Experimental Type Design

Christina Steinmayr
Skrift & Wayfinding

A common way to create strong and individual identities for products and brands is to work with bespoke type design. Within this project, the goal was to design a bespoke typeface for the Great Northern Forest. 

But how does one translate a forest into a typeface? The journey led me to explore type design in an experimental way by letting typography evolve out of the natural realities found in the boreal forest and by exploring the new technology OpenType Font Variations. Ultimately, the typeface was meant to be used to create an awareness campaign for a Greenpeace project that advertises forest protection.

National Park Tyresta, Sweden

Greenpeace And The Forest 
The Boreal Forest, also known as Taiga or Great Northern Forest, is the largest land biome worldwide stretching from North America over Scandinavia all the way to Russia. It has its own unique climate and is formed by a both endless and unique variety of organisms.This forest has stood tall for thousands of years playing a crucial role in regulating the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But human activities are currently driving many of this world’s species to the edge of extinction and to protect biodiversity and the functioning eco-systems that are vital to our wellbeing, we must reduce and stop the destruction of natural habitat.

Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization, is fighting companies and pressuring governments to take action to protect those critical areas. But to do so, Greenpeace also relies on support. That‘s where this project sets off.

“Our problems are interconnected. So are the solutions. There is no one single way to ‘save the planet’.” 

Undoubtedly, the forests problems can’t be solved – and the planet certainly can’t be saved – with a typeface, but within this project, I want to use type design for serving the purpose of raising awareness for this topic.

Forestry and forest protection can be discussed from many different points of view. By taking a step away from all the established arguments I tried to add a new perspective to the conversation. My research shifted to more recent scientific findings in forestry – the differences between original and replanted forests and their impact on their eco-system.

“If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.”
Peter Wohlleben

Trees are connected to each other through their roots. With the help of fungi, that acts as a medium, the trees can actually communicate. The communication between trees within a species is nothing less than vital to their health and guarantees their survival. Trees communicate in three different ways: electrical, chemical, and optical. They can warn their neighbors of danger and they can provide their offspring with necessary nutrients through their roots.
Old trees & big connected areas of virgin forest are vital to the Great Northern Forest. They ensure memory and communication within the ecosystem. Through forestry and the manmade rejuvenation of the forest the communication get’s destroyed and trees get deaf and mute.

This project wants to display the virgin forest and the replanted forest with their structural differences in the best possible way. By creating two master compatible styles, a variable font can be generated, and the shift from one style to the other is visible.

Borealis Original & Borealis Mono
Virgin (Black) and Replanted (White) Forest

Borealis Original


The typeface is both used for display and text. Therefore, it needed to be a strong identity carrier and show a lot of personality when zoomed in, but at the same time work well in small text without drawing too much attention. The main characteristica are the parted serifes, which are visible in the lower and uppercase letters. Combined with the brush-like details, visible in the r, s, g and a they give the typeface its soft and organic look.


Borealis Mono


Borealis Mono is created in the image of Borealis Original. It has the same proportions and heights as its original counterpart, but lacks all connections and specific shapes. The essential underlying system is based on reduction to the basic shapes. Therefore the letters have been grouped to vertical forms, rounded forms, and diagonals. Only the s and the g follow their own rules in order for the typeface to show variety and trigger the reader to encode the text.

The aim was to creare repetiton and a rythmic feel – like in a replanted forest. 

The Campaign


Good typography is key to communicating any idea concisely and effectively. The variable font created for this project is the central element of the campaign. It not only delivers the message but is the message. The typeface will be implemented within a campaign for raising awareness to the issues of the Northern Forest – in an eco and resource friendly way. 

The core idea is to make the consequences of human interfierence in the forest visible through the interaction with the subject of the campaign itself.

The campaign is implemented in public space as an interactive installation, that recognizes movement of people, as well as on a website, where interaction is visualized through the movement of the cursor or by turning tablet/smartphone.

Interactive Installation in the Center of Copenhagen
A-Z Shift from Original to Mono
I 2017-19 satser KADK på FN’s verdensmål
Det afspejler sig i forskning, undervisning og afgangsprojekter. Dette projekt har forholdt sig til følgende FN-mål:
Responsible consumption and production (12)
Climate action (13)
Life on land (15)