The Story

By a remarkable paradox the one person who should not be called upon to perceive the fine qualities of the shapes of letters is the person who reads them.
– William A. Dwiggins

Type Anatomy — The Backbone of our Letters

Whence did the wondrous, mystic art arise, of painting speech, and speaking to the eyes? That we, by tracing magic lines are taught how to embody, and to colour thought?

By origin, letters are reduced adaptions of primitive picture-writing, that by evolution have been reduced to abstract signs with little association to the ideographic or pictorial means from which they derived. It is a symbol, with a definite shape and significant function, providing a means for the visible expression of words. The sole purpose of letters is therefore the practical one; yet each letter has an indistinct decorative quality of its own. This is the representation of the graphic art itself; presented as simple shapes to be modified and given new expressions of beauty.

Björn Johanssons dedication to typography awoke in graphic design university early 2000. As a student he learned to master legibility by conventional and well-established principles, to focus on letters being well shaped and well spaced. The fact that the typographic craft was such a precise art form, with traditions and history made it so accessible for analysis and exploration. That resulted in an ongoing philosophic approach to typography, that often stems from the deconstruction of its functional qualities. Although some early anthropomorphic letter experiments were initiated by Johansson in 2003, the idea for Garamond Corpus, or ’The Body of Garamond’ sparked in 2009 after a thesis about Geoffroy Tory. 

Geoffroy Tory (1480-1533) was an Imprimeur du Roi, painter, engraver and author, who in his book Champ fleury from 1529 on the correct proportions of letters sought to derive the capital letters from the measurements proportioned to the human body. Albeit notably influenced by fellow Renaissance men like Dürer, he is considered to be an avant-garde force within printmaking and typography and made significant orthographic development to the French language. Tory’s geometrically constructed alphabet found in Champ fleury were not remarkable in its own however. A similar method was introduced some twenty years before Tory was born by Felice Feliciano and published in his Alphabetum Romanum. More notably, in his humanist research for the divine perfection of capital letters, was Tory’s comparisons with mythology, the liberal arts and particularly the model of the human body. It explains in depth his philosophy behind the ideal capital letters according to the human body and face, thus giving us a fascinating perspective on their shapes, sounds and meanings.

Furthermore, ’A’ has its legs thickened & furnished with feet, just as a man has his legs and feet for walking and passing on, to tell us covertly that from it, [… ] we must pass on to B, & C, & all the other letters according to their arrangement.
Geoffroy Tory. Translation by George B. Ives, 1927

In Garamond Corpus the capitals are based on, or rather suggested by the capitals introduced by Claude Garamont, Geoffroy Tory’s most renowned apprentice, later succeeding Tory as printer to the king with his magnificent characters known as the Grecs du Roi. Björn Johansson takes on the same attitude of an archetypical Renaissance man by being carelessly free in his associations, analysis and ideas. He pays hommage to Tory’s work by further crossbreeding letters with the human form and combining present-day typography terminology with medical science. The result is manifested as a series of macroscopic anatomical observations; osteology, physiology, and even embryology – the pre-natal development of the individual letter.

This semi-scientific work is not claiming any new paleographic discoveries,
but hopefully they will appeal, not only to the artisans of typography and design,
but to all who finds beauty in the significant shapes of letters.

– Björn Johansson 
Founder and director at Brikk

Björn Johansson Garamond Corpvs

The screen printing process