Typeface Review


Reviewed by Tanya George on December 31, 2020

I have always been fascinated by the various tools used to create letterforms. How an object like a nib, a chisel, or even an imaginary tool can shape glyphs is what I find most interesting in type design. These tools are usually limited by the human body — the hand, in particular. So when I heard that Movement was inspired by a dancer, I was especially intrigued.

Noel Pretorius and María Ramos worked with South African dancer and choreographer Andile Vellem, who is also deaf, to produce this typeface. Vellem’s role was to create two movements for each letter in the English alphabet, along with numerals. Pretorius and Ramos tracked his movements as he traced the letterforms in space using not just his hands but his entire body. The videos showing the letters mapped to his movements are addictive; I found myself watching them on a loop. It was fun to see Vellem’s choreography find ways around the restrictions of the Latin script. His solution for the numeral 5 is a particular favorite of mine.

These videos scale down the actual work it must have taken to translate the movements of a body and vectorize them into readable letterforms. The resulting variable typeface is just as legible as it is delightful across weights and styles. One style is more regimented and geometric, with returning stroke lines and edges; the other is more pliable and loops its way back. Both of these styles are explorations of intentions in space and time. The Direct style takes the shortest route from one point to the other, while the Indirect style takes the scenic one.

When I think of type design source materials, prints and punches immediately come to mind. Music and type, too, have had a close relationship, but to have managed to use dance as a starting point for a typeface and then execute it so well is truly unique and delightful. In today’s day and age when type design can easily be a solitary job, it took a dancer, a video artist, technicians, and type designers to put together this wonderful face. And like a well-choreographed and practiced performance, Movement looks like it exists effortlessly.

Tanya George is an independent typographer, type designer, and design educator from India. She worked as a graphic designer before getting a Masters in Typeface Design from the University of Reading. Currently, she is pursuing a wide-ranging freelance practice that includes type walks around Mumbai, as well as workshops and writing about type.

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