Rasmus Drucker Ibfelt was a terrible fashion designer—his words, not mine. In the mid ’90s he abandoned his short-lived career in clothing and took up graphic design instead, launching design agency e-Types in 1997 on a busy thoroughfare in central Copenhagen. Over the years he’s expanded into branding, but, true to its name, the development of unique typefaces has always been central to the business. And while that might seem like a long way from fashion, in Ibfelt’s mind, at least, his career change wasn’t such a stretch. “I personally think typography is an accessory, just like sunglasses or a bag.” Not every designer would compare a font to fashion. But Ibfelt’s are crisp and hip, inspired by technology and travel.
It’s no wonder he’s now turned to bricks-and-mortar pursuits. After forming an online shop to sell hundreds of his original e-Typefaces, Ibfelt and his three partners launched Playtype, a wisp of a boutique where type-emblazoned products are “styled” like millinery; the store’s manager was even recruited from Swedish fashion brand Acne.
Playtype comes by its name honestly. It started as a sideshow in an empty store around the corner from the office. Yet the idea behind it was dead serious. “We weren’t out to make money,” says Ibfelt. “We just wanted to communicate our passion for typography.” He claims Playtype was the world’s first font shop. It soon became much more. Starting with typography alone—distributed on credit card-sized USBs—Ibfelt eventually landed on a shipment of plain white handle-less mugs. They made a clean slate for the foundry’s Italian Plate font, inspired by license plates in Italy.
Next came washi tape, notebooks, and framed artwork. E-Types’ Berlingske Sans typeface, an homage to the Danish newspaper of the same name, figures heavily, as does Nationale, developed in 2013 as part of the visual identity for the National Museum of Denmark.
London’s thriving annual design events will help put Danish typography on the map, but even without it, Playtype is just fine. Like a high-fashion brand outperformed by its fragrance, Ibfelt says the shop is now “as big” as the mothership. Could clothing be far off?