Back Story: In 1976 Steve Jobs founded Apple Computers, the Concorde made its first transatlantic passenger flight, Sylvester Stallone starred in Rocky, the BeeGees were falsetto-ing You Should Be Dancing on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (the No. 1 hit album on the Billboard charts every single week for 25 weeks), and Swedish designer, illustrator, and inventor Claes Nordenstam decided to try his hand at a few typefaces. Sväng was inspired by the work of Erik Lindegren, a gifted lettering artist and author of several books on letterform design.
“For 40 years, this fiercely original alphabet only existed as drawings on paper,” says Letters from Sweden founder Göran Söderström, who updated and revitalized the type. “It was pure luck: I was just Googling and found Claes’s website and was instantly drawn to that typeface, it was like discovering a hidden gem. So I contacted him and asked if we could develop it for release. As soon as we saw it, we knew we had to bring it back to life.” Nordenstam, now 75 and a full-time painter and jazz musician, was happy to give the go-ahead.
Why’s it called Sväng? Nordenstam’s original name for the typeface, Quickstep, was inspired by his interest in jazz. “We felt we needed to modernize the name, and Quickstep was already taken anyway,” Söderström says. “In Swedish, we say that something’s “svänger” when we think it’s groovy, catchy, or simply rocks, so “Sväng” felt like a good choice for this groovy typeface.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Parts of the dynamic geometric shapes of Sväng’s surprising stencil-ish letterforms seem to have been wiped cleanly away with a solvent, creating crisp, clipped straight and angled terminals. Full round bowls and super-sensuous curves rise to a very high x-height, and provide a typographic synergy with the visuals of ’70s porn and European art house films popular at the time, in sync with the myth of “Swedish sin: hot love and cold people.”
What should I use it for? Headlines and shorter text passages in magazines, enlarged letters on posters, logotypes, book covers, websites, or anything looking for a strong face with attitude. It would be gorgeous on a billboard.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “As we developed the typeface, we explored concepts similar to Aldo Novarese’s Stop and Othmar Motter’s Motter Tektura, but Sväng is more versatile and can be used for a broader range of applications,” Söderström says. “Since it has a very strong character, I wouldn’t pair it with something that tries to fight for attention. Try something classic, like our Ivar family or Lab Grotesque perhaps.” A monospaced font such as FF OCR-F would also create a lively contrast with Sväng.