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A generative ornamental typeface accompanied by a series of unique letterpress prints in a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone ink.
A generative ornamental typeface accompanied by a series of unique letterpress prints in a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone ink.
756 backers pledged $50,330 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

Fe₂O₃  Glyphs - a conceptual, ornamental type system project video thumbnail
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The music from our video, Les Praries Stellaires, was kindly supplied by Syndrôm

When is a typeface more than a typeface?

Unorthodox and multi-award winning typographer Craig Ward has once again collaborated with pioneering biochemist and experimental photographer Linden Gledhill, this time for the creation of a generative, ornamental typeface and an accompanying series of original, one-of-a-kind, letterpress art prints in black and gold ferrofluid / ink mixes and a new white embossed version.

12" letterpress print, depicting 16 glyphs in a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.
12" letterpress print, depicting 16 glyphs in a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.
An original ferrofluid glyph, captured between two glass slides.
An original ferrofluid glyph, captured between two glass slides.

Wait, what? Why?

Because science. And curiosity. Fe₂O₃ Glyphs (Fe₂O₃ being the main component of the kind of ferrofluid we used) aims to transcend the traditional role of a typeface - to provide a consistent and coherent platform for communication - and to completely invert it. The typically fastidious design of the glyphs is dictated by the printing medium itself and given over to an unrepeatable organic process. The 'grid' at its heart is replaced by conflicting magnetic field lines.

Ok, you got me. How?

To form the glyphs, a tiny amount of ferrofluid - a kind of magnetic ink, originally developed by NASA in the 1960's - was placed between two glass plates and subjected to a combination of spinning vertical and horizontal magnetic fields. The result is an array of complex hieroglyphics and shapes - each one as unrepeatable as a snowflake - that simultaneously call to mind ancient indigenous markings or symbols from science fiction.

Unmounted example print detail.
Unmounted example print detail.

Very cool, so what am I backing? 

We want to create a series of prints as special and as unique as the typeface itself. 

The symbols have been traced as vectors and a set of 36 test glyphs have already been cast as a moveable type letterpress printing system using 2 inch photopolymer plates. 

Your backing will help facilitate the creation of the remaining 100+ glyphs, and the production costs of the one-off prints that we will create with them - minimum paper orders, ferrofluid and ink costs, printers' time etc.

In return you will receive the working .otf typeface along with a unique, one-off letterpress print in a format of your choosing, signed by both Craig and Linden.

Our test glyphs cast on photopolymer plates and cherry wood, in their home at the letterpress studio.
Our test glyphs cast on photopolymer plates and cherry wood, in their home at the letterpress studio.
A microscopic image showing the faintly iridescent printed ink and ferrofluid mixture adhering to the paper fibers. If you have a microscope, this is what your print will look like. If not, it'll still look really cool.
A microscopic image showing the faintly iridescent printed ink and ferrofluid mixture adhering to the paper fibers. If you have a microscope, this is what your print will look like. If not, it'll still look really cool.

The Digital Typeface

All backers (at the $30 level and above) will receive a single user, non-distributive license for a 138 glyph, monospaced OpenType (.otf) font, which has been created to allow users access to a virtually infinite combination of patterns, symbols and compositions.

We've been asked about potential applications for the font and, while we wouldn't want to limit your imaginations, we saw practical uses being in pattern making and fabric design; as starting points for marques and logos; also as interesting textural brushes in Photoshop. We can't wait to see what you come up with.

Meet the cast: 138 unique characters.
Meet the cast: 138 unique characters.

The Prints

Along with the font, a range of tiered rewards offers you a chance to own a one-of-a-kind letterpressed type specimen print, where each will be numbered 1 of 1, in a selection of formats.

A framed 12 x 12 inch print (prints are supplied unframed)
A framed 12 x 12 inch print (prints are supplied unframed)

The custom made moveable type system allows us to create grids of the glyphs in various sizes and swap them out for each new print, ensuring that no arrangement or combination is ever repeated. 

The new gold edition printed with a mix of gold ferrofluid and Pantone printers ink.
The new gold edition printed with a mix of gold ferrofluid and Pantone printers ink.

That’s assuming we don’t receive more than 1.73 x 10^34 backers for the project. Which is in the same ballpark as the number of stars in the observable universe / cells in the human body. So I think we’re OK.

Unmounted 12 inch print depicting 16 glyphs.
Unmounted 12 inch print depicting 16 glyphs.

The printed specimens will be printed on a Vandercook SP-20 Proof Press from c.1961 (interestingly built two years before the creation of ferrofluid by NASA in 1963) on Crane's Lettra fluorescent white 110lb cover stock providing maximum contrast and detail, and using a mixture of actual ferrofluid and pure Pantone Black. Each print will signed by both Craig and Linden and printed at the Vote For Letterpress studio.

Microscopic crop of a printed glyph. Because we can.
Microscopic crop of a printed glyph. Because we can.
Embossed 'White on White' version - where no ink is used for a very subtle effect.
Embossed 'White on White' version - where no ink is used for a very subtle effect.
Letterpress glyphs in a type tray.
Letterpress glyphs in a type tray.

Print Formats

The prints are available in 8x8", 12x12" and 16x16" formats containing 4, 16 and 36 glyphs respectively. We are also offering non-unique editions at the lower end and sets of prints at the higher end.

Available print formats
Available print formats
Unmounted 12x12" print
Unmounted 12x12" print

The Hard Sell

The Fe2O3 project perfectly marries contemporary scientific process with a centuries old printing process. The huge variety of shapes and curves generated, juxtaposed with the rigidity of the grid in which they are displayed, creates a real visual tension making for a truly unique set of prints.

