Saving a city with a serif

Default avatar.
February 13, 2013
Saving a city with a serif.

ThumbFonts 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.



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.



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

Stacey Kole

Stacey Kole is a freelance writer and former magazine editor. When she’s not crafting copy or chasing after her two little boys, Stacey can be found drinking coffee, tea, or anything else with caffeine. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

Read Next

20 Best New Websites, May 2024

Welcome to May’s compilation of the best sites on the web. This month we’re focused on color for younger humans,…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, May 2024

This year, we’ve seen a wave of groundbreaking apps and tools. AI is reshaping the industry, enhancing productivity,…

Using AI to Predict Design Trends

Design trends evolve at a blistering pace, especially in web design. On multi-month projects, you might work on a…

15 Best New Fonts, April 2024

Just like web design, type design follows trends. And while there’s always room for an exciting outsider, we tend to…

3 Essential Design Trends, May 2024

Integrated navigation elements, interactive typography, and digital overprints are three website design trends making…

How to Write World-Beating Web Content

Writing for the web is different from all other formats. We typically do not read to any real depth on the web; we…

20 Best New Websites, April 2024

Welcome to our sites of the month for April. With some websites, the details make all the difference, while in others,…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, April 2024

Welcome to our April tools collection. There are no practical jokes here, just practical gadgets, services, and apps to…

How Web Designers Can Stay Relevant in the Age of AI

The digital landscape is evolving rapidly. With the advent of AI, every sector is witnessing a revolution, including…

14 Top UX Tools for Designers in 2024

User Experience (UX) is one of the most important fields of design, so it should come as no surprise that there are a…

What Negative Effects Does a Bad Website Design Have On My Business?

Consumer expectations for a responsive, immersive, and visually appealing website experience have never been higher. In…

10+ Best Resources & Tools for Web Designers (2024 update)

Is searching for the best web design tools to suit your needs akin to having a recurring bad dream? Does each…