Liad Shadmi’s The Alphabetical Room explores the “intersection of typography and space”

Using Josef Müller-Brockmann’s proposal for the design of interior spaces, the project is one that aims to create a truly immersive and interactive linguistic experience.

27 March 2023


In an industry intent on the rapid production of new designs, Liad Shadmi believes that designers could benefit from more regularly challenging themselves to create and share new tools. “A tool is something that you don’t have full control over, and the outcomes are much more interesting,” the Hamburg-based designer begins. “It’s like designing a font that will be used in various ways that are sometimes completely unexpected.” It was this thinking that propelled Liad’s The Alphabetical Room, a project which explores the boundaries and limits of writing within a strictly calculated mathematical three-dimensional grid.

As a whole, the project is inspired by Josef Müller-Brockmann’s Grid Systems, a series of grid proposals for design solutions for various formats, conceived in 1961. Liad was acquainted with Müller-Brockmann’s work on the immersive potential of interiors in his first year while studying visual communication at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art in Israel. And then, in his third year, one of the lectures pushed Liad and his fellow students to consider the three-dimensional grid that is found in Grid Systems, and “we should treat and design the exhibition room in the same way we would design an editorial or a book”. Since then, the three dimensional grid has always been “lurking in [Liad’s] subconscious”.

But it was when Liad was studying for a masters at Hamburg School for Applied Sciences that the project came into full fruition. Conceived during a course entitled Letter shapes are entirely described by numbers, Liad explains that “the starting point of the course was the story of typography being transferred from manual tools to digital tools during the 20th Century” and that students were encouraged to “create a project connected with this story”.

Firstly, to conduct the project, Liad recreated one of the grids presented Müller-Brockmann’s Grid Systems. Then, Liad applied a preexisting tool he often uses to build icons and logos: Shape-Builder in Illustrator. “Instead of using this tool consciously in order to connect shapes, I’ve just dragged the mouse over the grid to create the form,” Liad expands. For Liad, this combined application is vital in creating something unique. “When I connect a certain tool with another tool, something comes out that the creator of the program may never have thought about.”

Liad has presented the intriguing letterforms and graphics resulting from the project in a newspaper format, alongside an informative essay. Using the letter A, Liad shows just how unpredictable the outcome can be when teamed with a grid – creating both legible and sometimes entirely illegible forms. “I think this project mostly intends to highlight a way of creating graphics that the creator has no ‘full control’ over the end result, although it is placed on a very strictly calculated mathematical grid,” Liad summarises. Alongside the visuals Liad has created, in the publication he also includes his initial references – images from Müller-Brockmann and others, Richard Buckminster and Muriel Cooper. Such a combination of visuals proves how powerful the synthesis of past praxis with current experimentations can be.

In summary, The Alphabetical Room has not only been a thoughtful interesting exploration into type a the dimensions of space, but also one that’s helped Liad to progress and develop as a designer. “While my designs are typically reserved and meticulously planned,” he says, “this project challenged me to create graphics with less control over the outcome, which was a valuable learning experience.” And it’s certainly paid off. Liad finishes by sharing that the project has been nominated for an award at Type Directors Club in Tokyo and will be showcased at Ginza gallery in Tokyo from March 31 to April 28.

GalleryLiad Shadmi: The Alphabetical Room (Copyright © Liad Shadmi, 2023) Photographed by Michael Kohls


Grid Systems (Copyright © Josef Müller-Brockman, 1961)

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Liad Shadmi: The Alphabetical Room (Copyright © Liad Shadmi, 2023)

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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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