About a year ago I was struck by inspiration to create a typographic poster from a lyric by danish artist MØ. The song used the refrain "generation with no mythologies to follow." For whatever reason, this phrase stuck out to me and since I had been studying typography and wanting to experiment with visual design more, I decided to make a small type-based composition from this quote. Little did I know that a year later, I would be on my way to making fonts inspired by this project, but that is a little ahead of myself.
Since the subject of the quote is "mythologies," I wanted the type to appear as if it could have existed in ancient Greece. At the time, I did not really know what that meant other than simple, geometric patterns that could belong on columns or other Greek paraphernalia. A key theme I did want to have, however, was that abstraction that exists in myth. The stories seem far-fetched and absurd to us, yet they have an expansive web of meaning. In addition, because they are so old, they carry with them a mysterious fog of a civilization ancient to us yet relatable to us.
In a similar way our visual language carries this fog. When it comes to it, all these strokes (or pixels to imitate strokes) that make up letters are abstract symbols that we have an agreed upon understanding of. This is nothing new. To make the type appear as if it contains the essence of myth, I want to create type that loosely follows the Latin alphabet's abstraction while shrouding definitive letterforms in this hypothetical fog. My first thought then was to achieve this by exploring abstract type.
So I started sketching out some words to explore how different shapes work together. The image on the right reads "mythologies" from top to bottom. I liked how stretched out this text was, making it pretty hard to read if I am being honest, but having just enough of a thread to be read. I chose, then, to make this my focus word from the quote. To me, this rendition of "mythologies" is obscured by its form, which I thought went well with what I was trying to go for. On the left, you can see I was experimenting with thicker and thin letters for the other parts of the quote. The Greeks were mathematically minded, so I thought that keeping the shapes more geometric would be a nice nod to their brilliant, dead minds. I eventually made it to the following composition.
I found that the geometric shapes and extended and repetitive horizontal lines embodied a portion of the ancient Greek style.
There is another lyric in the song that goes: "Oh god, the walls turning yellow," an allusion to "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I was in the creative mood, so I decided to extend my approach at creating abstarct text. This time, however, I settled into modular type to try convey the essence of myth.
I took a particular liking to the 3 by 3 square shape with triangle serifs. It was bold enough and (I thought at the time) easy enough to read, unlike the stretched-out and vertical "mythologies." I liked this style, but didn't think it fit the word "turning." To me, that implied roundness or swiveling, so I tried out a more organic, but still geometrically defined lettering. These sketches show my experimenting.
With the full quote, I ended up on these two designs. Though I liked some of the symmetry that was made, I wasn't a fan of either of these and ultimately decided to scrap this part of the project.
However, these two pieces ("no mythologies to follow," and "oh god the walls turning yellow") sparked three new projects. Through them, I became interested in exploring abstract and modular type to try to push the boundaries of legibility while keeping within the realm of written language. From this project, my next year would be filled with iterating, sketching, and creating fonts inspired by these posters.
I wrote up an article about this project last year. It was for school and was a little rushed, but I plan to write another post per typeface by going over each one in more detail.