Designer: Johannes Breyer, Fabian Harb, and Andree Paat
Release Date: September 2020
Back Story: Maxi was one of the two typefaces launched in September this year to herald the arrival of the snazzy new Dinamo website (the other being grotesque font Diatype). The new site is a delicious melange of strange post-internet 3D shapes and animations, emojis, huge orbiting brain-planets, and more—but it’s also the vehicle for Dinamo’s revolutionized approach to font design, licensing, and pricing.
Design-wise, this means that the foundry has chosen to focus on variable font technology because it “feels relevant,” says Dinamo cofounder Johannes Breyer, “yet also human, real, tangible, and relatable.” He adds that such fonts offer their end-user, the designer, a multitude of new possibilities for applications such as animated billboards, streaming, or interactive physical type installations compared to their traditional static counterparts.
As for Dinamo’s new licensing model, the idea is to redress the unfairness that the foundry saw in small companies paying the same amount for a font as a far larger one. “The truth is that most companies pretend the font is only being used on ‘one or two machines,’ and simply pick a license tier that gives them the cheapest price,” says Breyer. “That’s not only unfair, but also nostalgic… we’ve concluded that the bigger the size and reach of a company, the bigger the commercial value extracted from a typeface.” As such, Dinamo’s pricing model is based on the company size of the font’s license owner in terms of number of employees—i.e. the client, usually, rather than the designer—and not the number of people working with the font files.
Back to Maxi. The Dinamo team had initially drawn the first version of the font around late 2015/early 2016. At the time, though, they felt that it wasn’t right to release “such a geometric design.” Until its full release this year, it was only used to design the first Dinamo logo, and Maxi sat in the foundry’s metaphorical drawer until the team “felt the urge” to rework it as a proper release.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Dinamo describes variable font Maxi as a “heavily-engineered yet warm and witty type system of spaghetti movements and angular lines.” Its shapes are informed by the Swiss International Style, with references including Josef Müller-Brockmann’s 1958 CWS word mark, Marlyse Schmid and Bernard Müller’s 1981 Swatch logo, and Max Bill’s 1960s legibility theories—namely the idea that emphasizing vowels eases readability, hence Maxi’s “disproportionately bold and blocky” vowels and diagonal shapes. Thanks to its variable technology, the font’s forms can be varied in weight from Hairline right through to Black. “While designing the font, we were interested in how subtle manipulations in shape could affect the tone of the overall typeface,” says Breyer. To explore this further, Dinamo created two stylistic variations for emphasis rather than the standard Italics, resulting in four Maxi subfamilies: Round, Round Mono, Sharp, and Sharp Mono.
Maxi’s sense of warmth and playfulness is likely the result of the barely-perceptible optical corrections the designers made to the letter constructions. The font’s “shape vocabulary” is deliberately very graphic, according to Dinamo. “Its proportions form quite a distinct rhythm in text use,” the team adds. “Most dear to our hearts is the variable axis sliding from proportional to Mono, challenging and expanding the design system.”
Why’s it called Maxi? Dinamo mulled over a number of names for the font that reference the things that inspired it, including Brock, Lyse, Joe, Billy, and Mul-Bro. In the end, they landed on the reference to Swiss designer, artist, and architect Max Bill. “Maxi felt like the best fit,” says Breyer, since it incorporates some of the key letters in the font design and also simply because it was the name that “carries the laugh we had when coming up with them.”
What should I use it for? With its unusual forms and vast range of dynamic, variable type possibilities, Maxi is brilliantly suited to uses where it can stand out, such as in headlines or on billboards. “We secretly hope for the Swatch brand to pick up Maxi,” says Dinamo. Swatch, if you’re reading, you know what to do.
What other fonts would it be good to pair with? While Maxi can more than hold its own as the sole typeface for a project, the numerous variations that are possible mean that it can sit nicely alongside any number of other fonts, from simple Modernist serifs to more scripty sans-serifs or fellow experimental-leaning designs. A project for Korean GQ magazine saw Maxi combined with Favorit letter by letter—“definitely one of the best and most surprising applications so far!”