Professor. Type designer. Mentor. And Now Award Winner. | College of Communication & Information | Kent State University

Professor. Type designer. Mentor. And Now Award Winner.

Assistant Professor Works with Google to Develop New Web Font, Recognized with Exclusive Industry Honor

First launched in 1978, the Society of Typographic Arts (STA) 100 Competition seeks to honor the best 100 examples of communication design that utilize innovative typography and design from around the world. Mooney's Biorhyme earned one of the coveted spots on the exclusive list this summer.

On the STA 100 website, BioRhyme is described as: BioRhyme is a display typeface in two widths and 5 weights designed for use at large sizes in branding, expressive typographic settings, editorial layouts. The majority of the project was developed and published through GitHub in 2015, and the fonts launched with the new Google Fonts platform this summer. This typeface is an experiment in typographic expression, designed to span the range from chunky poster type in the regular bold to delicate abstract patterns in the extra light expanded. Fusing influences from ATF’s Boston Breton, and various Clarendons with a ‘typewriter’ sensibility, BioRhyme is designed to provide a range of typographic tones of voice that feel warm, friendly, direct and playful. Equipped with a variety of alternates including a single storey a and g to swashes and pothook alternates for some of the terminals, this typeface is intended to encourage expression and experiment. To read more about the font, visit its Google web page online.

Original story as first published in The VCD Magazine, Issue #3

These are just a few titles Irish born Aoife Mooney, assistant professor in the School of Visual Communication and Design (VCD) at Kent State University, holds. And now after designing the typeface Biorhyme, Google Web Fonts contributor is added to this list.

Mooney, who earned her bachelor’s degree in visual communications from Dublin Institute of Technology and master’s degree in Typeface Design from the University of Reading, UK, is currently working on a font named Biorhyme for Google Web Fonts, which is set to be released later this year.

“The Google Web Fonts project started because I teach a traveling workshop called Crafting Type,” Mooney said. “There are about 10 of us type designers stationed across the world.”

Dave Crossland, an instructor in Crafted Type and font consultant to Google Web Fonts, asked Mooney a year ago if she was interested in designing a typeface for the company.

“When Dave asked me to contribute, I proposed a display typeface family I was already working on and to my delight they accepted it,” Mooney said.

What is Biorhyme?

Mooney explains Biorhyme as a hybrid child because the designs were born out of different visual influences. Biorhyme is directly influenced by the shape of a single “R” from a Conner’s Type Foundry specimen and American Type Founder’s Boston Beton. With regard to genre, purpose and atmosphere, Biorhyme is influenced by types such as Clarendon, Archer and Courier.

Biorhyme serves as a prototype…for flexible typeface families that might respond to and represent pitch, tone, speed and non-linguistic… The behavior and makeup of the Biorhyme family was also influenced by Mooney’s research on relationships between typography and its representation of speech.

“In particular, my research was with regard to instant messaging and online communications, she said.” “Biorhyme serves as a prototype to test the potential for flexible typeface families that might respond to and represent pitch, tone, speed and non-linguistic information such as irony or inflection.”

Mooney created two widths and five weights to allow for a range of expression. She plans to extend this in the future by including italics, small caps, old style figures, fractions and tabular characters.

“Primarily for web, the contrast in Biorhyme is relatively low and the slabs are oversized to exaggerate the personality,” Mooney said. “To aid in readability, the apertures are open in most weights and styles.”

The Experiment

For Mooney, creating Biorhyme was an experiment to see how far she could push the typeface width while still maintaining legibility.

“The narrower width is primarily designed to set paragraphs and the extended width is more for headings and larger scale type,” she said.

Alongside the primary goal of creating a typeface for use on the web, Mooney wanted to make something with the warmth and playful nature of the typewriter or monospaced fonts.

“Designing a typeface is a long process, but I am now in the last stages,” she said. “I’m excited for the upcoming release.”

