Typeface Ciao communicates auditive intonations of the spoken word

“Reading and writing text, whether on screen or in print, has never been as widespread as it is now,” says Massimiliano Audretsch. The German-Italian graphic and type designer has recently completed a postgraduate degree from Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. In his graduate project Ciao, he explores the formulaic compositions behind a letterform and the societal roles it consequently shapes. Designing a publication, a typeface and some installations to expand on the matter, Massimiliano talks us through the ins and outs of Ciao and the phonetic language code he’s devised as a result.

“Every letter of the Latin alphabet has a well-defined form which is associated with one or more sounds within each individual language,” says the designer. Though we consume vast amounts of content from reading our phonetic alphabet, languages formed of Latin glyphs have no intonations in pitch attached to the written language, unlike the written Chinese language for example.

For his thesis, Massimiliano has designed a conceptual typeface which includes the intonation of how it is spoken. Naming it Ciao as an acronym for “Comprendere Istruzioni di Accentuazione vocale a Occhio nudo”, the phrase roughly translates as “perceiving intonation with your eyes”. Originally inspired by the historic pencil sketches of the American typographer and puppet designer William Addison Dwiggins, Massimiliano was first attracted to the individual elements of each carefully drawn letter, as well as their unconventional shape connected only by hairlines.

“No repetitive pattern is recognisable,” the designer adds on the pencil designs. “Each letter follows a self-contained principle. I went onto contact Bruce Kennett (current administrator of W. A. Dwiggins’ estate) and I found out the sketch is probably a technical draft for a typewrite head, not even a font. It’s just a guideline for finding a form.”

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