- Neo.life / Birth Defect
Typedriven illustration and alphabet for a book review called ‘The Language of DNA Should Rewrite English, Too’, which focuses on the terminology of ‘birth defects’. A piece about language, text and translation, in the context of the biomedical world and mainly focussed on the early stages of life (and even before). The design is based on how chromosomes are structured and displayed. Of course it’s not perfectly readable, which suits the main problem stated in the text; the difference in usage of words, with possible dangerous and serious consequences.
Those who work in biomedicine use an entirely different language in their day to day working lives. But, in medical circumstances where we need to interact and most importantly understand what scientists and doctors are talking about, this language can become a frustratingly confusing barrier. Recently tasked with visualising biomedical language in relation to an organism set of DNA known as genomics, studio Lennarts & De Bruijn has created a typeface of sorts built from chromosomes.
A very quick project for the Hague-based design duo of Max Lennarts and Menno de Bruijn, the original brief was to make a type-driven illustration for NEO.LIFE make a type-driven illustration for NEO.LIFE to support its article titled ‘The Language of DNA should Rewrite English, Too’. To begin, the designers picked up on the important fragments of the article such as, “Translation is the process of converting one language to another. In biomedicine, it means something less literal: it’s when scientific advances — new diagnostics, therapies, methods — translate into clinically meaningful tools that improve human health,” and how “We use old vocabulary out of habit even as the letters of our DNA illuminate new ways forward.”
Within the article birth defects are highlighted as an example of the various uses of language, and “the way that we name different conditions affect standards of medical care, as well as our perception of the conditions themselves”. After reading the article, and since Neo Life asked for a type-driven illustration, Lennarts & De Bruijn became “intrigued by the way chromosomes are structured and displayed, and the overall aesthetics of the chromosomes themselves,” it explains. “We knew it wasn’t going to be perfectly readable, which was exactly the point since it suits the main problem stated in the text; the difference in usage of words, in the context of the biomedical world.”
In terms of designing the actual font which has adopted the name Chromosomal Abnormalities, Max and Menno didn’t design letters that looked like chromosomes, instead, researching into chromosomes and DNA which looked similar to letters already. “Because in the end, we wanted it to look like chromosomes…only in the context of the text and other letters you can read,” the studio explains. “If you isolated the i, j, k and l for example, they would all look similar.” Consequently, the typeface is displayed as a whole alphabet where if you look closely, “you see they also start long and big and end as small chromosomes. You see that in the imagery, so also in our font.”
- Words by: Lucy Bourton / It's Nice That