Designer: Elias Hanzer
Release Date: December 2018
Back Story: Elias Hanzer is a young graphic designer based in Berlin with type design at the heart of his practise. Most of his editorial design and art books feature expressive typefaces splashed across stark, minimal layouts: his recent website design with Sean Yendreys featured a particularly playful string of dancing letters, for instance, and he’s been a long-time collaborator with type foundry Dinamo—which is known for its light-hearted approach to contemporary fonts.
A few years back, Hanzer dreamt up the concept of Phase; which aims to create a system based on a static modular structure which could bend, pull, inflate, move, and distort to create a variety of different font options. Hanzer wanted to create such extensive variety for the base font, that if you pull and push it enough, a typeface is created that no longer looks anything like the original structure.
“The most intriguing thought was that I could create a set of rules that in turn could create something unforeseeable,” says Hanzer. “Mistakes are sometimes the most innovative part of design.”
Why’s it called Phase? “A Phase is something temporary, shifting, ‘non-static’,” says Hanzer. “It’s the visible state of something with many possibilities.” It’s a name that does exactly what it says on the tin: Phase is a new generative type that makes use of variable font technology—it can shape-shift through many, many phases.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Well, there’s too many to count. If you had to, you’d probably start with the basic structure of Phase: a circle and a line. These change in length, width, and more, and can be distorted and manipulated depending on which toggles you pull on the type tester. Phase’s entire system is built out of two building blocks, and then many restrictions are woven into it—these restrictions being what ultimately keeps the characters vaguely consistent. Phase can be wide, bulbous and geometric, or skinny, depleted and wildly wiggly.
“I never thought of Phase in terms of variable font technology,” says Hanzer. “When it was being developed at the end of 2017 though, it then became possible to build the variable font into website applications.” Together with the web developer Florian Zia, Hanzer created a website for Phase, which showcases all of its different phases through a number of toggles.
“With the download function it’s possible to save a single Phase as a TrueType for testing purposes,” says Hanzer. “We also included a voice tool, where Phase responds to sounds by suggesting one of its options in response to a particular sound.”
What should I use it for? Probably for display fonts first and foremost. However, Phase also works for flexible identity systems, as well as projects that aren’t restricted to a single, static form such as editorial projects like magazines, where you can mix-and-match the display headlines while still keeping the overall feel consistent.
What should I pair it with? Itself! With all its phases and various color options, Phase works best within its own system.