Back story: In 2013, the night before a presentation at the Istanbul Typography Seminars (ISType), Austrian type designer Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer was practicing a live type design show in his hotel room to see how quickly he could build a lowercase alphabet skeleton from scratch. Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, hundreds of thousands of people were marching through the city to protest President Erdoğan, a demonstration initially sparked by the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. Chanting slogans, raising placards, tagging political messages to the streets, people were everywhere; it wasn’t long before Scheichelbauer joined them.
“I decided to walk along İstiklal street, which was packed,” says Scheichelbauer. “Police were blocking the street, driving the protesters back by throwing tear gas grenades every once in a while: a loud boom, and people started running. I was lucky to be able to slip into a side street, where the walls were packed with fantastic graffiti.”
Particularly memorable were marks reading “Erdo-gone,” advocating for the president’s ouster with a clever play on words. These gave Scheichelbauer the idea of integrating political messages into the font he’d been developing only a couple of hours before. He later turned these particular stencils into an OpenType feature: anyone typing the name “Erdoğan” will immediately see their letters vanish and replaced by “Erdogone.”
“One thing led to another, and I ended up with two political messages and three games hidden in the OpenType code,” says Scheichelbauer.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Galata’s two coded political messages make the typeface more subversive than most. In addition to rejecting the Turkish president’s name, Galata will push all other surrounding letters to the side when you type the word “Gezi”—making space, both typographically and metaphorically, for Gezi Park, the site of the May 29th demonstrations.
As far I can tell, this is also the first font embedded with playable games, one of which has an optional AI feature. Typing three hashtags in Galata will produce a Tic Tac Toe playing field, and typing three vertical bars will reveal a Rock Paper Scissors setup. But here’s where it gets next-level: if you type “Marienbad” followed by a vertical bar into InDesign while the World-Ready Composer is turned on, and then turn on its AI player, you can play the game from Alain Resnais’ 1961 French drama, The Last Year at Marienbad, against the font. Galata’s AI is unbeatable though. Sorry.
What should I use it for? Skiving off work, for one thing. The games circumvent things like app-based time tracking and allow you to play Tic Tac Toe all day long while still being tracked as active in InDesign. Essentially, it’s a disruptive typeface, and should be used accordingly. The games disrupt the typographic workflow, and the political statements disrupt the text.
Why’s it called Galata? Galata is the area in Istanbul where Scheichelbauer stayed and where the ISType conference took place. It was the working title of the font from the start, so he simply kept it.
What other typefaces does it pair well with? Visually, Galata is the thinnest rough font on the market. There are no curves in it, as the whole font consists exclusively of little straight-line segments. As such, it would be logical to pair it with a more regular text typeface. Or, don’t pair it at all—give it space, a platform to speak up, and let it spread its word.