The Proteus Project
A typographic theme-and-variations.
A superfamily in four parts, The Proteus Project connects nineteenth century ideas about typefounding with twenty-first century ideas about design.
The early nineteenth century was a period of seismic activity for typography. The Industrial Revolution, which had created the first mass-produced consumer goods, was now giving rise to a new set of techniques for publicizing and differentiating these products. The first posters and handbills appeared during these years, favoring typefaces of increasing novelty in order to capture the attention of an increasingly overwhelmed public. This was the dawn of modern advertising, and it changed typography forever.
For three and a half centuries, typography had meant simply "book typography," which exalted clarity and transparency above all else. Now, typefounders were suddenly racing to find new ways to make typefaces both legible and eye-catching. The first two decades of the nineteenth century saw an explosion of new ideas: the first slab serif, the first sans, the first bold faces, the first wide and condensed fonts. These experiments, whether or not successful, laid the foundation for all typography to follow, since they introduced the revolutionary idea that a typeface’s properties could be adjusted independently of one another, in order to synthesize different kinds of design. It is this approach that The Proteus Project celebrates, through its four “sub-families” Ziggurat, Leviathan, Saracen, and Acropolis.
Not merely visually and historically related, the members of The Proteus Project were designed to be interchangeable, so that a format designed using one font could be restyled by substituting any other font from the collection.