Courtesy Dev Valladares.

Designer: Dev Ethan Valladares
Foundry: Self-published; available for free
Release Date: June 2017

Back Story: Unlike most typefaces, TypoGrAphiC grew from an undergraduate assignment for a biology course. Mumbai-based graphic designer and typographer Valladares decided to start with the biggest possible questions: what is the meaning of life, and how did it originate on Earth? His research into DNA and its molecular structure provided some inspiration.

“The double helix is quite beautiful in itself, but I found it an inadequate representation of what DNA really is—code. A lot of it.”

The rungs on its spiral ladder are composed of 4 bases (Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, and Guanine) that occur sequentially to store information, very much like the dots and dashes of Morse Code, and these serve as a blueprint for every single physical feature of the body, from eye color to body shape. This blew my mind,” he says. “If nature can create all of the variety and beauty of life using just four letters, why can’t I?” And so, we have TypoGrAphiC One and Two: a pair of experimental typefaces meant to communicate various aspects of the genetic code and its manifestation into human life.

Why’s it called TypoGrAphiC? Valladares explored a huge list of words containing A, C, G, and T in his search for the perfect name, but was frustrated to find only unsuitable options such as “cigarettes,” “grammatical,” “biotechnologically,” and “fornicating.” He says, “When I finally reached “typographic” it clicked and I struck out “abducting” with a sigh of relief.”

What are its distinguishing characteristics? TypoGrAphiC One is a set of just four mutating letters—try and guess which ones. Its unique character set boasts roughly 70 alternate glyphs for each of the four, uses a droopy nose as a ligature, and includes a Neanderthal skull, a penis, and a vagina. This purely geometric font starts with the simplest possible letterforms (like the first single-celled living organisms four billion years ago), then represents the process of evolution through OpenType substitution features. Every time one of the four letters is clicked, its glyph mutates, evolving from simple geometric shapes to multifaceted ones, creating a sense of hierarchy through time.

TypoGrAphiC Two, on the other hand, graphically illustrates the role of the genetic code in determining the physical variations of a human being using Ligature Substitution: a specific, encoded set of three letters substitutes for an icon representing a part of the human body. Any change to those same three letters causes a corresponding change to the body part icon.

What should I use it for? TypoGrAphiC has limited practical uses beyond creating first-in-class, A+ posters for science-class assignments—but take a look at the mesmerizing projects and posters Valladares created showcasing the typefaces’ mysterious, hieroglyphic-like patterns.

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Valladares recommends the similarly geometric, monospaced Space Mono for headers and the light-hearted Karla for body text.