Award-winning Swedish/Spanish font foundry NM type’s latest project sees the international duo looking to a rather unlikely source of inspiration: contemporary dance.
Movement is a new, free-to-use variable font which uses the body of South African dancer, Andile Vellem, as the basis for the strokes which make up this inventive and innovative typeface, which debuted last week at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town.
It was the work that the duo – Noel Pretorius and Maria Ramos – had done for herbal liqueur powerhouses Jagermeister that first attracted the attention of the conference’s founder, Ravi Naidoo. They were invited to speak at the 2019 installment of the long-running event, and then Ravi popped the big question: what’s your dream project?
“We replied that we wanted to create a typeface inspired by the art of dance,” NM recalls. “We made a concept proposal, the team liked it and then started sketching. It was important to create a connection between our work and South Africa. The team at Design Indaba then introduced us to the dancer, Andile Vellem. The project became something bigger with him. Our collaboration with him was an important part of the story behind Movement.”
Inspired by the pioneering work of choreographer/dance-theorist Rudolf Laban – yep, the bloke that the really swanky building by Deptford Creek is named after – Noel and Maria decided to parlay Laban’s understandings of movement as the “inner intention” of the dancer into a typeface. Tracking Andile’s movements from various angles allowed them to trace the paths his body roved through as he recited the alphabet through dance, and those became key points of reference when it came to the creation of Movement.
NM type tells us that, “three main characteristics were considered when studying Andile’s movements; weight, space and time.” The typeface went on to represent direct movement with bound straight strokes, and indirect movement with flexible curved shapes.
The variable font has four design extremes: direct black, direct thin, indirect black and indirect thin. The Certificate of Typographic Excellence by the New York Type Directors Club holders note that the variants in-between represent the changes of movement in time.
“Probably not, the main purpose of most typefaces is to be functional,” is the pair’s response when we ask if they think that Movement could find itself at the vanguard of a dance-based typeface movement. “Type design follows conventions in the structure of the characters so they are easy to read in text. Movement is a display typeface with a free interpretation of shapes. We are always looking for new challenges and want every new project to be different. We expect other type designers to do the same. There is room for exploration in type design. Trends are boring!”