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One of the beautiful coincidences between the growth of a tree and type design is that growth happens sideways. This was new to me but seems obvious now. Already 3 years in, the letters were clearly showing expansion to the left and right, while the position from the ground had not changed. This is due to the misconception that trees do not grow from the ground up, but rather out from the tips. As new branches reach higher into the sky, the lower trunk grows radially from within. While this happens, the inner- and outer bark stays wrapped around the trunk performing an extraordinary expansion, thus deforming the surface. All while keeping the tree protected.In typography, as we “grow” the typeface into bolder and heavier weights, we design each letter sideways too. Letters gain more graphical volume left and right while keeping the x-height more or less consistent. A coincidence that makes a tree the perfect candidate to design a typeface.
Nature is never perfect and will never produce two of the same. Another interesting attribute that aligns with an ever-growing need to create unique designs, free from norms and human-biased conventions.
Occlusion Grotesque does not follow the conventual weights, (eg. light, medium, bold) but rather each weight represents a year of growth. Year 0 for example is referred to both the ‘regular’ weight and the beginning of the project in 2015. Year 5 was captured in 2020. For the most dramatic annual changes a younger tree was desired, but since carving in the bark can be painful and potentially kill the tree a resistant sort and age was chosen. The tree of choice was a Beech, native to the forest of my parents. It was planted by them in 1997 in Ågård, Denmark. At year 0 only a quarter side of the tree was used to carve the letters, maintaining the tree’s ability to transport essential nutrients from the leaves to the roots. It is important to note that cutting through the bark of a tree trunk in a complete circle will kill the tree. No trees were harmed in this experiment.
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