have a strong concept.
It is wonderful that you have been so generous as to make the font available for free download… how do you hope it will be used?
The same way we have experimented with the design, we hope people will be experimental in the use of the typeface. We expect people to play with it. Type is always something you offer as a raw material, it is the designer who moulds it to tell something more. We had fun and learned a lot from this project and we hope the users of the typeface will too.
NM type is a type studio based in Sweden and Spain, a creative collaboration between Noel Pretorius and María Ramos. They have done custom typefaces for international brands like Jägermeister. NM type were also awarded the Certificate of Excellence for their typeface family Kinetic by the New York Type Directors Club.