London design studio Hato hasn’t often done things by the book. This is certainly the case when approaching a recent project, the catalogue showcasing this year’s selected artists for New Contemporaries, the UK-based organisation that works to support emerging artists at the beginning of their careers by introducing them to the art world, primarily through an annual exhibition. The studio decided to co-design a font with the 45 artists, rather than the easier route of just doing it themselves.
Although this conjures up the image of 45 creatives huddled round a table arguing about leading and the width of a letterform’s stroke, Hato had the idea to hand over the reigns to the selected artists digitally: “providing them with a digital tool with which they could manipulate to create unique alphabets,” the studio explains. “Each alphabet is deconstructed into a grid system: with a few clicks, the participants can alter the ratios of each grid block in order to reshape the alphabets.” The tool allows users to elongate different elements of the typeface, make it a little thicker maybe or elongate the negative space of a letter’s shape.
Giving the creatives 24 hours to experiment with the online type tool, each artist picked up where another had left off, “with each user starting with the result and traces left by the previous user, thereby enhancing the co-design element,” Hato explains. The data from each user experience acted as a tool to inform the final topsy turvy and truly unique typeface.
Implemented in the New Contemporaries catalogue, the “collaboratively-generated” font also lent itself to a marketing campaign. “We developed another digital tool to help build content for the show,” says Hato. “The client can type in any text on the tool to generate images with the bespoke typeface and colour palette for the show, which can be exported instantly to use across Instagram and other social platforms” — an inventive way to not only share Hato’s design work, but the artists featured in New Contemporaries too.
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