Responses by 205TF.
Background: The sans serif typeface Muoto began as a collaboration between type designer Matthieu Cortat and design firm Base Design. The font has now been completed with three new set widths: Ultra Condensed, Condensed and Extended. Muoto is a variable font: users are free to choose precisely the weight and width they need.
Design thinking: In 2009, when the Geneva-based creative design agency GVA Studio joined the Base Design group, it was the arrival of a Swiss studio into an international network. Referencing the iconic Swiss typeface Helvetica, Cortat humorously designed the typeface Basetica to commemorate this. In 2021, when Base Design redefined its typographic identity, he imagined the successor of Basetica; this new typeface became Muoto.
Challenges: The variations of Muoto’s widths answer a purely visual logic, proportional to the counterforms and changing according to the weights. For example, the counterforms of Thin Condensed are very small, which makes it much narrower than Thin. On the other hand, Muoto Black’s counterforms are already narrow, so its width is relatively close to the Black Condensed. The widths follow a visual logic rather than a mathematical one; math does not replace the eyes of a type designer.
Visual influences: Muoto synthesizes a sensitive and human approach to modernist design. With its robust structure and subdued proportions, it evokes organic forms dear to Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who in 1957 wrote: “We should work for simple, good, undecorated things, but things which are in harmony with the human being and organically suited to the little man in the street.” This sans serif font combines full curves and solid stems, showing that functionalism can be warm and softly effective.
Specific project demands: The range of weights (from Thin to Black) and widths (from Ultra Condensed to Extended) is fully variable. The design of each glyph must be compatible, enabling the user to generate intermediate versions automatically. This technical constraint required imagining some new drawing tricks and complicated our work—but it also made it all the more exciting.
New lessons: The technical constraints of variable fonts forced Cortat to consider his approach to design differently. Some shapes are radically transformed between the narrowest and widest versions. For example, the letter O goes from a curved shape to straight lines in its Ultra Condensed version. This was the first time we designed such extreme variations; it was enlightening to get it to work precisely how we wanted it.