Grid VI, cardboard, paper, 2009.

Alphabet constructed with two kinds of tube-lights, 4th International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam, 2009.

Interior neon signs, 4th International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam, 2009.

 

Modular grid used to design lettering for neon sign, Netherlands Architecture Institute facade (now The New Institute), 4th International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam, 2009.  Photo © Studio Van Damme.

 

Meridiana Canódrom (dog racing track), 1961 – 1964, Barcelona, ES.

Unit typeface sketches, Canòdrom project, 2010.

Above: neon sign proposal, 2010. Below: detailed model of the Canòdrom building (scale: 2 units), wood, 2011.

Finalised fonts, Canòdrom project, 2011.

Hand-made drawing template and sketches, 2011.

Above: Unit Nieuwe (2U Regular), interior signage, The New Institute, Rotterdam. Below: Nieuw New, neon sign, The New Institute facade. In collaboration with M&VD, 2013.

 

2U Round Regular and 2U Round Italic, Total Control, Scene From a Marriage, sticker, record sleeve, 2012.

2U Regular, Stuart whipps, Feeling With Fingers That See, publication, designed by James Langdon, 2017.

Early version of the Unit typeface, [6] neon sign, Bauhaus Museum Dessau. In collaboration with M&VD, 2019.  Photo © Imago / Hartmut Bösener.

Recorder, equipped with one and four pen slots, wood, 2012.

Title of the exhibition PlayTime,* written with Recorder, pen on paper, 2012. *A series of 55 performances, Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul, KR, November 11 – December 28, 2012.

Abbreviated PlayTime exhibition title, written with Recorder, pen on paper, 2012. Note: each writing of the exhibition title was used only once.

Numbers, PlayTime exhibition guide, written with Recorder, pen on paper, 2012.

PlayTime exhibition guide, offset print, 2012.

Above: Unit construction principles for the MCA U 4U2 and 8U4 fonts. Below: letter ‘o’ of MCA U 2U1, 3U1.5, 4U2, 6U3, 8U4, 10U5, 10U8.

MCA U 2U1 and MCA U 10U8.

The basic proposition of Unit — a highly constrained modular typeface, arranged not on the coordinates of an underlying grid, but by the dimensions of its individual modular units — has been developed and applied in a number of contexts since 2009. The first of these was a commission, from the Dutch graphic design studio Mevis and Van Deursen (M&VD), to make a typeface whose letterforms could be displayed using large, industrial tube-lights, as part of their design for the 4th International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam. [1 2] The result — used prominently in the exhibition, and on the facade of its venue, the Netherlands Architecture Institute — was composed of two units: a circle; and a line that could be placed vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. [3 4]

In 2010, a second commission from M&VD proposed to expand this principle into an extensive graphic identity, for a new art centre to be located in the iconic Canódrom building in Barcelona. [5] Four fonts were initially produced, using a hand-made drawing template to combine different scales and multiples of the circle and line modules, but the entire Canódrom project was abandoned before they could be implemented. [6 7 8 9] Versions of these early Unit fonts appeared in various exhibitions, graphic identities, and publications over the next four years, and the drawing templates that produced them took on a life of their own during this period. [10 11 12 13] One included an attachment that draws a line following the movements of the template during the construction of its letter sequences, a meta-drawing that exposes the improvised performance behind these apparently rational forms. [14 15 16 17 18]

In 2014, a third commission from M&VD provided the opportunity to fully elaborate these experiments, as a central element of their new graphic identity for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.¹ An extensive scheme of fonts, now named MCA U, was drawn, organised by the basic number of units in their construction. [19] The scheme starts with the 2U font, whose curves are crudely described with two perpendicular lines. A single linear unit is added to each successive style, ultimately arriving at the 10U font, whose modules are connected to form a perfect circle. [20] Nine styles were prepared for the introduction of the graphic identity in 2015, and a further three were added in 2017.


¹https://mcachicago.org