HÖfðaletur and Other Icelandic Fonts You Can't Pronounce

"On Display" DesignMarch 2011

Iceland’s version of a design week, DesignMarch, took place in Reykjavík over the weekend. The festival included the entire spectrum of Icelandic design, ranging from a new menswear collection made of indigenous materials by fashion designer Sruli Recht to the live manufacture of scarves by textile designers Vík Prjónsdóttir.

Ferkanta by Matej Hlavacek.

Sýniletur, which means “On Display” in Icelandic, showed a selection of display typefaces by 11 designers. The exhibition, curated by Gunnar Vilhjálmsson and Matej Hlavacek, presented an opportunity for the designers to “further explore the themes in their works, whether historical, conceptual or experimental.” The fonts were selected for their playfulness and ability to extend into an exhibition space and interact with viewers.

Original Ferkanta typeface by Matej Hlavacek.

The three-dimensional Ferkanta, designed by Hlavacek, is “a massive poster typeface that could easily be used for building a house”, according to the organizers.

Cumulus & Foam by Stefán Kjartansson.

The whimsical Cumulus & Foam by Stefán Kjartansson comes in three uppercase typefaces – Crumpet, Vane, Naugahyde – and features “brash collisions of the 1980s, art deco’s voluptuous bubbles, and dadaism’s implausible juxtapositions.”

Cumulus & Form by Stefán Kjartansson.

Kögra by Siggi Oddsson is inspired by fractals, “which make up the building blocks of the entire typeface, snowflakes, paper, scale and the illogical.” The typeface consists only of capital letters with the unique Icelandic characters and punctuation marks, and is designed to be used in large print.

Kögra by Siggi Oddsson.

Poster by Siggi Oddsson featuring his Kögra typeface. Originally done in 2006 for a student project at The Iceland Academy of the Arts.

Rán Flygenring created Ristill using Etch-a-Sketches. The typeface comes in three variations: simple, double and triple. The typeface has no definite look since it can be redrawn in Etch-a-Sketch anytime and its main focus is on the process rather than the result.

Ristill by Rán Flygenring.

BriemGauntlet by Gunnlaugur SE Briem comes in three versions: condensed, medium and extended. It is based on höfðaletur, an Icelandic style of ornamental lettering. “An interlace addition was politely declined by my friends at Monotype. They correctly pointed out that its customer support would not bear the strain this would entail,” says Briem.

Original höfðaletur, an Icelandic style of ornamental lettering that dates back to the 16th century.

Höfðaletur, which translates as “head letters”, is thought to date back to the 16th century, and has historically been used in wood carvings. The letters do not have a fixed form, but the verticals all have a carved “head”.

BriemGauntlet by Gunnlaugur SE Briem. A modern interpretation "höfðaletur", an Icelandic style of ornamental lettering. The type comes in three versions: condensed, medium and extended.

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