Name: Flex
Designer: Mark Richardson
Studio: Superfried
Design Date: October 2017

Back Story As Manchester-based studio Superfried headed towards its 10th anniversary this year, founder Mark Richardson wanted to mark the occasion with a celebratory experimental project as he’s done every year since its opening. “Unintentionally, typography with a distinct focus on numbers has become significant in my recent personal projects,” he says. “I intended to use the numbers from my typeface Neon, but they didn’t seem strong enough, so I decided to develop a new set of numbers inspired by Neon.”

Neon typeface

He was further inspired by a laser-etched wooden sign he commissioned for his studio door earlier this year from legendary art supplier Fred Aldous, a business that grew from humble beginnings in 1886 selling just three products (cane, willow, and yeast) to the cotton traders and master brewers of Manchester. “They said they were keen to feature some laser cuts of my experimental type, and I jumped at the opportunity, having always wanted to try it, and promptly sent them a torrent of vector files,” Richardson says. A couple of months later, he got an email from the team at Fred Aldous to say they had tested some of the files out, and by sheer coincidence had chosen his new numeral set.

The results motivated him to continue working in a photographic direction rather than what he calls his usual vector poster designs/dabblings in C4D. “It was a welcome change, as I’m always looking for new mediums, methods, and techniques,” says the designer.

From left: Klaws, Marbles, Blk Ltr, and Oblique.

Why’s it called Flex? Richardson’s type experiments have names that connect in some way to their forms—for example, previous projects have been called KlawsMarblesBlk Ltr, and Oblique. “I was thinking of ways to take [the project] a step further with animation in mind,” Richardson says. “This led me to create outline versions of the numbers; it allowed for more experimentation with planes of perspective and optical impossibilities. As the numerals became more entangled they started to resemble pieces of flexible wire.”

What are its distinguishing characteristics? The letterforms have unconventional and challenging shapes with distinct ambiguities, and each number has a section featuring parallel paths. Each character’s dynamic, fluid aspect is emphasized by its oblique angles.

What should I use it for? Ah, we should mention: Flex is entirely experimental and doesn’t contain a full character set. Technically, it’s not even a typeface. So you can’t use it for much of anything yet.