During his teens, it was the natural sciences and maths which occupied Johan Elmehag’s studies. However, in the evenings, he would turn to graphic design as a tool to visually translate his scientific ideas. Eventually the latter overtook the former and Johan headed to Malmö University to study BA Graphic Design, from which he has just graduated.
Despite diverting from his original interests, their influence is still clear throughout his creative practice. Nowhere is this truer than in his recent project, A-Z: Coast to Coast Shore to Shore. First and foremost a custom font, the project aims to find innovative ways to present the geographical impact of climate change by sculpting future coastlines into letterforms.
“The idea was born out of the sense that climate change is somewhat abstract and difficult to address,” Johan tells It’s Nice That. Although initially exploring the idea of creating a guidebook for climate refugees in the year 2100, he turned to a “future world map” which he had previously mocked-up. The map displays what our landmasses would look like if all the ice in the world melted (based off information from floodmap.net and projects from National Geographic). “I started to see different letterforms in particularly exposed coastal areas,” Johan explains, adding how he “immediately felt an interest in these forms and understood that they could be used for organising and presenting geographical information in a structured and innovative way.”
The result is a type specimen, world map and website which present Coastline, a typeface created from a set of geographic variables. These include dissemination of areas around the globe, a form taken from an exposed coastline, scalability between letters, as well as obviously stemming from aesthetically appropriate letterforms. “Each letter represents a specific area, and a unique future,” Johan explains.
Throughout the specimen, Coastline is accompanied by in-depth information on flood control, tsunamis and particularly vulnerable islands, all designed to be digestible and intriguing. “Information about climate change is often repugnant to receive. It may feel uncomfortable or boring. I aimed at producing an artefact where the interest in picking up the artefact would be greater than the fear of the presented content,” Johan remarks.
A-Z: Coast to Coast Shore to Shore is a thoroughly considered piece of design, but more than this, it’s a useful piece of design. By combining his knowledge and concerns about the future of our world if climate change continues at the current rate – and his design skills – Johan proves how powerful the medium can be when fused with thorough research and sounds concepts.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.