MeM — an interactive type system with a wide range of individual personalities

Sometimes a surprise, sometimes as expected – MeM is an interactive type system with a wide range of individual personalities.

The eccentric experimental type system created by Elena Schädel and Jakob Runge in 2012. It produces many personalities, each individual and emotive. You will never know which of the alternating letters is going to occur next. Basically, at the heart of it all is MeM: four different weights and letter shapes melded together into one powerful font and shuffled with the sleek usability of OpenType.

The experimental uppercase font MeM blurs the boundaries between graphic and type design and prioritises style and creative flair over blatant legibility.
The many alternative letters of the typeface and the extremely different styles of the individual glyphs generate a vivid tension of geometric appearance and calligraphic shapes, as well as a contrasting mixture of highly expressive and highly delicate elements - Each letter is a small work of art itself.
It might look like an unique handset type but it is actually a rationalized font system! An automatic shuffle principle rotates the four alternate letters in all common design software to make sure no letter will repeat too soon. OpenType is the kicker, it not only shuffles the letters; it makes them easy to handle via the Stylistic Alternates: bolder and lighter letters can be used separately, or you can even strip down MeM to the four single weights. This gives you a powerful command over the artistic qualities of this unique font. From a complete random shuffle to careful selection of every character, the choice is all yours.

The font supports over 300 characters. Latin character sets from Western, Central and Southeast Europe and with the additional alternates, around 630 glyphs are rotating in the OpenType carousel.

The font is available at YouWorkForThem, HypeForType and MyFonts for $ 40.
Further information about design and features on www.mem.26plus zeichen.de

The concept of MeM emerged at the end of 2011. At this time Elena Schädel was researching the subject of social trends. She experimented with capturing the essence of a particular trend through the language of lettershapes. One of these trends is the “selfness” movement, which is expressed through extremely different, sometimes even spontaneous characters.
The development of these expressive vector graphics into a complete font may be questionable, however, the visual power of the letters and the wealth of character variants was an exciting incentive for Jakob Runge to embark on a daring type-collaboration: The planning of an experimental font with programmed random mechanism.
During the transfer of the design idea into a functional font and the attempt to achieve it through programming a natural variance, it was imperative that the artistic style of Elena Schädel should stay - just with a few necessary augmentations.
The different disciplines of the two designers was a good foundation for the creative and technical implementation: Despite the experimental design, it took many hours Skype conferencing to select variants, adjust shapes, add symbols, and space the letters.

cdavidson's picture

I have no idea of how this works, but I'm amazed by it. All credit to you - this looks like it took some incredible amount of time and effort. Fascinating.

jakob_runge's picture

@CD: its technique is based on the opentype code "lookup rotate" { http://forums.adobe.com/thread/395648 }

hrant's picture

Could be useful. Sometimes. :-)
Anyway kudos for producing something different.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Nice!
It’s exciting to see creative use of OpenType features.

However, I wonder if it is a good idea to use Ligature and Swash in such an inaccurate manner. The Contextual Alternates feature could have been employed instead of Ligature (and is also on by default).

If we don’t respect the Microsoft OpenType Feature Tags, there is a danger that typographers will become confused. If we do implement them strictly, there is more likelihood of developing a mutually supportive culture of clever new typefaces.

oldnick's picture

As always, thank you, Nick Buzzkill. Is there ANYTHING that someone else can do that you couldn't do better?

Nick Shinn's picture

The principle of “not telling lies” with OpenType was drummed into me by Thomas Phinney and John Hudson, on this forum, several years ago.

Don’t you think it’s misleading to use OpenType features to do things which aren’t what they say they are?

The Ligature and Swash features, when applied in MeM, do not produce Ligatures or Swashes.

What is the point of having Feature Tag definitions if font producers ignore them?

I thought you were in favor of standards.

I must admit, I do feel reticent about criticizing work in the Release forum, but hey, it’s software, and can be updated easily if the designer feels my criticism has merit. I am also open to any rationale Jakob might offer to convince me that I am wrong.

This is an area of type design I’m eager to discuss, having published several designs with pseudo-random features, and written about it as well: http://ilovetypography.com/2011/04/01/engaging-contextuality/

As you can see, I promoted myself in that article (people usually do, especially when they don’t get paid for writing), but I also talked up a lot of other designers, and will no doubt do the same for MeM in future because, as I said, it’s exciting to see creative uses of OpenType features.

jakob_runge's picture

hej nick,

thanks for brining up statements for the original usage of OpenType features.

your are right: the feature CALT is default as well — we decided to (mis)use the LIGA feature, which is supported by a slightly more version of Adobe CS, but its prevalence is neglectable to the CALT feature and Photoshop versions no one uses anymore. we could have spend more time on sticking to standards.

Concerning to "Swash" and "Titling Alternates": we used this features as kind of workaround to make some features available in Photoshop as well (which does not provide "stylistic sets") — knowing that the bolder weights do not have northing in common with the common understanding of swashes.
We did made some good results with this workaround with TJ Evolette A, because the typeface is used by unusual much Photoshop users (may result to the typeface's figurative appearance)

Nick Shinn's picture

Another solution is to provide alternate features as a separate font.

That’s something I will be doing in future, as I’ve often thought that so many typographers don’t ever bother diving down several levels of application menu to get to the features—and Stylistic Sets are most obscure of all.

For instance, I have provided “schoolbook” variants (single-storey /a and /g) as Stylistic Set alternates in several fonts, but I never see them in use.

marcox's picture

Nick, I gave a presentation to a group of (mostly) print designers recently about OpenType. Most were unfamiliar with the possibilities OpenType offers and of Stylistic Sets in particular. The clumsiness and non-visual nature of their implementation in Creative Suite products doesn't help matters.

Not sure how I feel about separate fonts for alternate characters. I hated having to manage LF/OSF/Expert versions back in the day. But I suppose specifying a different font (via character/paragraph styles) to get at a particular alternate wouldn't be any more difficult than using Stylistic Sets for the same purpose.

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