Typefaces Designed to Serve a Greater Purpose


A good typeface goes a long way. Typography nerds will be the first to point out that all typefaces should serve a deliberate purpose, most often integrating text to fit the overall design, to communicate a message as clearly as possible, or to convey a memorable aesthetic. An ill-chosen or careless font can certainly make or break a headline. But sometimes the impact that a font has can also go much further than simple aesthetics and readability.

Font Aid IV: Aster Affects, a design project benefiting relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is perhaps one way for a font to make a difference. Other examples have shown that readability in a typeface isn’t always a good thing. Fonts can have a dramatic cognitive influence, and research has shown that unfamiliar fonts can actually make it easier to retain certain information. Similarly, harder-to-read fonts could possibly make you less of a biased jerk. So, we’ve rounded up some examples of other typefaces and typological curiosities that have been designed for unconventional purposes.

Dyslexie: a typeface designed for dyslexia

[via Co.Design]

Christian Boer is a typographer who also happens to suffer from dyslexia, a cognitive condition in which letterforms tend to be seen as images. Dyslexics rotate, exchange, invert, or shift letterforms around in their head, making it difficult to read. Boer designed Dyslexie to make individual characters distinct from one another, allowing dyslexics to more easily distinguish differences. Although he says that Dyslexie is not a cure, it is an effective way to adapt a typeface for the challenges of dyslexia, and it opens up a brilliant new way of thinking about typeface alternatives in relation to cognitive or visual difficulties.

Ecofont: a typeface for saving the planet

[via The Guardian ]

Double-sided printers and recycled lightweight paper may be the environmentally friendly standby for office supplies. But Dutch communications company Spranq has introduced a font that also saves on ink by simply reducing the surface area of the letterforms — effectively turning the alphabet into Swiss cheese. It sounds nice, and is certainly innovative, but we’re not sure how much of an impact — aesthetically or environmentally — this font could actually have. Another ink-saving alternative: email.

Cisalpin: a typeface for cartography

[via Linotype]

The days of magnifying glasses and sprawling maps that dangerously obstruct the driver-side windshield are over. With new mapping technology, there’s a demand for typefaces that adapt to specific cartographic needs. Cisalpin, a typeface designed by Swiss designer Felix Arnold, is the optimal font for mapmaking. Arnold is a narrow, space-saving design that’s legible at dramatically different sizes.

DPCustomMono: a font for proofreading

[via Boing Boing]

“Optimal character recognition,” which allows text to be scanned, read by a computer, and converted into an electronic format, is becoming quite a hot technology. In addition to its use for disseminating ebooks and searchable scanned texts for online libraries like Project Gutenberg, OCR software allows computers to generate text-to-speech to help the blind. But such innovations aren’t perfect. The need for human proofreading of OCR text is still widespread. Fortunately, DPCustomMono is a typeface designed specifically to optimize letterform and glyph differences, making proofreading easier. Maybe it’s not so exciting as far as typefaces go, but it’s certainly useful.

Trace: a font for kids

Remember your kindergarten days of laboriously tracing an endless barrage of letters and numbers? Trace allows you to create your own activity worksheets to practice with your kids at home — or maybe you could use a refresher yourself.

Isotype: a pictographic universal language

Legendary informational pictogram designer Gerd Arntz pioneered the idea of creating a universal languages through images. Although it’s technically not a typeface, pictograms and iconographic languages bypass altogether the conventional challenges of typesetting by communicating in a way that can be widely understood. The internet has created an entirely new application for a concise, accessible language of universal signs, and the popularity of iconographic fonts, such as Font Awesome, has come quite a long way since the days of Wingdings.

Chatype: a font to save a city

[via GOOD ]

Typefaces often invoke strong associations, sometimes a connection to a particular place (London has become famously synonymous with Johnston Sans, for example). But Chattanooga, TN has been asking whether a typeface can harness the creative energies of a city and help it to find a unique identity. Chatype was designed to do just that, reflecting the “artistic and entrepreneurial spirit” of Chattanooga’s bourgeoning creative community.

A typeface for prescription medication

[via Reddit]

OK, so it’s not a real typeface, nor does it serve much of a purpose. But this typeface designed for doctors proves that typography can also have a sense of humor.