Graphic designer Hicham Faraj has the ability to not only inspect typefaces but push them further, usually by pulling them apart. No project of Hicham’s, a recent Yale graphic design graduate who currently works and lives in New York, is a greater example of this than Compulsory Figures; a display typeface the designer made on compulsory figure exercises, referring to the basic exercises ice skaters must learn in the beginning steps of their training.
Ice skating – whether you’re clinging onto the sides of the rink during the winter months or if you consider yourself the 2019 Torvil or Dean – will inevitably involve some sort of slip or trip. This moment, of posture and poise through to crumbled heap on the floor, is the movement that has designed Hicham’s typeface where, “in order to recreate the pressure on figure skaters to maintain balance, I delicately placed my phone on top of stationary I found lying around my desk,” he explains, detailing the beginnings of many a student project.
At his desk, Hicham’s mobile became “the icy surface of the rink, my sliding finger was the figure skater and the smudges were the skate marks,” he describes. But Hicham’s drawing tool and a figure skater have very different goals when atop the ice. While a skater is trying to achieve their optimum figure 8 move, “I assigned myself the task to draw a full character set using a drawing app installed on my phone,” he tells It’s Nice That.
But, just as ice skating is prone to some mishaps, Hicham’s apparatus “kept on collapsing” resulting in unique letterform designs. “As a result, the final characters are fractured, fuzzy and some are even recognisable,” the designer points out. Rather than try to neaten or fix this natural outcome of the typeface’s design, the vector and photographic versions of the typeface “are documented at different scales” in the final book, posters and postcards which display Compulsory Figures.
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