Solving Cities

Can a new typeface inspire greatness in a city?

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Chattanooga wants to be the first U.S. city with its own custom typeface. Find out how it could be an asset to the city.

A city's typeface. It's not the first thing I think of when I imagine ways to make a city great, but in Chattanooga, Tenn. they make a strong case for the importance of having a custom typeface for the city.

Chattanooga-based typeface designers, Robbie de Villiers and Jeremy Dooley, have developed a custom typeface called Chatype. Zak Stone at GOOD explains how a custom typeface could be an asset to a city:

The goal is to help the city and its businesses forge a distinct and cohesive identity through custom typeface, sending a visual message to the world that Chattanooga—a rapidly growing city in the midst of a creative renaissance—is “more than just your average Southern town.”

Not convinced? Honestly, the only connection I made between typeface and cities was that Gary Hustwit made a movie about the typeface Helvetica and later made a movie about cities. At least that was before I watched this video:

And others seem to agree that the typeface project is a good idea for the city. The designers have reached nearly $8,000 toward their $10,000 goal on Kickstarter. And while the typeface might look good to you and I, the project is still in its beta phase, the designers say. Upon completion of the project, Chattanooga would be the first city in the U.S. with a custom typeface.

Eventually, the new font would be incorporated into all the city's writing, from government documents to signs like these:

Just like in successful urban design, where planning should be coordinated and integrated with other projects, this typeface project seems to be working in coordination with a city that's trying to strengthen its identity. This well-thought out typeface design (watch this longer video about how they came up with the design) seems to hold a similar promise as a new infrastructure project might: the ability to attract and retain talent in a city, by creating a place-based identity.

Can a Font Help a City Make a Comeback? [GOOD]

Images: Chatype

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure