Ten years ago, when I was teaching at the school of fine arts in Besançon, one of my students, Julie Chu, carried out a very interesting project for her Master's degree, on the subject of interbreeding.
She had photographed the portraits of many girls in the school, and superimposed them: around forty faces, with low opacity, produced a new face. The result was surprising: a face that does not exist, certainly, but very beautiful. Seeing this work, I wondered if we could do the same thing, not with faces but with typefaces.
At the same time, I started working for the visual identity of a museum in Montbéliard, which holds important galleries devoted to natural history galleries, and in particular to the evolution of species: a famous zoologist and naturalist, Georges Cuvier, was born in Montbéliard in 1769. I took a closer look at Cuvier's theories, and in particular the fairly virulent debates that animated the Paris Academy of Sciences at the beginning of the 19th century. To be short, On the one hand there were the evolutionists, like Lamarck, and on the other the fixists, like Cuvier. Evolutionists believed in the gradual transmutation of one form into another: this led to the famous Darwin theories a little later.
Cuvier strongly disagreed. On the contrary, he believed that the species appeared and then suddenly disappeared, without changing during their existence.
I wondered, for the visual identity of the Musée de Montbéliard, if I could create two types of characters: one based on evolutionist theories, the other on fixist theories.
I picked 8 different text typefaces, very famous, which represent the main periods in the history of typography: Jenson, Garamond, Caslon, Baskerville,Bodoni, Century, Times New Roman, and Georgia. I used the amazing « Blend Fonts » feature in FontLab Studio and crossed the species over 4 generations, to get an average font, a kind of typographic chimera.
To accompany the text typeface, I wanted « fixist » a bold sans serif, which would be created from models of this family. Rather than interpolating these drawings, I chose a few letters in each, without changing it. This makes no sense, structurally. Some letters intersect vertically, others horizontally, or obliquely. Sometimes even in the same letter, like the C. To obtain a correct weight and proportions, these are not simple copy / paste, but rather interpretations. I wanted to see, in this way, if something acceptable could come out of this mess. I also add an evolutionist italic for the text one, and get a small family of three fonts. The bowl of italic lowercase k is ridiculous: the reason why is that this detail did not appear systematically in previous generations. These typefaces are full of such idiosyncrasies, which I don’t consider as defaults, but rather as traces of the process. I don't think theses fonts will ever be released: it was fun to do, and actually I'm using it for years for all the publications, scenography and signage of the museum. It's called MM Serif and MM Sans, for Musée de Montbéliard: and as a reference for Multiple Masters (there are several masters in it, obviously) and Adobe Serif MM et Sans MM, the substitution fonts used by Acrobat when a font is missing within a PDF file. Another kind of typographic chimera, in a way.