This football-inspired tool allows you to create interactive illustrations like a variable font

The creative duo Rob & Robin have transitioned from graphic design to illustration; though they’re still borrowing a few tips and tricks from their old trade.

20 March 2024

Five years ago we first met the creative duo Rob & Robin. At the time the pair were immersed in the world of graphic design, working on city guides, record covers and identities for dance classes. Since then, there’s been a pretty massive change for the duo – they’ve slowly transitioned from graphic design toward illustration. This move came after Rob and Robin realised that, for them, it was “a more suitable medium to craft thoughtful and clever concepts in an accessible way”. This thinking transpires in their most recent passion project F.C. Variable, which uses the formal qualities of variable typeface construction to create football-inspired interactive illustrations.

Clearly, while Rob & Robin have made a leap from medium to medium, they still very much enter each project “with a graphic designer’s perspective”, says Rob. F.C. Variable arose after some research, in which Rob and Robin uncovered the many similarities between a font and an illustration. “Just like letters, illustrations consist of vectors, and with variable fonts, it does give you the ability to animate them and make them interactive,” says Robin. It was this discovery – and the fact that once the pair’s experimentations manipulating 3D illustrations were often lost when the file was exported – that pushed them to create a new interactive experience.


Rob & Robin: F.C. Variable (Copyright © Rob & Robin, 2024)

Initially, the plan was to create just one variation, but soon the pair found themselves with a whole ‘family’. They were inspired by other foundries to create a one page, mini website to present their work, including the trigger that sparked the idea, the process and some interactive experiments. “Because ultimately, our aim was to craft an illustration that wasn't bound by a fixed form, but rather interactive,” says Robin. “For us, it had to become a sort of playground to explore the possibilities and to broaden our perspective on illustration.” With some help from ChatGPT the pair managed to code four different experiments. “Each one uses a different ‘input’, like the position of your cursor, a controller, or two sliders that you can adjust to change speed along different axes,” says Rob.

The football theme arose for a few reasons. One, the pair don’t like drawing faces, and gravitate toward objects, and secondly, football has so many objects and associations connected to it – “making it easy to get a kickstart”, says Robin (pun intended). “The repetition, symmetry, and the humour of a moving goal (which makes it difficult to score) led us to choose it as the basic shape; its simple shape allows for ease of movement along various axes.” It was also a welcome break for the pair to engage with lighter subject matter, alongside their more weighty editorial commissions on finance, political systems and AI. Along the way they came up with some funny lines to include, like an italic goal and a serif goal.

Considering where the project may travel next, Rob and Robin have big visions. Not only does it work well in a digital domain, but the pair see it having potential in public space, and maybe even cameras and sensors, to create “unexpected interactions”. Rob & Robin have found great enjoyment in taking one object and exploring its formal qualities to the greatest lengths; all the while taking a few tips and tricks from their old creative field, proving that the boundaries between mediums might not be as rigid as we may initially assume.

GalleryRob & Robin: F.C. Variable (Copyright © Rob & Robin, 2024)

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Rob & Robin: F.C. Variable (Copyright © Rob & Robin, 2024)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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