Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has developed a variable font, that is designed to make the effects of human-driven climate change tangible in a simple graphical form. Whereas most type designers use variable font techniques to embed a range of weights in a single font file, the team — lead by Helsingin Sanomat’s art director Tuomas Jääskeläinen, and typographer Eino Korkala — used the technique to “melt” the typeface.
In the design process, we tried out countless letter shapes and styles, only to find that most of them visualized the disaster right in the earliest stages of the transformation. That’s something we wanted to avoid because unlike a global pandemic, climate change is a crisis that sneaks up on us.— Tuomas Jääskeläinen
The default typeface represents the volume of Arctic sea ice in 1979 (when records began). It’s a rather beautiful, chiseled, chunky sans-serif, with cut-aways that open up counters to give it a modern appeal. As you move through the years towards 2050 the shapes appear to melt away, to the point that they’re barely legible. Set the scale to 2021 and you’ll see an already dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, and the resulting desalination of the ocean. As depressing as these outlines are, they aren’t an estimate. The typeface’s outlines precisely match real data — there was an unexpected uptick in Arctic sea ice in 2000, and that’s reflected in the font. The historical data is taken from the NSIDC (The US National Snow and Ice Data Center) and the predictive data comes from the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
We hope that using the font helps people see the urgency of climate change in a more tangible form – it is a call for action.— Tuomas Jääskeläinen
You can download the font for free, for personal or commercial work.
Ben Moss is Senior Editor at WebdesignerDepot. He’s designed and coded work for award-winning startups, and global names including IBM, UBS, and the FBI. One of these days he’ll run a sub-4hr marathon. Say hi on Twitter.