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Vexilla Axes: Exploring the Potential of Speculative Typography at Typeforce 11

Akimbo Type Foundry research featured in Typeforce 11 at Chicago’s Co-Prosperity Sphear.

At Typeforce 11, held at the Co-Prosperity Sphere I had the opportunity to showcase my installation titled "Vexilla Axes." This exhibit aimed to push the boundaries of typographic expression by exploring variable fonts, a practice I run under the pseudonym Akimbo. In this article, I’ll share my experience and involvement in Typeforce 11, highlighting the speculative nature of the Vexilla variable font.

Unleashing the Potential of Variable Fonts

In my work with Vexilla, I sought to challenge traditional notions of typography and unlock its multifaceted functionality. Rather than focusing solely on technical aspects like file size and load times, which are the primary reasons for the development of the format, I wanted to use variable fonts as a medium for pushing the boundaries of typographic design and creating new visual forms.

Vexilla, designed with a 3:5 ratio as an homage to the rule of flags, embraced three axes—Fly, Hoist, and Wind—that derived from the concept of objecthood instead of a formalist approach to type design. By expanding my scope beyond legibility and visual preference, I aimed to uncover new stroke patterns and unexpected axes, inviting critical engagement within the field of type design.

The Installation: Flags and Embroidered Letterforms

My installation at Typeforce 11 consisted of eight flags, each measuring 30 × 18 inches, showcasing meticulously embroidered letterforms derived from Vexilla’s variable axes’ poles. The hanging arrangement of the flags formed a cube, representing the interconnectedness and interplay between the axes. 

To enhance visual interest and interaction, I hung half of the flags at different hoist levels, creating a mirrored effect which in turn mirrored the points in virtual space of the variable font axes.

Each flag served as a canvas for the intricate and captivating embroidered letterforms, demonstrating the unique variations and expressions made possible by the Vexilla variable font. The embroidered textures and details highlighted the nuanced capabilities of variable typography, transcending the limitations of static letterforms.

Accompanying the installation, I provided a vinyl diagram that served as a visual aid, offering viewers insights into my design process and showcasing the interrelationships between the axes within the Vexilla font. This diagram allowed visitors to grasp the underlying concepts and appreciate the depth of typographic exploration.

Exploring New Typographic Forms 

By approaching typography from a speculative perspective, I aimed to challenge conventional norms and explore new typographic forms with Vexilla Axes. Leveraging the variable functionality of the font, I aimed to create dynamic expressions that went beyond static representations of letterforms. Through the exploration of materiality, stroke patterns, and unexpected axes, I sought to offer fresh opportunities for designers to expand their creative horizons and push the boundaries of typographic design.

My work at Typeforce 11 underscored the importance of embracing technology as a catalyst for innovation. Variable fonts, rather than being solely utilitarian, can serve as a medium for experimentation and creative expression, unlocking new possibilities in typographic design.

Typeforce, Design, and Innovation

Participating in Typeforce 11 with the "Vexilla Axes" installation was an incredible experience that allowed me to showcase the limitless potential of speculative typography and variable fonts. By challenging preconceived notions and embracing the possibilities of variable functionality, I aimed to push the boundaries of typographic design.

Typeforce 11 provided an ideal platform for emerging typographic artists and designers like me to showcase our exceptional talent and propel the field forward. Through my exploration of the Vexilla variable font, I urged viewers to reconsider typography as a dynamic medium capable of evolving and adapting to new contexts. By encouraging designers to question established norms and explore uncharted territories, events like Typeforce foster innovation, inspire creativity, and propel the field of typography into new and exciting realms.

Kaleb Dean
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Drawing of flags on their axes.

Vexilla letterforms for flag embroidery.
Mockup of flags in the gallery.

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