Can you crack the typographic code?
Barry Spencer makes letters that may or may not look like letters. A Type Designer and Doctor from Melbourne, he labels himself, a ‘Speculative Type Designer’ and explores the boundaries between letterform and symbol.
Clara, his latest typeface is no exception. It’s design and message are encrypted. Below, Barry issues you a challenged to unlock his design…
Clara and her Search For Clarity
text lies the key to decoding my cryptic artwork. A few subtle clues are
riddled throughout the information, so attention to detail is important for
decrypting the letterforms.
person to decode the type and tell me how I created the letterforms will be
rewarded. Good luck!
Clara is a typeface that is specifically designed to
be challenging and against the natural order of things. However, from experience
I know that it’s considered a great sin to sever the ties to the existing Latin
alphabet in this way, even when born from twisted typographical fun and
Letterforms like these are prime to invite adverse
reactions from those prone to more traditional perspectives of type design
because making shapes that are intentionally hard (or near impossible) for
people to read adds another level of abstraction onto the already abstract
Latin forms that we have become familiar with in our daily lives. Essentially,
this makes them lose their purpose — communication. However, what if this was
the intention from the start? Does that re-imbue the shapes with an assigned
purpose? The challenge of decipherment.
In my work I enjoy the
challenge of pushing my perception and understanding of letterforms. I constantly
to advance my knowledge (and appreciation) for the potential of letters every
day, in each and every project I create. However, I did not arrive at this
My letterforms started out as small experimental
deviations away from the existing shapes and these small changes led to larger
and more experimental trials, before finally moving into far removed
speculations that explore what might happen if we follow more extreme and
This led to the completion my doctoral thesis “Speculatype”
in 2014 and I have spent the last couple of years divided time between a
mixture of three things: creating, writing and teaching (with public speaking
and workshops thrown in for good measure).
Out of Our
My argument revolves around our ability as designers
and creatives to explore our professions and outcomes more than what we might
think possible. Creatively, we have the ability to question the status quo and
the existing understanding of what we do and make.
Asking, “what if I did it this way instead of this way?” is a simple
question that leads us to try new things and allows us to potentially innovate.
Removing ourselves from the comfort of doing things the same way as everyone
else (which might be considered another “sin”), challenges us in new and
If there is something to take away from this text and
the connected artwork, is that our creative gifts should be seen as a prized
possession. It is not an easy thing to go against what we see as the “right way
to do things”, we fear the “wrong” because it does not always lead to success
and more often leads us to failure, ridicule or simply dead ends.
Be brave in what you do and how you create. If it
doesn’t work, at least you tried. Existing letterforms, design and art will not
go away, so it is not going to destroy the world you take the time to have a