36 Days of Type is an annual digital design challenge that pushes typographers, illustrators, animators, and artists of all kinds to create the 26 letters of the English alphabet plus all 10 digits, posting one each day as they move forward.
What began as a personal project by the Barcelona-based duo of Nina Sans and Rafa Goicoechea evolves into a global celebration of design with six editions under its belt. Thousands of submissions from some of world’s most gifted visual minds shared on Instagram, with a different hashtag used for each separate day, starting with #36days_A.
Earlier this year, the team entered the fray once more, putting on our inventive hats for a month of carefree experimentation. We couldn’t help but notice the incredible and constant feedback from our community, and so it’s finally time to reveal what we’ve been working on during our second annual challenge – the 36 Days typeface by the Fontfabric Font Foundry!
We drew inspiration from different eras and techniques in graphic design and typography. Among these were the works of optical art vanguard Victor Vasarely and the ‘impossible objects’ of British mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, who was a huge inspiration for M. C. Escher.
Throughout the typography history and timeline, copperplate script and Blackletter techniques were employed in some cases, while in others we opted for dry brushes (an Eastern art influence), sign painting motives, or technological elements.
Several important steps awaited us after we decided to create a font out of this year’s 36 Days of Type challenge.
Any balanced typeface requires certain calculations, even if it is a one-off project. Knowing this, we set about creating a system with concrete parameters regarding the proportions and blackness of the individual symbols, with the objective of adding variety and contrast to the styles being used.
You’re not supposed to pick your own front-runners, but a few of the letters stood out enough for us to give you a sneak peek into the creative process!
‘О’ is based on the fence design from the Bulgarian National Radio building in Sofia, which was built between 1970 and 1972 under the guidance of architect Georgi Stoilov. He also created the Buzludzha monument, which has gained worldwide fame in recent years thanks to urban explorers, Instagram buffs, as well as the ongoing debates about its potential future use.
The letter ‘B’ was inspired by the faux-3D Convex lettering style often seen on billboards and outdoor dinner menus. We later added a bit of Memphis style as a finishing touch to really bring out those edges!
The volumetric ‘Y’ brings to mind not only Victor Vasarely, but also more contemporary artists like Alex Trochut, whose work straddles the line between typography and illustration. We chose ‘Y’ because the shape combined well with black stripes, creating a vivid optical illusion in the process. It’s also one of the earliest color combinations of all, evident from cave paintings tens of thousands of years old.
Extended Latin & Punctuation
Our goal was to release an unusual typeface that remains accessible to a wide audience from all over the globe, which meant including Extended Latin.
The main challenge we faced was in adjusting the diacritics, so they work in unison with the wide variety of styles already present.
On top of this, the team added a wide range of punctuation and currency symbols, further extending the font’s potential applications.
In order to ensure a solid display performance, 36 Days had to feature an additional stylistic set. By programming OpenType features and alternatives, we avoided the possible repetition of letters and bad kerning when they follow each other in words like ‘food’ or ‘root’.
See You in a Year!
Everyone at the office is already looking forward to next year’s 36 Days of Type challenge and we hope you have just as much fun toying around with the free font as we had designing it!