christopher.mj.burton@gmail.com

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ISTD: Invisible Cities



Typeface Design, Editorial/Publishing & Binding





The Problem —
The ‘International Society of Typographic Designers’ proposed a large format “radical retelling” of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities; who’s typography must visually explore each of the cities.




My Solution —
My response was built around the main characters of the book, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, and their relationship with the world around them. Kublai Khan was admirably tolerant of all religions under his reign, prompting his son to study Buddhist scripture. Those scriptures informed my design decisions, re-inventing the format for modern audience, eager to lose themselves in the regarded words of Calvino.

The use of a humanist typeface, was inspired by the classic Antiquas that originated from Venice (where Polo was born), and aims to create a sense of adventure akin to Polo as he crossed land and sea for the Khan. Alongside this, I created a new typeface inspired by Kublai’s very own Mongolian alphabet, Phagpa. The type strikes a balance between the energy and form of Phagpa and the legibility of a modern typeface.



My Solution —
To reflect the paper stock used during Kublai’s reign, I chose Gmund’s Bier range, which has similar textures within the pulp. Alongside this I used embossed Marrs Green, inspired by the raw jade rock and (now oxidized) bronze luxury goods, that were transported across the Silk Road; an array of trade capillaries the Mongol empire used, expanded and protected.