Meng Shui, former creative director at period underwear brand Thinx, has announced the launch of Project Body Type, a new typeface that “honours the human form”. Composed of a full alphabet of letters, and soon-to-be-released punctuation, Body Type is based on the bodies of people who agreed to participate in its creation.
“It’s a collective effort of over 50 people based in New York and other parts of the world; a series of stories from the participants about their experiences in their bodies,” explains Shui. “It’s a form of design activism from a team of creatives who believe in bodily autonomy.”
Originally inspired by the black-figure pottery painting found on ancient Greek vases, Shui was eager to apply this style in a modern context. The typeface was a way of challenging the idealised body types that we are exposed to on a daily basis, and instead requiring the audience to “acknowledge real people – and their diverse bodies – whenever [they] read or write with it”.
Shui and her team interviewed participants to hear their respective stories and asked them to perform various poses in front of the camera, which would later be used to create the letterforms. Each letter is not only based on a real body, but is accompanied by that person’s background and thoughts on what it means to them (each participant chose a word associated with the letter they helped to create).
Shui says the project meant breaking “quite a few rules in type design”. The typeface has no x height or standard stroke width and there is no distinction between uppercase and lowercase – though the team did come up with some alternative designs for certain letters to “allow for layout flexibility and greater legibility”.
As such, Body Type is not intended to be used for long-form or small text, and better suits campaign headlines, slogans, posters and short sentences. Rather than opting for clean linework, even spacing and uniformity, Shui designed the typeface to be eye-catching, thought-provoking and full of personality.
She concludes: “It is designed to make you stop and think, to peruse the letterforms which in themselves say as much as the words they create. By choosing this font and creating visibility around it we hope that Body Type will increase our acceptance of body diversity, and allow what we say to be more human, both literally and metaphorically.”