• 06.26.14

What If M.C. Escher Designed A Typeface?

It would probably look a lot like Oxymora, a new typeface made up entirely of impossible, mind-bending shapes.

During his lifetime, famed graphic artist M.C. Escher explored the concepts of mathematical infinity and impossible geometry in a series of wood prints, lithographs, and mezzotints. One thing Escher never did, though, was put his Drawing Hands to the task of designing a typeface.


If he did, it might have looked something like Oxymora. Designed by Barcelona-based illustrator and multimedia designer Birgit Palma, it’s a typeface made entirely of impossible geometric shapes. And like Escher’s work, the longer you look at it, the more your mind lurches as you try to wrap your head around what you’re seeing.

It’s a brilliant project. Every typeface is really just as much a collection of geometry as it is a collection of characters. What makes Oxymora different from other typefaces, though, is that the geometric configurations make no sense. Instead, they are optical illusions, an alphanumeric family of blivets, veeblefetzers, and Penrose Triangles.

The Escher-esque feel of the typeface is no coincidence. “A little while ago, I did some work for a client and started to play around with Escher’s impossible shapes,” Palma told Inspiration Hut. “In the end I got so addicted by the system that I made a complete font, based on impossible shapes.”

Like a good Escher drawing, then, a sentence formatted in Oxymora will look fine at first glance, but will cause cognitive dissonance the longer you look at it. In Oxymora’s case, this is accomplished by using a pseudo 3-D perspective to render all of the letters. But when your mind tries to parse the resulting shapes in mental 3-D space, it can’t. One side of a letter might appear to be seen from the top left, while the other half of the letter might be rendered as if from a bottom-right perspective.

In feel if not in appearance, Oxymora seems like a typeface that Tobias Frere-Jones might design after spending too much time playing Monument Valley on his iPhone. Sadly, though, Oxymora is not yet available to install on your computer. Too bad, as setting this up as a practical joke as someone’s system font might be enough to tumble them through the looking glass.

[H/T Inspiration Hut]