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IBM designs its first typeface

IBM has designed its own corporate typeface, IBM Plex, which will replace Helvetica Neue in the company’s corporate communications and which IBM is giving away free to anyone who wants to use it.

In a video on YouTube, Mike Abbink, IBM’s Executive Creative Director, Brand Experience and Design, said: “Helvetica is a child of a particular set of modernist thinking that’s gone today, so what’s next and how do you go about developing a new typeface that’s innately IBM?”

He added: “We quickly came to a very common theme that’s been with IBM since the ‘20s – this notion of man and machine – the relationship between us, mankind, and the machines we create. We tried to balance very natural, very man-made typographical choices with things that felt machined or engineered and rational…

“When you look at the typeface (IBM Plex) there are very highly engineered parts of it and then there are very humanist gestures too. It’s a very subtle thing, but the shapes and the design are a real combination of man and machine.”

In this way, the new typeface provides a link with IBM’s instantly recognisable three-letter, eight-bar logotype, which, as Abbink explains, also balances natural and engineered elements.

“Those three of the most recognisable letters in the world themselves capture a little bit that idea of man and machine. They’ve been very engineered. If you look at the letter B, you have these round exterior moments of the B and then inside the counter-shapes are square,” he said.

IBM has a long relationship with typography and design – in the 1940s and 50s, it had a typeface department and then, with the ‘golf ball’ Selectric typewriter, introduced adjustable typefaces – but this is the frst time it has designed its own font.

By deciding to make Plex available as a free download at IBM hopes to position the company at the centre of a debate around the future of man and technology.

“It’s a great decision, because if shoe stores or copy shops or small businesses are using it for identity, they are kind of agreeing that they want to be part of a discussion around mankind and machines and how that is going to evolve and progress our world for the better,” explained Abbink.

Watch the video at :

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