How does typography behave under extreme conditions? New book Teasing Typography explores

Recently published by Slanted, Juliane Nöst’s first book explores what happens when meaning is stripped away from type.

20 April 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

How does typography behave under extreme conditions? It’s a question that fundamentally underpins Slanted’s new book, Teasing Typography. Edited and designed by Juliane Nöst, the recently published compendium explores what happens to type when it undergoes a variety of phenomenons. What happens when you push type through extreme grids for example? At what point does text become something else? A graphic element perhaps or a grey surface, or static noise or just plain pattern?

Released last month, the 500-page book provides an insight into what might happen when typography is teased. Juliane tells us more about how this project came about in the first place: “The idea developed during a stressful phase where I had lots of projects ongoing (at uni and at work).” During this time, she didn’t have much creative freedom which left her feeling frustrated and, with time, she observed an increasing want “to do something more free and unconventional.” Around the same time, she attended a university module which revolved around a free book project, “which was perfect,” recalls the designer.

This led Juliane to embark on a number of typographic experiments where she let the text embark on a life of its own as it flowed over pages and dummy texts. She started out with InDesign’s default settings – Minion Pro at point size 12, automatic line-height and left-aligned – then added more columns to the page. As she added the columns, the digital page started doing some weird but interesting things, creating extreme results in turn. Then she experimented with font size, line-height, the font itself and dummy text, editing the experiments in Photoshop to enhance certain structures or graphic elements even more. She also played with layering the varying texts on top of each other to provoke further visual phenomenons and behaviours. This was, “again, a lot of fun,” says Juliane.

Quickly, the designer began to amass a torrent of typographic results, “overwhelming,” she says looking back. Pleased with the results and the fun process along the way, Lars Harmsen, co-founder of Slanted along with Julia Kahl, was supervising Juliane’s class at the time advising the student to structure and frame her results for a more edited result. “And that’s exactly what I did,” says Juliane, whittling down her number of experiments into the 500-page volume of what we can now see in Teasing Typography. Despite being pretty long as far as books go, these 500 pages mark only a small glimpse of what Juliane created for the project; a carefully curated portion of her findings.


Juliane Nöst: Teasing Typography (Copyright © Juliane Nöst, 2021)

Through the publication of the book, Teasing Typography is testament to how typography “is not only a tool to pass on information for a reader, it can itself be a tool for creating visual interest that isn’t all about passing on meaning or information.” For Juliane, typography became like what a paintbrush is to an artist; a vehicle for emotive and abstract expression. “The process, especially the layering of the results, sometimes felt like a painting on a large canvas,” she continues. The information carried by the text was lost, the original purpose of the letters became unimportant for this book.

Though the communication aspect of the typography is rendered meaningless in Teasing Typography, each page still acts as an individual poster or artwork in itself. To emphasise this, Juliane gives each page its own name. In each artwork, the typography takes on a new life of its own. In most instances, typography is harnessed for a purpose or intention, but in this book, it is allowed to do what it wants. “It was really interesting and cool to just step back and observe,” adds Juliane on the morphing life created by the text. In turn, she observed different character traits of the type, “sometimes it flows through the grid, seeming very fluid and smooth while at other times it’s really edgy, jagged and bitchy.”

In the future, Juliane hopes to continue these typographic studies, and is looking into automating the process with some code to expand on the differing results. Perhaps these new findings could even inform a new book one day. As for the present, Juliane is enjoying the viewer’s reaction to the publication. A lot of her non-designer friends and family don’t understand the notion of the book, but importantly, “And I keep telling them this,” says Juliane, “they don’t have to.” Teasing Typography is about enjoying the visual phenomenons for what they are; interesting patterns and an expression of fun. She finally goes on to say: “I hope the graphic experiments, structures and patterns visually inspire some viewers, and it’s just fun to observe the movement and behaviour of the typography.”

GalleryJuliane Nöst: Teasing Typography (Copyright © Juliane Nöst, 2021)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.

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