Saving a city with a serif

Fonts can become synonymous with brands. Picture, for example, “Yahoo”, “Disney”, or the masthead for “The New York Times”; in each case, the brand and the typeface are virtually interchangeable. With this in mind, a team of designers isn’t just rebranding a company — they’re rebranding a city.

In the 1940s, Chattanooga, Tennessee was hopping, thanks to its railroad and industrial plants. In fact, the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s big band number “The Chattanooga Choo Choo” and a movie by the same name feature the city in all its progressive glory.

Sadly, like many great places, this promising hub lost its mojo, and became known as one of the filthiest cities in America just two decades later. Fast-forward to today, when two Chattanooga residents — as it happens, a brand expert and a typeface designer — met by chance in a coffee shop. Musing over the impact a rebranding might have on their fair city, DJ Trischler and Jeremy Dooley came up with the idea for a font — and from there, Chatype was born, as was the impetus for urban renewal.

Joined by typeface designer Robbie de Villiers and brand expert Jonathan Mansfield, Chatype became a true collaboration. The font itself was inspired by the city’s history — its Cherokee roots, the Coca-Cola bottling company’s first plant, and its manufacturing roots — to arrive at what they label “geometric slab serif”. Mansfield explains, “The slab serifs are contemporary but also speak to the industrial past. Also included in the font is a stencil variant: a nod to the local design scene and a nod to industry.”

The development team has high hopes for Chatype, believing the city — with its growing artistic community and entrepreneurial spirit — is perfectly poised for a strong and unified city identity. They’re currently working with officials on adopting the typeface into signage, city websites, the Chattanooga seal, and more, while the library and Visitor’s Bureau have already incorporated Chatype into their materials.

Chattanooga
Chattanooga

This historic American city has quadrupled its growth rate in the past few years, and is on track for its own cultural renaissance. Now that it has a unique form of branding firmly in place, Chattanooga could serve as inspiration to other cities looking for revival or simply a customized look. Whether or not other places follow suit, Chatype has helped Chattanooga regain its momentum — much like the little engine that could.

Chattanooga
Chattanooga

Could your home town use a font of its own? What would it look like? Let us know in the comments.

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  • jaystrab

    “Cherokee influences”? Is that newspaper for real? That might be the stupidest thing I have ever seen. No type face has Cherokee influences. Ask any Cherokee.

    • Stacey Kole

      Hey Jaystrab – Thank you for your comment. Just to clarify… The newspaper article points out that the curvature of the arm on the “R” is one of a few elements of the typeface that was influenced by Cherokee script. It was developed by Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith, who created a syllabary that advanced the tribe’s reading and writing abilities. This is what partially inspired the look of Chatype. My great grandparents were full-blooded Cherokee, and — while I can’t say for certain — I can imagine they would have thought this nod to Sequoyah’s work was pretty cool.

  • ashameed

    Good work,word press rock.I just love the Header,its looks awesome

  • Xscratch

    Here in Italy the “Alto Adige Province” did something similar: almost every business in the touristic market uses the same font for the headlines. There is also a “quality label” for food and beverages.
    Brand website (italian/german): http://www.provincia.bz.it/marchioombrello/
    Main touristic website: http://www.suedtirol.info/en/

  • Jack Clarion

    Cooooool idea… And I learned a new word: syllabary.

  • http://www.behance.net/mawill Marcus Williamson

    Love this. Would love to do this for my city, Columbia, SC. Soon for sures.