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Name: Boulder Mono

Designer: Mark Gowing

Foundry: Formist Foundry

Release Date: July 2018

Backstory: Mark Gowing started working on Boulder Mono in early 2017. He was designing the Gemma Smith, Found Ground monograph for Formist Studio’s publishing imprint, and decided that the book “required a monospaced typeface to best reference Smith’s use of rhythm, grid and geometry.” After testing “pretty much” everything around, Gowing decided that the fonts available weren’t expressive enough. A custom font was needed.

“It occurred to me that the most appropriate way to design a typeface for an artist’s book might be as a kind of call and response method,” says Gowing. “Gemma Smith’s artwork would be the call, and the typeface would be the response. This means that the type doesn’t need to look like the artist’s work, but perhaps instead be a part of a conversation about the work.”

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Why’s it called Boulder Mono? The typeface is named after Gemma Smith’s Boulder sculptures, which are made from facets of coloured acrylic. “Boulder Mono doesn’t look at all like the sculptures, but they provided key moments in call and response design practice, along with some of Smith’s more recent paintings that contain large voluminous forms,” says Gowing. “I was also drawn to the name ‘Boulder’ due to the connotations of raw, unrefined forms.”

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What are its distinguishing characteristics? The glyphs, which are made with circle and square units that lend the typeface a gridded sense of rhythm. “The circle and square are combined by stacking the units or splicing unit parts together, and are accompanied by simplified strokes as required,” says Gowing. “The type is all a singular stroke weight, with no optical correction. I wanted the type to feel raw and have the qualities of a geometric drawing, rather than traditional typographic stresses. The italic was created by simply splitting and offsetting the glyphs at their natural connection points to create a horizontal splice effect.”

When typeset as text galleys Boulder Mono looks—at a quick glance—like a typical monospaced font. On closer inspection though, it reveals an idiosyncratic rhythm that isn’t difficult to read. When it’s enlarged, Boulder Mono takes on a more geometric presence that behaves more like a display typeface. The italic is particularly display-like at large sizes.

What should I use it for? Boulder Mono has not yet been used outside of Formist studio. There though, it’s been used to typeset the book for Gemma Smith as well as another book for artist Shigeru Ban. The Shigeru Ban project also involved a great deal of promotional materials, so Boulder Mono was used across a range of materials like posters, invitations, and animated internet advertising. It’s a rhythmic, jagged, and vivid font well-suited to projects where monospaced type is required, as well as something lively and idiosyncratic.

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? A traditional serif font would counterbalance the jagged and raw forms—say Garamond, Domain Text, or even Times New Roman. Gowing also recommends pairing it with something “intentionally strange.” “Perhaps Mistral—that should get the blood pumping.”

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