We're both extremely proud of the work and of the prints themselves. Fe2O3 offers you the opportunity to own type, own one-of-a-kind original art and to support experimentation in design and typography. Which is always a good thing.

Craig Ward & Linden Gledhill

-

As seen on TV!

Well, not quite. Though monitors are kind of like TV's. Thank you so much to the following sites for picking up the story and helping it towards success in just a few short days.

A single gold ferrofluid glyph.
A single gold ferrofluid glyph.
A single printed glyph.
A single printed glyph.

 About Us

It might seem odd, a typographer collaborating with a biochemist, but happily it's not the first time. Craig and Linden's previous projects together have included album artwork and moving image pieces for Jon Hopkins' album, Immunity (Domino Records) and a groundbreaking music video for composer Ryan Teague's track, Cascades, which was featured at the Imagine Science Film Festival hosted by Google in New York last year. For more details on both artists, visit the bio link.

The print studio who will be handling the production - Vote For Letterpress, run by Jonathan Selikoff - has also worked with Craig on a couple of projects over the last couple of years. Most recently on a type sample poster for Parfums Christian Dior, the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks print campaign and prior to that, Craig's last print release of Woody Allen's Manhattan intro.

Artwork for Jon Hopkins' album Immunity.
Artwork for Jon Hopkins' album Immunity.
Still from the music video for Ryan teague's 'Cascades'
Still from the music video for Ryan teague's 'Cascades'
Printed posters for Macy's 4th of July Fireworks, 2015. Designed by Craig and printed at Vote For Letterpress.
Printed posters for Macy's 4th of July Fireworks, 2015. Designed by Craig and printed at Vote For Letterpress.
Craig's last printed edition, the introductory sentences from Woody Allen's 'Manhattan'.
Craig's last printed edition, the introductory sentences from Woody Allen's 'Manhattan'.

Risks and challenges

The majority of the preliminary work is already complete: the glyphs have been generated, photographed and traced and a working .otf typeface already exists. 36 test glyphs were cast on photopolymer plates as a proof of concept and to create the images you see above. It is the creation of the remaining 102 glyphs and the final prints themselves that your funding will go towards creating.

Suppliers for this process are already in place and turnaround time for this is just a few days.

In the (hopeful) event of a high number of backers, a small team is ready to handle production and distribution of the physical prints once the project is funded.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Thanks! So, maybe you have no need for a conceptual ornamental typeface, or perhaps your walls are already full of genre-defying, one-of-a-kind, original artworks, but nonetheless, we appreciate your support!

    Our intent is to give a presentation of the work and process later in the year in New York, at the beginning of which you will be duly thanked!

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    8 x 8" - Non Unique Edition

    You will receive the .otf typeface along with a 8 x 8 inch, 4 glyph print, signed by both artists in an edition of 138. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    Please note this is the Non-unique option.

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    12 x 12" - Non Unique Edition

    You will receive the .otf typeface along with a 12 x 12 inch, 16 glyph print, signed by both artists in an edition of 138. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    Please note this is the Non-unique option.

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    NEW - 12 x 12" - Non Unique Edition - Version 2

    Due to an unexpectedly high demand, we have decided to create a second non-unique edition with a different design to the first.

    As before, you will receive the .otf typeface along with a 12 x 12 inch, 16 glyph print, signed by both artists in an edition of 138. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    Please note this is the Non-unique option.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    8 x 8" - UNIQUE PRINT

    The .otf typeface along with a one-of-a-kind 8 x 8 inch, 4 glyph print. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    16 x 16" - Non Unique Edition

    You will receive the .otf typeface along with a 16 x 16 inch, 36 glyph print. Signed by both artists in an edition of 138. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    Please note this is the non-unique option.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    12 x 12" - UNIQUE PRINT

    The .otf typeface along with a one-of-a-kind 12 x 12 inch, 16 glyph print. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    NEW - 12 x 12" - UNIQUE WHITE / EMBOSSED PRINT

    The .otf typeface along with a one-of-a-kind 12 x 12 inch, 16 glyph print, blind embossed into the paper. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    NEW - 12 x 12" - UNIQUE GOLD PRINT

    The .otf typeface along with a one-of-a-kind 12 x 12 inch, 16 glyph print printed in a gold ink and gold ferrofluid mixture. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    16 x 16" - UNIQUE PRINT

    The .otf typeface along with a one-of-a-kind 16 x 16 inch, 36 glyph print. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    8 x 8" UNIQUE PRINT - SET of FOUR

    The .otf typeface along with a set of four (4) one-of-a-kind 8 x 8 inch, 4 glyph prints. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $225 or more About $225

    NEW - UNIQUE PRINTS - SET of THREE FORMATS

    The .otf typeface along with a set of three (3) one-of-a-kind prints in the 8 x 8, 12 x 12 and 16 x 16 inch formats. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $225 or more About $225

    NEW - BLACK, GOLD and EMBOSSED UNIQUE PRINTS - SET of THREE

    The .otf typeface along with a three (3) one-of-a-kind prints in the 12 x 12 format - one in black, one in gold, one embossed.

    Each will be signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    12 x 12" UNIQUE PRINT - SET of FOUR

    The .otf typeface along with a set of four (4) one-of-a-kind 12 x 12 inch, 16 glyph prints. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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    Pledge $450 or more About $450

    16 x 16" UNIQUE PRINT - SET of FOUR

    The .otf typeface along with a set of four (4) one-of-a-kind 16 x 16 inch, 36 glyph prints. Signed by both artists in a single edition of 1. Letterpress printed on 110lb Crane's Lettra paper in fluorescent white, using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Black printing ink.

    We will print as many unique prints as are required, and no two designs will be the same.

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Funding period

- (35 days)