Alongside DBLG, NaN develop a tech-driven type family for the largest digital display in Europe
For a mammoth screen façade, standing at roughly 200m tall, strategic collective DBLG were in need of an equally momentous typographic presence. That’s where NaN come in. The type foundry, led by Luke Prowse, were asked to create a custom typeface that would give London’s new live-music and shopping venue Outernet a distinctive typographic voice.
With plenty of experience creating both retail and custom typefaces, Prowse explains that “in some ways a retail design approach versus custom borders on the abstract versus the concrete.” In the case of Outernet, they knew exactly what the context and purpose of these fonts were, which meant the team could hone in on “the story, the function and application, even the architecture and history of the site.” Therefore, with a digital-first application in mind, the foundry used variable technology to create a monospaced display family, Outernet Headline, that allows for animation whilst maintaining a fixed width. Its angular slab serifs, according to Prowse, take inspiration from “architectural forms from the Now building itself.”
Furthermore, doubling down on the tech-oriented “physical internet” identity of the venue, NaN also drew from the aesthetics of code for the titling family. “Monospace fonts generally are a funny one because they historically come out of coding environments, and prior to that, mechanical typewriters – their existence is owed to practical constraints,” Prowse notes. “They’re still used like this today but they’ve decoupled from pure function and taken on a, quote, ‘contemporary design aesthetic,’ leaning into the creative/technical/avant-garde.” Coupled with the leading technology available at the venue, a monospace family felt like “a good fit.”
For longer copy and a calmer character, NaN designed Outernet Corporate as the headline version’s counterpart; referencing both British and European grotesks in the process. To ensure a tight visual relationship, with the ability to flex between states, Outernet Headline compresses the geometry of Corporate into a fixed-width frame. “The visual gap between proportional and mono versions is oddly both close and distant at the same time, just because of how the mono is forced to adapt in a fixed metric space. It gave us that relationship but also the contrast needed in type hierarchies,” Prowse concludes.