Courtesy TDF.

Name: Pyxis
Designer: Simon Bent
Foundry: The Designers Foundry (TDF)
Release Date: December 2018

Back Story: “What would a typeface look like to someone who had only seen it briefly, and then had to recreate it from memory?” That was the question from which Pyxis sprung, a playful type experiment conducted by Melbourne-based graphic designer Simon Bent. The answer? “I imagined an alphabet that was almost there, a little hard to read, and rudimentary in form,” says Bent.

Pyxis started as just ten letters on one of a series of gig posters advertising electronic music events in Melbourne, where each poster featured a unique type exploration. Pleased and intrigued by the results of one promising attempt, Bent developed a loose collection of letters into a full character set brimming with deconstructed exuberance and enough quirkiness to satisfy even the most jaded typographic adventure-seekers.

Courtesy TDF.

Why’s it called Pyxis? “It was titled long before we ever thought we would develop it into a fully-fledged Latin typeface,” says Bent. Pyxis (abbreviated from Pyxis Nautica, Latin for a mariner’s compass) is a small, faint constellation seen in the Southern Hemisphere. Bent felt that referencing the constellation and outer space seemed well-suited to the whimsical nature of the font.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Pyxis is an exploration into deconstructed shapes using sharp geometry and repetition to create each character. Taken together, the alphabet gives off the impression that the letterforms were assembled loosely, then thrown up into the air and captured at the moment of impact as they fall.

Pieces hang askew. A “T” breaks apart at the junction of its vertical and horizontal strokes; a lower case “i” topples to the right while the tittle remains in place. Some strokes slant to the left, others to the right, adding to a general sense of controlled chaos. Pushing the limits of legibility, Pyxis telegraphs a sense of play, irreverence, and oddness.

The letterforms look as if they were assembled loosely, then thrown up into the air and captured at the moment of impact as they fall.

What should I use it for? Bent is like a diplomatic parent willing to be honest about his child’s abilities. “Thanks to its quirks, oddities, and general weirdness, Pyxis is slightly limited in its application,” he says. While it’s true you might not want to deploy it for serious corporate work, it would work nicely as a display face on theater posters, websites, or in editorial uses where a sense of fun and irreverence comes into play.

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? The decorative and experimental nature of the typeface practically begs for a straight-laced, balanced, neutral, and legible partner. Try Monument, Akzidenz Grotesk, or Neue Haas Grotesk