NaN’s humanist sans serif NaN Hyena offers seasonal variability across its solar-inspired styles
“I often understand type design in an extremely sculptural way,” Reymund Schröder, designer of NaN Hyena, tells us of the humanist sans serif release from Berlin and Sydney-based type foundry NaN – recounting the typeface’s ever-changing journey to being. “The initial draft was actually only a rough foreshadowing of what ultimately became of it,” Schröder adds, with his original experiment of “re-grotesking” a renaissance-style grotesque preceding NaN Hyena, responding to the work of historical type designer and calligrapher Hildegard Korger. “This base was already quite hybrid – oscillating between Excoffon, Frutiger and a nuance of Gill,” he details; however, he found himself concerned by the “lack of some excitement” that the typeface encompassed. Having altered the skeleton to an ultralightweight, the result of Schröder’s tinkering was the curvacious display typeface Sunset, and the original text typeface was scrapped.
“At that time, I was reading ‘Untenrum frei’ by Margarete Stokowski,” Schröder recalls, “and was thinking about the extent to which feminist discourses could be addressed in type design,” turning the thought-process towards his own work whilst considering how Sunset could be reworked. “It somehow seemed obvious to sketch a convex Sunset in addition to the concave Sunrise,” he explains, excited by the prospect of crafting an intricate, rounded typeface. This buzz, whilst faced with trepidation, led to the creation of Noon, an additional style to the family.
“Soon I found the resulting combination options among the styles – even within a single word – pretty exciting,” Schröder notes, “as it enables a very differentiated typographical approach,” leading him further develop the interplay between the alternating soft and sharp forms of the letters. “Using both Sunrise and Sunset combined overlaid, and you’ll end up with a pretty odd Tuscan,” Schröder explains, resulting in a scrupulous typeface as pragmatic and playful as it is unconventional. As such, NaN Hyena also contributes to Schröder’s ‘Typographic Uchronias’ – a collection of historical typefaces from an alternative history.
Culminating in its three subfamilies, Sunrise, Sunset and Noon, NaN Hyena’s variability and shapely spectrum of styles subtlety shifts akin to the shadows formed during the sun’s rise and set. In doing so, the typeface not only challenges the notion of contrast and hierarchy within a single typeface but also redefines the categories of its humanist, grotesque and sans classifications. Offering something new, something old and something now, simultaneously.