Chattanooga, Tennessee has the distinction of being the first city in the United States to have its very own typeface: “Chatype.” Designed by Chattanoogans Jeremy Dooley and Robbie de Villiers with support from fellow designers D.J. Trischler and Jonathan Mansfield, the Kickstarter-funded typeface was released on Oct. 31. “Every city needs a brand, to highlight its own distinctive offerings,” Dooley says. “Typefaces are ideal for such a large and diverse organization such as a city.”
Dooley, who runs Insigne Design and sells his various fonts online through MyFonts, told me that the initial idea was to approach the city government for funding. But after some meetings his group decided that attaining public money would be difficult, run counter to the spirit of the project, and would require a lot of time to get people on board.
“With Kickstarter, we bypassed the politics and bureaucracy and instead formed a grassroots effort through crowdfunding,” he says. “It was only after our success and after multiple city organizations enthusiastically embraced the face that the city decided to name Chatype as its official typeface.”
Although the project began under a prior administration, the current mayor, Andy Berke, has embraced the broader design strategy of type as a civic unifier. Nonprofits and foundations dedicated to enlivening the city have also said they’ll use the font.
One of the influences for this project was Metro Letters: A Typeface for the Twin Cities initiative by the University of Minnesota Design Institute, an experiment to understand the relationship between typography and urban identity. Inspired by this well-publicized 2003 project, Dooley, who started up his office in Chattanooga in 2007, sought out de Villiers, who had moved into town around the same time, as collaborators: “Being new to the area, we didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do, so we took a shot at this new font concept.”
If Saskatoon had a font, it would be Comic Sans, you know because it’s hated by designers and included with Windows and therefore free.