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Mucca Zhanna

Mucca Zhanna is a custom typeface for Typography 32: The Type Director’s Annual. Matteo Bologna had a vision based off a sample of eccentric Victorian calligraphy. Recognizing my rough-hand illustration style and interest in typography as perfect for the project, together we reinterpreted the sample into an expansive handwritten typeface.

Closeup of use in a TDC 32 spread

Closeup of use in a TDC 32 spread

How Bologna describes it in a post at Creative Review:

“[Mucca Zhanna] is based on a small sample of calligraphy from a Zanerian's manual that has the same wacky/naive feel as the Chinese calligraphy from the Canal Street letterer," says Bologna. "To preserve the spirit of the original we ended up designing a typeface with more than a thousand glyphs.”

“By forcing these typefaces, which are obviously not fit for our contemporary aesthetic, to live together within a single annual design that celebrates the best typography out there, we essentially conducted an experiment as to whether or not 'low art' could be elevated by its context.”

Effects created by overlapping A alternates in various modes

Effects created by overlapping A alternates in various modes

This was a fun project to work on for a variety of reasons. Being purposefully rough and hand-drawn, it didn’t demand much refining and finesse once I got the strokes down. This allowed me to focus on experimentation with the new font software Glyphs, and with the Python coding for OpenType alternates. Georg Seifert (type designer and developer of Glyphs) was an immense help as we assaulted his patience with crazy alternates-of-alternates-of-alternates coding inquiries.

There are over 1000 glyphs, with two alternates for each majuscule, numeral, and ‘minuscule’, as well as two alternates for each ‘minuscule’ ascender, descender and combo that could be given squiggly extensions. This means that for the minuscule ‘N’, with its four variations (no squigglys, top right squiggly, bottom left squiggly, and both squigglys) there would two additional alternates each, giving a total of 12 glyphs for ‘N’. (In theory, that means the minuscule ‘H’ would have 48 alternates… but there was a limit to our madness.)

Nnnnnnnnnnn

Nnnnnnnnnnn

This of course doesn’t take into account all the diacritics we built, though admittedly with fewer alternate options. (But at least it’s nice that I can at least spell the Bánh mì sandwiches I regularly consume, since I sure as hell can’t pronounce them.)

The development of this typeface was pretty much fueled by Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli

The development of this typeface was pretty much fueled by Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli