by Jason Snell
A typeface from the Danish forest
Bjørn Karmann created the typeface Occlusion Grotesque by tracing and carving an initial typeface into a beech tree in Denmark.1 The tree is then left alone for a year, at which point the natural growth processes of the tree cause the trunk to expand, stretching the bark while also attempting to close the wound caused by the letter carvings. Karmann explains:
Returning to the tree reveals an unsupervised transformation that is unique to each letter of the alphabet. The artist now takes on an observant role and meticulously documents the letters with a camera and measurement tools. This is repeated every year with the important detail that the camera settings, lens, distance, and measurements stay consistent at every observation.
The digitalization from the tree to a usable font invites the artist to become the design interpreter. For the most part, the letters can be traced, but occasionally due to unexpected bark behavior, edge cracking, and blurring of boundaries, the artist has to take decisions without diverting from the tree’s intent.
The annual growth of the type is not represented in traditional font weights, but denotes the year of growth being used. What a fascinating and beautiful project.
[Via Paul Lukas and Michael Hochman.]
- “No trees were harmed in this experiment,” Karmann notes. ↩