Flipping the stereotype of type design as the realm of the fastidious and precise on its head, this charming font has been developed by a crew of rambunctious kids. The project was conceived under the watchful eye of type designer and Letters from Sweden founder Göran Söderström and designer Daniela Juvall, after the latter was commissioned to develop the identity for Stockholm City Museum’s exhibition Östberga, Östberga, which celebrated the eponymous Stockholm neighbourhood.
“Östberga is special because of it’s geographical position just a few kilometres from the city centre but with a history of very bad public transport, a lack of public services and almost no grocery stores,” says Johan Stigholt, the exhibition’s project manager. “It is divided into two separate areas – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – both mentally and geographically.” Given the rising problem with gang-related crime in the more deprived half Östbergahöjden, the City Museum wanted to stage an exhibition that brought people together, documented local and aural histories and inspired pride in the suburb.
Designers Daniela and Göran held workshops with ten children between ten and 12 (Rola, Nima, Mohammed, Riccardo, Klara, Fabian, Masa, Bo, Amin and Ali) at their local youth centre, plastering the floor with paper and graffiti pens before letting the kid’s imaginations and hands run riot. “The whole idea with this project was for them to create their own typeface, without any direction from us. We encouraged them to draw in their own style," Göran explains.
Daniela adds, “We didn’t want to influence how they wrote the letters, but one idea I had was to ask if the kids wanted to write a lot of different Ös as in Östberga. They didn’t, instead they wanted to write a lot of different Bs and Ns.” In fact some of the children wrote in Mandarin and Persian, others wrote their name, their favourite football team or the names of their siblings.
“We ran out of paper in no-time even though we had over a hundred meters to start with,” says Daniela. “The kids didn’t want to stop writing!”
Göran and Daniela then picked out the useable letters, scanned them and digitised them using a font editor. The use of brushlike graffiti pens meant that the letters’s bold strokes felt coherent despite their different authors. Daniela says, “It was also interesting to see that the children didn’t care about ”good” or ”bad”, they just did what they did without evaluating what it looked like.”
As well as being used in the initial exhibition, the typeface will feature in a second show this autumn, and interest in the open-source typeface has spread all over the country, from community centres to grocery chains. “The typeface is also getting Östberga recognised for their work with the kids at the youth centre,” says Daniela. “Plus one of the kids says he wants to work as an artist in the future.”