In 2013, Dutch graphic designer Jarrik Muller was biking along the canal in Amsterdam when he had an idea for a typeface. The font—appropriately named Amsterdam—mimics the Dutch gables on the historic houses that line the water, and it was an instant hit among Muller's designer friends. He's since spun the project into a larger endeavor: Citype is a growing collection of city-inspired typefaces, each created by a different designer and available to download for free.
Muller started out the project by asking his friend and fellow designer Jeffrey Bowman to design a typeface based on the mountainous Norwegian village of Hemsedale, where he lives. The font Bowman created recalls the stacks of Birch tree firewood commonly seen around his hometown in the winter. From there, Muller either approached designers to participate or they came to him once the project started gaining traction. Citype now includes nine typefaces (including Amsterdam) for cities as diverse as Montevideo, London, Milan, and Groningen.
There's the Argentine studio Los Caballos' Buenos Aires font, for example, which captures the chaotic, eclectic nature of the Argentine capital. Helsinki, on the other hand, is a bit more somber. The Finnish designer and illustrator Jon Arne Berge based it on the typography he found on one of the city's war memorials. Not all of the designers chose to design for the city where they live: the Berlin-based Hort designed its font after the Norwegian town of Bergen. After the studio's founder Eike König went there on a business trip, he felt inspired by the lovely seaside city and its perpetually stormy weather.
Part of the project's charm comes from how Muller decided to display the typefaces on the Citype website. If you click on a typeface, it reveals thumbnails of images made with the chosen font. Take a closer look and you you'll recognize that the thumbnails line up in the shape of the city's skyline. In addition to those materials, Muller also asked the participating designers to write a bit about their favorite places in the city, which he listed at the bottom of each font page.
It's a time-consuming process, Muller will be the first to admit, and as a result it's been coming along slowly. But the project will continue into the foreseeable future—the end goal is to have as many typefaces as there are cities.
All Images: via Citype