The 3D alphabet of alphabets

Akzidenz Grotesk: Originally designed in 1896, and forerunner to Helvetica, Akzidenz was part of a family of early sans-serifs called ‘grotesques.' It comes in a range of weights and styles: for this design a condensed weight is ‘fractalized,' turning a grotesque into a thing of beauty.

British identity and branding firm Johnson Banks undertook Arkitypo: The Final Alphabet when approached by client Ravensbourne and asked “if we were interested in developing a research project to test and showcase the in-house 3D prototyping skills and technology at their site in Greenwich.”

Johnson Banks’ site explains: “We suggested they do something typographic – just the briefest period of research revealed very few examples of prototyping merged with graphic design. So we set ourselves the brief to develop a 3D alphabet of alphabets. Each letterform is different, each in turn interprets its own alphabet.

“For each letter we carried out extensive research, made drawings, built maquettes and did simple 3D visuals on our machines, before handing the ideas over to Ravensbourne’s team.

“There was a period of ‘virtual proofing’ where we examined the ideas as rendered files, and when all parties were happy, we began the printing (which for some letters took as long as eight hours). Some of the ideas worked straight away, some needed refining. Some fell apart, some were perfect, but after about six months solid work by December last year the ‘alphabet’ was ready for the photography you see here.”

[nod to Fast Company Design]


Kabel: Released in 1927, Kabel was a geometric sans-serif typeface that was named in honour of the then newly completed transatlantic telephone cable.


Helvetica: Originally designed in 1957 as Neue Haas Grotesk, its 1960 version was renamed Helvetica. Given that its name was based on ‘Helvetia’ (Latin for Switzerland) it was no surprise that it became the vanguard of the Swiss style, and the typeface of choice for corporations across the world for the last 50 years.

Machine: This infamous ITC typeface of the 1970s took its inspiration from the American Midwest a century before. Now a classically brutal font perfect for all things industrial, it is interpreted here with a system of interlocking cogs.



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