Lauren Graycar’s elegant typeface is made by layering squares, circles and triangles

The LA-based designer shares how the K.73r typeface was made within such strict rules, and why it’s named after one of Mozart’s canons.

26 February 2024

The K.73r typeface is the culmination of Lauren Graycar’s many passions: experiments in custom type design, modernist traditions of layout and image making, systems-driven processes, and “the warmth and idiosyncrasy of craft cultures”. Drawing from modernist exercises in type design, the elegant type family is made in a pretty unique way; the layering of squares, circles and triangles.

Originally, the typeface was constructed as part of a publishing project – a 28-year perpetual calendar. Lauren runs the publishing imprint, Kima, which celebrates the proto-industrial and craft traditions that interest Lauren, such as Eastern European typography, the Bauhaus, Slovak vernacular design, Constructivism, and Cubo-Futurism. “With the calendar’s extensive grid of repeating numbers, I wanted to create a custom geometric face to typeset it with as many alternates as I could come up with,” says Lauren. Although she didn’t end up using these early experiments in the calendar, she was intrigued by their potential, and so began the two-and-half-year journey of K.73r, which is now distributed by Public Type foundry.


Lauren Graycar: K.73r (Copyright © Lauren Graycar and Public Type, 2024)

At the core of K.73r is the simple rule of designing each letter using three basic geometric shapes – squares, circles and triangles – at uniform width, a second width for wider letters. “X-height characters are constructed in a 3:5 ratio; cap and descender height characters in a 3:7,” says Lauren. “The formal constraints allowed me the structured freedom to experiment and develop new shapes beyond anything I had envisioned at the outset.” This technique is one that was common with modernist typeface creators – the use of practical guidelines and simple shapes placed together by hand to create something striking but not too embellished.

Early into making the typeface, Lauren realised certain processes mimicked the creation of a musical canon. “Each letterform is a synthesis of the basic geometric building blocks in varying layers, positions, and combinations,” says Lauren. “A quarter circle placed above or below a square, for example, might create a connecting piece for the ascender of an ‘h’, the descender of a ‘p’, or something more unexpected like the stencil component of a capital ‘A’.


Lauren Graycar: K.73r (Copyright © Lauren Graycar and Public Type, 2024)

This is where the typeface found its name: K.73r is the Köchel number of Mozart’s four puzzle canons, and Lauren’s design plays on the unpredictability, and element of guesswork involved in creating both a rhythm and a glyph. “Most people will know the structure of a musical canon through popular songs like Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Frère Jacques, in which a melody is imitated one or more times beginning at varying overlapping intervals to create an overall harmony,” says Lauren. “A puzzle canon is similar, except only one voice is notated while the timing of the rest must be guessed.” Similarly, each time Lauren began creating a new glyph, a new method would be created each time, so as to create a new unique form with the limited shapes. “With each new discovery I would then revisit previously completed characters to add alternates employing the new structural element,” she says.

One of the biggest challenges Lauren came up against was knowing when to finish working on a glyph. When Lauren created each glyph, she felt a renewed sense of excitement, knowing how many new possibilities it presented, but “the hardest part was knowing when to stop, knowing the point at which I felt I had exhausted every possibility that felt natural to me, and there was nothing left to add”.

Now, Lauren is particularly proud of the breadth of the typeface. Unlike the historic types Lauren was inspired by, the K.73r now sits at over 10,500 glyphs with up to 100 alternatives per character, though she’s keen to impress “it’s still an homage to analogue media and the warmth of workshop making”. Lauren has applied the rationality, simplicity and handcrafted nature of modernist techniques to create a typeface that’s technical, yet very pleasing to look at.

GalleryLauren Graycar: K.73r (Copyright © Lauren Graycar and Public Type, 2024)


Lauren Graycar: K.73r (Copyright © Lauren Graycar, 2023)

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Lauren Graycar: K.73r (Copyright © Lauren Graycar and Public Type, 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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