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Outward, A Dense Black Maze of Type Built to Document Adventures

Name: Outward
Designer: Raoul Audouin
Foundry: Velvetyne
Release Date: March 2021

Back Story: When Amsterdam-raised graphic designer Raoul Audouin moved to Paris in 2016, he biked to different suburbs every weekend to buy second-hand furnishings for his new home. Finding the city hostile to cyclists, the designer improvised his own routes and discovered incredible buildings, squares, parks and neighborhoods forgotten between highways and train stations along the way.

A typical day’s adventures ran something like this: First, a trip to the western suburbs of Paris to buy a bike from an old German hippie and her shy Iranian husband. She speaks to her spouse in Farsi, he answers in German, and they address the designer in French. Next stop, Les Ulis, a 1970s concrete housing project south of Paris, to pick up a rather niche ’80s synthesizer from a musician who makes him coffee, explains all the secrets of the synth, and invites him to play together for an hour (with the musician’s kids even joining in to sing along).

The designer created Outward Times (a now-dead website) to document his travels, and designed a reduced set of uppercase Latin glyphs for its titles that eventually became a full typeface.

Why’s it called Outward? The name reflects Audouin’s journeys from the center of Paris radiating out towards the peripheries.

Courtesy Raoul Audouin/Velvetyne Type Foundry.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? This dense modular typeface, built on a stubborn grid of thick black and thin white lines, creates blocks of solid pitch black text on the page, rather than the gentle ideal grey typically sought by typographers.

Carefully considered kerning pairs ensure that every combination of characters in Outward nestles into each other as closely as possible. For example, “LT”, “($)”, “T-T” or “QY” fit together like “tetrominoes,” the shapes familiar to anyone who’s ever played a quick game of Tetris when they should have been working.

Outward comes in three cuts: Block, Round (encoded as italic), and Borders (encoded as bold). The round version lacks square corners while the Borders features outlines of the same thickness as the space between letters, and each has its own glyph variations. The typeface supports most Latin or Cyrillic languages.






What should I use it for? Outward works best as display type in large sizes, for anything that doesn’t require quick legibility. Like all fonts distributed by Velvetyne, Outward is a free, open-source typeface. The designer says it best: “Favor it for any project that is not commercial nor profitable. Pair it with simple, down-to-earth intentions, whether they are about destroying all instances of hierarchy and replacing them with democratic governance, or replacing private ownership with shared and/or public ownership and use. Modify Outward, extend it or destroy it, and share what came up or what is left of it.”

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Embrace the mechanical nature of Outward and pair it with a geometric modernist font, preferably one licensed from a young type designer since you just saved money on open-source Outward. Jung-Lee’s Pirelli checks all the boxes, as does Bold Decisions’ new monospace grotesque True Sans Mono. A full contrast strategy pairs Outward with a detailed hand-drawn typeface lacking any mechanical feeling, such as William Berkson’s Williams Caslon Text.