Motherboards and movement: Thru crafts a shapeshifting typeface for artist Mónica Rikić’s practice
As one lands on the website of Mother of Robots – an interactive robotic installation created by artist Mónica Rikic – they’re greeted with snippets of text, hinting at the conceptual foundation of the project. The messages are typed out, in motion, in a bespoke typeface with a slightly futuristic bend, designed by Barcelona-based motion design firm Thru. The typeface emerged as the pièce de résistance of the overarching branding project, in which the team at Thru developed a visual system for Rikic, inspired by her practice, focused on creative coding and electronics, and combining them with non-digital objects to create interactive projects, robotic installations and handcrafted electronic devices.
“The cornerstone of Mónica’s creations lies in her motherboards, serving as the foundation for her storytelling,” Founder & Creative Director David Galar tells us. “Aligning with this approach, we constructed a typeface inspired by the grid of these motherboards for her overall brand communication.” The typeface – which morphs and shapeshifts, randomly alternating between its four weights – is informed by the shapes of circuit board leads, resulting in angles drawn at 45 degrees. The modular system is a study of experimentation – the changing weights of the individual characters create multiple, surprising variations, aided by clever gestures, like on mouseover. “By merging weights, as well as experimenting with all four main weights, we achieved a total of 13 possible combinations. Our objective was to thoroughly explore the potential permutations within the confines of the ‘circuit board grid,’” adds Galar.
To create and tweak the type animations, Thru developed an automated digital tool, which generates the writing and combination of weights. “The decision to animate the typeface stems from Mónica’s dynamic creative practice, mirroring her continuous adaptation. The automated digital tool, constructed within After Effects, facilitates the transition between different weights, symbolising perpetual movement and transformation,” shares Galar. The tool essentially hands over control to Rikic, helping her generate motion pieces for her communications by inputting a message, with each character animating from weight 1 to weight 4. “She can then customise aspects like tracking and line height before rendering the text into a video,” he notes.
The exercise, though, was not exactly a cakewalk. One of the biggest challenges for the team involved creating diverse combinations with the four main weights of the typography. “As we experimented with combining them, the risk of overlapping arose, necessitating edits to avoid conflicts. Striking a balance between aesthetically pleasing combinations without overlap proved to be a delicate task,” Galar reveals. Elsewhere, the team takes a considered approach, like using a primarily black-and-white palette to both reflect Rikic’s personality, and also spotlight her art, which finds its perfect companion in Thru’s inventive, edgy typeface.