One of the things I’ve always admired about Underware is the trio’s ability to move type design out of the digital realm and morph it into a real-world spectacle. Akiem, Bas, and Sami are not just type designers. They’re totally dramatic!
I have fond memories of many Underware-fueled happenings. I once crowded into a Toronto hotel bathroom with a bunch of half-crazed TypeCon attendees, shower running full blast, as we waited impatiently for the hot steam to coax invisible letterforms from the pages of the Sauna book, Read naked. I watched the Underware guys effortlessly slice big, saucy, juicy connecting script letters out of foam core at a workshop in San Francisco (a 3D precursor to Bello, perhaps?).
There are Underware letters etched on a sandy beach, awaiting high tide’s deadly kiss … and letters truly, madly, deeply carved into wood and stone (solid things that will undoubtedly outlive us all). There are Underware typefaces made into pillows and keychains and cast bronze dingbats, and screaming in Dutch from the most ridiculously huge banner I’ve ever seen.
And then there are stencils! Who doesn’t love to play with stencils!? Which brings me (at last) to the protagonist of this tale: Tripper, a type family in 24 acts — er, fonts.
Tripper came about by accident, literally: as legend has it, Bas fell out of a tree and snapped his right collarbone. Ouch. (Whatever were you doing in that tree, Bas? Inquiring minds want to know.) Since Underware always starts typeface designs with hand sketches before moving to the computer, it appeared at first that Bas, a natural-born righty, was destined to spend some time on the typographic bench. It’s difficult to sketch pretty letters with your non-dominant hand; it’s nigh impossible to draw bezier curves with a trackpad when your favorite wing is in a sling.
Beziers be damned, Bas persevered, clickety-click, drawing straight lines on the laptop. Thus, Tripper came into this world as a curveless wonder. But its non-curvy nature is not immediately apparent; Tripper’s clever construction and powerful voice almost camouflage its angularity. Letters like ‘Q’, ‘S’, ‘M’, and ‘a’ are replete with funky character traits, and the ‘%’ is northing short of astonishing. And when you reach the Rough variants, the spray effect casually drapes the skeleton with seemingly random splatters.
If a typeface made in the ether could have heft in the third dimension, Tripper would be forged by a punch-cutting Vulcan, driving alphabetic black holes into the matrix of the universe. Even the light weight has a solid presence, and the black is nothing short of supermassive. And those delicious ornaments! A japering skull and crossbones, pointing hands with extendable sleeves, a cut paper-style heart, and a little puffy cloud, again, magically built without benefit of curves. Divine.
As usual, Underware was not content to leave Tripper to the sterile environs of the computer. Embracing their tactile style, they produced a set of shiny metal stencils designed to be fondled by human hands. @TheRealTripper is perfect for decorating your office or facilitating illicit graffiti action. Too legit.
Tamye Riggs is a writer, editor, and designer hopelessly devoted to type and other wonderful things. Part of the typographically enchanted team at Type Network, she is also the Executive Director of the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI).