Backstory: When Stockholm-based design studio Bedow turned 15 years old earlier this year, it decided to celebrate the milestone by releasing two complementary typefaces. Bedow designers pride themselves on a collaborative, iterative design process—in their parlance, using both their “heads and their hands” in their design work, no matter the client. The typefaces Bedow Head and Bedow Hand look to neatly encapsulate this ethos in lettering form.
“Over the last decade and a half, we have honed the way we work, finally arriving at an approach that balances the head and the hand to create a seamless marriage between thinking and making,” says studio founder Perniclas Bedow. The studio developed the two typefaces, as well as a variable font that acts as a transition between the two, over the course of six months and in collaboration with Swedish type designers Tor Weibull and Alexander Örn of type foundry Kanon.
The new typefaces are part of a broader suite of designs launched for the studio’s birthday, including a new website and a cute logo device dubbed the Head-Hand symbol. The symbol shows the unity of thinking and making with a little hand with a face, which is animated when used online. It’s really got personality: acting as a navigation tool on the studio’s website, if you leave it alone for a bit, the hand closes its eyes and starts to snooze until you wake it up again.
Why are they called Bedow Head and Bedow Hand? Each typeface represents a different key part of the design process: Bedow Hand shows the “thinking” aspect, while Bedow Hand acts as the “making” part of design.
What are their defining characteristics? Bedow Head’s basis in the thinking, planning, and strategy aspects of design is represented by a clear sans serif grotesque. Bedow describes it as “rational” and “a pure strategist.” The top part of the lettering is slightly enlarged to subtly hint at its roots in the mind. Its details are “straight and almost mechanic,” according to the foundry Kanon. “We explored a lot of possibilities,” adds Bedow. The team ended up with the idea of representing human anatomy, giving it an “oversized head to match its intellect” by using a “slightly oversized upper part on each glyph,” Bedow adds.
Bedow Hand, meanwhile, acts as the “making” part of design—an altogether wilder beast. “Bedow Hand is inspired by the calligraphic flow of the hand and the little quirks and inconsistencies that comes with it,” say Kanon. “These details appear in the text as alternative glyphs when typing to automatically create a organic texture.” Bedow describes it as a “sensitive type,” with its irregularities giving it a very different character to its more straightforward sibling. The more angular look aims to bring personality to larger text such as pull quotes.
Since the studio is using them internally for things like website copy, press releases, and so on, it’s likely that Head and Hand will be used in close proximity with one another. As such, each glyph for Bedow Hand has three alternates to make it more “hand drawn,” should the two appear next to each other. “Though on the surface they’re so different, they adapt to each other very well.”
What should they be used for? Each font’s distinct look gives it a unique use: Bedow Head is suited to use as an everyday workhorse for body copy, captions, and callouts, while Bedow Hand works best for headlines and pull quotes. The glyph alternates that form a variable font were created for a seamless transition between the two. But sadly, Bedow Head and Bedow Hand aren’t for sale at the moment—they’re just for use by Bedow as an exclusive studio font family.
What other fonts would be good to pair with it? Bedow Head and Bedow Hand are described as “two siblings in the same family,” and Bedow says that as a studio, the team usually just sticks to using one typeface, so he’s reluctant to say what else they might work with. “Though on the surface they’re so different, they adapt to each other very well,” he says. When pushed further, Bedow suggested that Sabon, Jan Tschichold’s 1960s old-style serif typeface, might work. Commonly used Garamond or Goudy Old Style could also be a good shout.