Typeface Review


Reviewed by David Jonathan Ross on March 19, 2015

Woodkit is a toy disguised as a typeface. And like any toy, it takes me back to my formative years.

Woodkit’s Letterpress style, a mishmash of eccentric forms, takes me back to my college days when I first worked with wood type. Armed only with a haphazard mix of styles, incomplete alphabets, and damaged letters, the game was to piece together designs from what I had on hand. I joyfully arranged and rearranged the wooden blocks, experiencing the thrill of the hunt as I searched for the right fit. The letterpress workshop became my playground.

That sense of play is what Woodkit is all about. It is certainly not a revival in the traditional sense, but Ondrej Jób breathes new life into the otherwise mundane act of setting type on a computer. Woodkit encapsulates all that is fun about building up words and images out of prefabricated blocks (toypography?).

Woodkit’s positive and negative Alphabet styles take me back even further; after all, I was playing with wooden blocks long before I first set type. These styles are reminiscent of the ABC blocks of my youth, but rendered in a slick, round sans that makes them so much cooler, and so much more appropriate for titles and drop caps.

The Ornaments style takes me back to my mom’s office, where I would bang rubber stamps into ink pads and then all over the papers on her desk. Ondrej’s 500-piece ornaments set is a lively take on midcentury designs, complete with standalone dingbats and repeatable patterns.

And let’s not forget the Figures style, which contains a variety of heads, arms, legs, and bodies that can be swapped and stacked in different combinations to form nearly 400,000 modular little people. Take that, Mr. Potato Head!

But it’s my favorite style, Blocks, that takes me back the furthest. I’m sure I stuck many of its shapes into my mouth in my early days. This toddler-meets-Bauhaus design features three chunky geometric alphabets, each imaginatively constructed from the soft, primitive shapes of toy blocks.

Woodkit is playful, but it transcends novelty or nostalgia. It is a unique and elaborate system, complete with Latin/Greek/Cyrillic and three levels of distress. It is a system not unified by a single typographic style, but by a simple idea: each glyph is drawn to fill a square or half-square block, so everything is stackable, rearrangeable, and interchangeable. And this rigid, typographic structure is what gives us the freedom to play.

David Jonathan Ross makes fonts at DJR, more fonts for the Font of the Month Club, and helps out at Type Network too. Even though he co-curates Retro Script L.A., you’ll find him now in Western Massachusetts.

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