The Twin Cities typeface was an initiative of the Design Institute of the University of Minnesota for the Twin Cities Design Celebration in 2003. Jan Abrams and Deborah Littlejohn invited six designers to make a proposal: Peter Biľak, Gilles Gavillet, David Rust, Sybille Hagman, Conor Mangat and Eric Olson and the one Just van Rossum and I made, were published in a neat book Metro Letters. Buy from UPress

At the time I wrote:

In July 2002 the Design Institute of the University of Minnesota asked six design teams to make a proposal for a typeface for the Twin Cities. The brief indicated that the typeface should reflect the characteristics of the cities. This was a problem because we had never visited Minneapolis before (or left the airport). How to make a typeface for a city I had never seen - or worse yet: how to make a typeface for any city? Rather than to come up with one particular style, I wanted to try out an idea about a system that could collect ad hoc typefaces based on a large characterset. The “Panchromatic Hybrid Style Alternator”. This frightened the jury and the project was selected.

Twin became a typeface that couldn’t make up its mind. It doesn’t force one particular style on a diverse group of people. Instead it becomes a machine with which each person can play with and find something that is appropriate. The results will be as individual as possible, yet all results belong to the same typeface.

Sketches for the Twin character set. We wanted to have a basic set of shapes to build a prototype with. The Alternator idea was yet untested and before committing to a large number of drawings we wanted to see if it worked at all.

The prototype with (later named Twin Sketch) exceeded expectations, we could start drawing the smooth version and extend the characterset.

The web interface for Twin taking shape. The viewer/reader and user gets a web interface with several controls for the Twin font. Twin is not really a typeface, but more an application that runs on the web. People find the controls and play with them. So each image is generated fresh, which makes it possible to look up environmental factors of the Twin Cities, such as the weather, and incorporate them in the letter forms.

These are some automatically generated variations of the Twin Cities Design Celebration logo. All kinds of different color schemes, versions of the Twin fonts and alternative ways of writing the name are combined in pages and pages of stuff. The designer can look through the mass of stuff and pick up ideas.

Thanks to the Internet Archive for keeping a copy of this old page.

[more images to follow]