Project Michèle Champagne


Strategy for site-specific typography

Typogeography connects radical ideas about typography with Jane Jacobs' radical ideas about urbanism.


FOR THE LOVE OF JANE - Michèle Champagne

Jane Jacobs' had a hate-on for self-isolation. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she had damning things to say about modernist urban planning — and NYC modernist builder Robert Moses — one of which was: self-isolation is self-defeating. In a modernist city, everyone and everything is to be divided and conquered in a neat and orderly fashion. Poor people over here; rich people over there. Large building blocks over here; giant parks over there.

Jacobs' knew safe neighborhoods and prosperous cities were more chaotic and complex in reality. And the trick to designing for cities with this in mind was to engage site-specific projects and mixed-use planning. These principles laid the foundation for many city plans — including most of downtown Toronto, Canada — since they introduced the radical idea that an urban design could not be created in isolation or adjusted independently of its context.

It is this approach that Typogeography celebrates with its practical font experiments based on urban cartography. Typogeography is less of a font design; more of a strategy for site-specific typography.

Initial Typogeography experiments led to the discovery and design of three display fonts inspired by Toronto's Data Map No. 51G-22: Networks (based on street grids), Landscapes (based on architectural footprints) and Properties (based on property lines). The Properties font — nicknamed the Toronto font — is the visual identity for Mediamatic Travel, a DIY travel network for creatives.