F F    B E O W O L F

FF Beowolf by LettError (1990) challenges notions of typefaces being identically duplicated units by including a randomizing factor into its outline printer data.

The objective of this brief was to gain an in depth understanding of how typefaces can bring personality and functionality into design work. I was assigned with the typeface FF Beowolf, and began to conduct some initial research into the origins of it whilst producing an analysis that took into account its visual properties, what elements formed this typeface and what it embodies. 

The birth of Beowolf as a font was a result of a collaboration between Erik Van Blokland and Just Van Rossum in 1989, the year in which it was drawn and engineered as part of the first release of the FontFont library, which was a new innovation at the time. Deemed as one of the most important fonts ever created, Beowolf was a demonstration of digital fonts being data and code, thus being instructions that have the ability to modify themselves. It was the first typeface to possess randomized outlines and programmed behaviours; combining the roles of type designer and programmer to form unexpected and uncertain outcomes that embraced change and spontaneity as letters are randomly generated with erratic outlines. 


I took the time to draw out this typeface to gain a more intimate understanding of the characteristics through composing it by hand. I felt that acting as the randomizing mechanism practically would influence a true sense of what language could accurately describe the personality of Beowolf in a non-digital format. I also felt inclined to investigate the typeface in this manner as a particular statement from the summary heralded in Erik Van Blokland and Just Van Rossum’s publication ‘LettError’ resonated with me and how I feel about typefaces personally; that they serve a purpose to provoke or reflect the way audiences view and interpret design. 

Considering this aspect of the design process put into perspective how ingenious the engineering of this font actually is. To establish a new wave of advancing typefaces that are created through a psychoanalytical derivative that merge the idea of us as humans beings, and how our behaviour can allow us to interpret a font like Beowolf that isn’t necessarily aesthetically pleasing or practical for design/commercial use, but can instead be translated through a deeper means than what is taken from face value in practical terms. A prime and raw example is the response that is incited through familiarity with its constructive build and the connotations that are emitted from its anatomy, with reference to the words I associated with this typeface at an initial approach prior to engaging in any research that could inform me of all its intents and purposes.

This ideology is what propelled the inspiration behind my final piece.

Taking into account the name of the typeface in particular, I was reminded of a comic strip illustration that plays on the idea of wolves being the opposing positive and negative divisions of the inner self.  

There is clarity in the components of this illustration that refer to the wolves as the good and bad within us, which is what caused me to be reminiscent of the link Beowolf as a typeface has in its own literal elucidation with a similar concept being evident here. I feel that if a typeface was to be generated to depict the perplexing behaviour of humans and what is resulted from it, Beowolf would and does accurately epitomize this through the erratic nature it occupies. 

Paying homage to the descriptive words used to explain how Beowolf can influence the person viewing it, I wanted to visually represent the link to the statement of randomness being an inevitable result of human behaviour. I looked at the work of David Carson, as I felt that some of his work that I have referenced in the past was quite reminiscent to the mood and atmosphere surrounding Beowolf as a typeface, and the sensations Beowolf would provoke if used in the same compositions as Carson.