Biorhyme, like all Google Web Fonts, will be released under an Open Font License, which enables it to be downloaded and utilized by the public for free, and extended by other designers as the need arises, much like Open Source software.

More About Mooney

Before Mooney received this opportunity, she was a practicing graphic designer across the pond in Dublin, Ireland. Mooney comes from a small family with one brother, and she was interested in drawing and language from a young age. She later pursued these interests through higher education, and after working as a graphic designer post-graduation for six years, she discovered a special interest in typeface design.

“I wanted to get more involved in type and learn how it was made,” she said. “My favorite part as a graphic designer was making shapes, logotypes and having that control over an entire shape language.”

As a result, she applied to the globally respected Typeface Design master program at the University of Reading, UK.

“I thought going back to school might give me a competitive advantage, and as a personal thing, I just wanted to see if I could be good at it,” Mooney said.

And she was good, so good that the globally acclaimed Hoefler & Co. Type Foundry in New York City recruited her as a full-time type designer upon graduation from Reading.

“At the time Hoefler & Co. was looking for type designers and since it is such a small market, they contacted the Reading program,” she said. “The program director showed them a selection of work from what he thought were the best students.”

Hoefler & Co. chose Mooney and Erin McLaughlin, her good friend and Reading classmate, to join its team.

“It had never been in my sights to move to New York, but this opportunity was too good to pass up,” she said. “Hoefler & Co. are best known for their typefaces like Gotham and Archer, featured in GQ Magazine and Martha Stewart Living respectively.”

While Mooney worked for Hoefler & Co. she worked on several projects within the company.

“The first type I worked on there was a typeface called Idlewild, and this is a display type — really extended, all caps. While there, I also worked as part of a team on other families like Surveyor and Tungsten Rounded.”

Type design is a fairly slow process, Mooney explained, so she only saw a few of the typefaces she worked on released in her time at Hoefler & Co. Moving forward as a type designer, Mooney hopes to continue work with Google on a variety of projects.

“I really want to keep making typefaces. It is nice working on my own stuff again,” she said. “I like regaining creative control and allowing my research interests to be a part of my work.”

Moving Forward

Mooney is currently researching how typography and language relate to each other, and how new media is affecting social behavior.

“I recently presented at a conference in Dublin on the role of typography in instant messaging,” she said. “My next big thing is tackling that research and seeing where it takes me.”

Mooney made a big move leaving her country — she had to adjust professionally and socially. She said jumping into her new job helped her transition to living in New York City. Socially, it took time but she adjusted to Brooklyn, made new friends and ultimately met her husband. Don’t come in thinking design is one thing because there are many forms of design and many paths to becoming a good designer.

“My friend from Reading was from New York, and at her wedding, I met my husband David Pereplyotchik,” she said. “He is also a professor in the philosophy department at Kent State.”

Mooney and Pereplyotchik moved to Kent so he could accept a position in the philosophy department, and were fortunate enough to arrive when there was an opening in VCD for a full-time tenure track assistant professor. In fall 2013, she started as an adjunct and fell in love with teaching. Being around talented young designers has been an inspiring experience, she said, and helped her expand socially.

“I never expected to be a teacher, but that first semester was eye-opening because I am an introverted person,” she said.  “Teaching was a huge leap of faith in that sense, but it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.”

During her time with VCD, she has worked with many great students, watched them grow and seen them produce exceptional work.

“In general my teaching experience has been lovely, and I am also supported by a great faculty,” she said. “I feel so lucky to be in VCD — I couldn’t have landed better.

For prospective VCD students, Mooney suggests leaving any preconceptions of design they may have behind.

“Don’t come in thinking design is one thing because there are many forms of design and many paths to becoming a good designer,” she said. “Persevere and explore as much as you can to find your own path. Design is not just about making or promoting products, it is a way of thinking. Design is not just about making or promoting products, it is a way of thinking about what you want to say as a designer. What do you stand for?"

POSTED: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 6:09pm
UPDATED: Monday, September 26, 2016 - 12:30pm