The simple Garamond, one of the most popular typefaces out there, is often overlooked. But Swedish artist Bjorn Johansson was inspired by the shapes and joints of each letter. Looking closely, he examined the bare bones of the letters and formed his own hand-drawn typography, connecting bone to bone. This article explores Johansson’s latest project, Garamond Corpvs.
The letters take on structures like our body, “so perfect in shape that they must be divine.”
Even during his time at art college in Stockholm, Johansson was fascinated with anatomy. The dive into all things typographical started when he learnt about 16th century French engraver Geoffrey Torey, who made comparisons between Latin letters and human anatomy. Claude Garamond was Torey’s most famous apprentice, creating the familiar type face we know today — Garamond, of course.
In a study of letters by Torey, “the proportions were like a grid of letters, and he compared them to human anatomy. The arms of our body became the T and the face was O and the idea was that they were so perfect in shape that they must be divine.”
Launching on Kickstarter, Garamond Corpvus is a project with detailed studies of letters and legs.
Screen print posters feature individual letters, posters with the whole alphabet, and a mix of uppercase and lowercase, showcasing the backbone of each letter.
It’s absolutely fascinating to see the way the letters have been carefully drawn out, even with joints flexing in the right way to create bent italics.
Designing the letters was a bit like building up a skeleton
“I have had a lot of medical and anatomy books. Also I’ve built three-dimensional clay [model] joints. So the joints of the letters are also functional, so they can become an italic letter.”
Is creating an italics set your next project?
“I can do this for life. There are so many things. Like the lowercase letter and the uppercase letter. I made the bone structure, seeing how the bone develops from lowercase to uppercase letter as well.”
I asked Johansson who might enjoy hanging the project at home. His Kickstarter project offers the letters as signed silk screen prints, created in a small print house in Stockholm. It’s in this cozy Scandinavian setting that the hand-crafted letters feel at home.
Who’s going to like these pieces?
Having made it for himself, he admitted it was probably going to appeal to a lot of nerds and hipsters. Maybe even the dragons-and-tattoos crowd. But anyone really, fascinated with the twining of nature and our human world.
How do you decorate your house? What does a hipster house look like to you?
“I think my home is quite clean but with some quirkiness to it. I actually have a lot of anatomy stuff at home like I have a frog skeleton and a lot of nerdy medical stuff there.”
Looking to get your hands on one of these? Garamond Corpvs screen print posters show that skeleton aren’t just for Halloween, and that our words and the natural world are really one and the same after all.