Back story: The design for MD Nichrome began in late 2016, when Craze started collecting second-hand sci-fi paperbacks from the 1970s and early 80s. He soon became inspired by the bold display typefaces accompanying richly-detailed and brightly-colored illustrations by artists such as Chris Foss and Roger Dean. Many of the typefaces from this time were originally drawn for dry transfer or photo lettering, and not digitized as carefully as they deserved to be. Craze set out to create something entirely new by blending elements of these older fonts.
For Nichrome, the designer hoped to capture both the rigid, constructed geometry of faces such as Blippo and Wexford as well as the more balanced appearance of 1920s geometrics like Kabel or Futura, feeling that the combination of these two approaches defined the sci-fi genre. “Simply constructing the letterforms from circles and rectangles doesn’t work but the refined curves of the ’20s designs go too far in the other direction,” says Craze. “Finding a balance was difficult, and combined with the strange proportions and tight spacing I was after, it took a few attempts.”
Why’s it called Nichrome? At first, Craze wanted to name the typeface Inconel, after a metal alloy used in rocket engines, but that name turned out to be an existing trademark. He considered other alloys (many of which have really great names, incidentally, such as NARloy-Z). “Nichrome jumped out at me very quickly as having the right kind of ring to it — it makes me think of Chris Foss spaceships or Roger Dean landscapes, and perhaps most importantly, it looks good set in the typeface. While I did go back later and consider a few other options, I simply couldn’t think of anything I liked more than Nichrome,” says Craze.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Nichrome’s proportions are unconventional, particularly the uppercase and lighter weights, thanks to a great deal of variance in the widths of characters: compare the super narrow H with the wide, circular O. The x-height is huge, and the characters feature very short ascenders and descenders plus super tight spacing, so it sets densely yet legibly with a distinct 70’s vibe.
What should I use it for? Stylistically, Nichrome is quite versatile thanks to its wide range of weights and six sets of stylistic alternates. It’s best for display uses where a more casual tone is desired, and where there’s room to typeset it large. Craze says, “I’d love to see Nichrome used more in print, especially book covers since that’s where the design started. There’s a variable version which I’ve had a lot of fun animating, so there’s potential for some really cool uses on screen as well.”
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? The classic option would be something a bit more staid, maybe Forma DJR or Halyard. On Nichrome’s own microsite it’s paired with MD IO, and in the past Craze has combined it with everything from Oaks to Hobeaux.