Tal Shub is a designer based in New York who co-founded Uno, a company with a mission to eradicate single-use plastic bottles by offering a reusable alternative. Alongside the team with which he runs this venture, he has also produced an ode Greta Thunberg in the form of a typeface called Greta Grotesk, inspired by and emulating the teenage activist’s handwriting.
“We’re all very moved by how this girl has inspired so many people to take action,” Tal states. “From the very first moment of seeing her sign, I was really impressed by the bold design and clarity of the message.” As Greta’s letterings clearly struck a chord with many around the world, not just Tal, he was surprised at how little discussion there was around the actual typography. “Here’s this iconic piece of visual communication, yet nobody’s really paying attention to how that design is central to this movement. It’s really the classic typographic discussion – something that’s starring you in the face, but most people don’t pay attention to it,” he adds.
And so, Tal decided to create a font in homage to Greta’s strength in communication. He started by looking at all the material that was available online and identified two distinct signs which Greta had made. By un-distorting the images, he was able to extract letters with high contrast. “We then traced letters from both of these signs and converted them into vector format,” he explains. The letters were, of course, different sizes and so needed levelling out, after which all the thicks and thins were rebalanced.
“The development of a font like this presents some challenges, but is relatively similar to how you would develop any other typeface,” Tal explains. “You look for patterns and commonalities between different letterforms. A pretty common approach to drawing a new typeface is first defining the lowercase n, i and o characters because they provide the straight, round and dot shapes that can then be extrapolated into other letterforms. So much of what we did was just that – finding common forms and borrowing parts from the limited characters Greta had drawn. We repurposed elements from letters that had multiple options – for example, there was a total of six uppercase K letters and six uppercase T letters.”
The result is a typeface with a limited character set, but that’s the point Tal tells us: “it feels like that’s really all you need to get a message about climate change across.” The intention here was not to create the most technically adept typeface, or even the most attractive one, but something that was authentic; “true to the imperfect, yet bold letters.”
In terms of where Tal would like the typeface to be used, he says: “The obvious usage would be to produce any sort of collateral that relates to climate change. But I think the biggest contribution this could have is actually beyond the immediate urge to use it in a poster. Fonts have this amazing ability to trigger memory – just like hearing a song you haven’t stumbled upon in a long time transports you to a different time and place… Hopefully, Greta Grotesk is just another unexpected place that will remind us of this pressing problem and the actions we must take to bring real change. Also, it’s conveniently located right above Helvetica – so you won’t be able to avoid it.”
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