Good typography doesn’t just grow on trees, you know

Oh wait, maybe it does.

Occlusion GrotesqueBjørn Karmann
Occlusion Grotesque is an experimental typeface that is carved into the bark of a tree. As the tree grows, it deforms the letters and outputs new design variations, that are captured annually. The project explores what it means to design with nature and on nature’s terms.

Observing the GANN learning from the tree and reflecting on the way Occlusion Grotesque grew is both fascinating and complex. The changing shape over time really seems to suggest some underlying growth logic, although rationally we know this is not possible with such simple ML models.

To see the typeface in action, head over to Autralian National University’s School of Cybernetics, where they’ve typeset Richard Brautigan’s poem, All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace.

But what if, instead of your own Beech forest in Denmark, you just have some houseplants?

Green-fingered type designer Anna Sing creates a “bouquet” of typefaces inspired by houseplant historyIt’s Nice That
With no previous experience in type design, the Texas-based multi-disciplinary designer embarked on a whirlwind 15-week project to make four beautiful typefaces inspired by the history of houseplants.

For those of us who just can’t seem to keep a houseplant alive, Anna prescribes her spiky little Sagauro typeface. Its forms mimic the water-absorbing spines of cacti – the perfect option for people who tend to forget to water their plants.

Then there’s Orkyd, which “grew out of the mystery of the grocery store orchid, the houseplant that is always for sale but rarely seen in the home”. Taking just three days to create, Anna spent hours on the floor of her room tracing the symmetrical forms of blossoms from a “600-something-page encyclopaedia of orchids”. This bold yet whimsical typeface was her favourite to create and has enjoyed well-deserved success, recently being featured in Monotype’s 2022 Type Trends report and a Paloma Wool campaign.

Author: Terry Madeley

Works with student data and enjoys reading about art, data, education and technology.

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