We came across the work of Dominik Thieme via a letter. Or more accurately, several letters from his brilliant Nouveau Grotesque typeface, which he recently released in four weights with italic and open type features. As with much of Thieme’s work, the designs take familiar forms and concepts and reinvent them into a considered, fresh, and modern new format.
“I always found it interesting to ask questions about the rules and norms behind typography and script,” says Thieme. “Of course a lot of things have already been done, but you can always find something nobody has made before.”
One thing that certainly hasn’t been made before is Typerson, Thieme’s online program that explores ideas around personalizing typed letterforms. Through a normal computer keyboard, users’ words are modified depending on the strength with which each key is depressed, and the time between typing each letter to allow the visual appearance of a typeface to become personalized—just as handwriting is unique to each of us. “As we’re now writing on computers all the time, we’re losing our handwriting,” Thieme says. “I wanted to have the possibility on a computer of controlling the appearance of a typeface.”
These explorations into the parameters of personalizing digital fonts began in 2014, when Thieme created Devianz Grotesk. The typeface “questioned the ‘right hand-ness’ of typography,” says Thieme. “When you’re thinking about typography and the development of script, it’s all influenced by handwriting. So I wanted to think about what would happen to a typeface if it was always written with the left hand, as the contrast of type forms would be different.” The typeface began as an experimental one, but Thieme is hoping to publish it formally in future.
While much of Thieme’s personal practise is focused on type design, he also works on graphic design projects for clients, occasionally from Berlin but most often from a shared studio in Barcelona, where he works alongside (and sometimes in collaboration with) Todo Junto. He initially moved to the Spanish city to work with Two Points, an agency hailing from his native Germany whose work aligns with Thieme’s own concerns around creating flexible visual identities. His strengths in adaptable design systems are exemplified in projects like an identity for bookshop and café Kuapo, or short film festival AHOI.
“Those identities work across all formats,” says Thieme, “now with the internet everything is dynamic, so an identity doesn’t have to only be a logo, it can work as a holistic program. Flexible visual systems are also very conceptual—you create a concept and apply it to the project, so I’d say that while I’ll also make posters where I’m more flowing and free, my work is mainly conceptual.”
Another unifying principle across Thieme’s work is his love of monochrome. It’s just one of the factors that contributes to such a clean, bold body of work. But why so much love for black and white? “I think it’s just the best contrast you can get, black against white—you don’t really need any more. Some clients ask for more color but I actually prefer working in monochrome as for me it’s more graphic. Also I’m not the most colorist person, and one of the biggest influences on my work is Wolfgang Weingart, who worked a lot in black and white. For me the basic colors of graphic design or typography are black, white, and maybe red.”
Currently, Thieme is enjoying the solo freelance life in his shared studio. “We have the same philosophies, but I’m maybe not the best at working with a boss—I’m a bit dominant maybe,” he jokes. His longterm dream is to set up his own type foundry, which he assures us may become a reality sooner than later. We’ll be keeping a keen eye out for when it does.