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Oded Ezer

Israel's experimental typographic artist sheds light on his new website and exhibition

by Karen Day in Design on 22 November 2011

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Israeli type designer Oded Ezer breathes new life into Hebrew and Latin letters by giving his typefaces sculptural form or a curious new meaning. Each of his experimental works elevates the written word, challenging the brain to rethink how it views traditional fonts and the potential meaning behind these historic symbols. From Oded's viewpoint there is seemingly nothing, from sperm to mohawks, that can't be turned into a playful form of type.

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As English becomes more widespread, promoting the nuances of different languages is imperative to the inventive designer. To celebrate his own native tongue, Ezer created a new site, Hebrew Topography, where he ruminates on conventional and contemporary Hebrew typography with a meticulous attention to detail and a precise base of knowledge.

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At the same time, Ezer's inspirational work transcends typography as a design medium in two simultaneous solo exhibitions currently on view in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, called "Oded Ezer: Tipocriaturas." The show, which marks his first foray into Latin America, takes visitors through a series of panels showcasing Ezer's various seminal projects, from the insect forms of Biotype to the Hebrew letters "implanted" into his skin that comprise Typoplastic Surgery. Seen side-by-side, the projects demonstrate the range and potency of his imagination.

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Having seen Ezer's exciting works at Design Indaba last year, where he was a guest speaker, we wanted to learn more about his new website and concurrent exhibitions. Read on for a brief insight about Ezer's design motivations, and check out his cleverly titled 2009 book, "Typographer's Guide to The Galaxy," for a full scope of his work.

What is the most widely used Hebrew typeface? Is there a Helvetica of Hebrew?

The most widely used Hebrew typeface is Frank-Rühl, designed by Rafael Frank in 1908. It is a serif typeface and used mainly for texts. There is no real equivalent to Helvetica in Hebrew, although some of my own typefaces (like Alchemist and Meoded Pashut) work very well with Helvetica.

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When did you first start experimenting with fonts?

I have started experimenting with type in 2000, two years after my graduation. It was an act of despair of a young designer facing the banality of commercial graphic design and typography back then.

How do you start new projects, and do you have an end in mind?

This is a tough question, it varies so much from one project to another. I guess most of my experimental projects start by a daydream. And most of the time I don't know where the work will take me, nor how long it will take to finish it.

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Do you have a favorite calligrapher from the past?

I have some heroes. Jacob Ben Moshe was a fantastic calligrapher in the 14th century, a graphic artist even if they didn't call it graphic arts. But also the brilliant Abraham Farissol (15th and 16th century) and Guillaume Le Be (16th century), to name only few.

Can you tell us more about your exhibitions in Brazil?

I am extremely excited, this is the first time I show my work in Brazil! "Oded Ezer: Tipocriaturas" are two solo exhibitions, both take place simultaneously, in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, starting this week. Curated by the wonderful Ruth Klotzel, they show wide range of my commercial and experimental typographic projects from recent years, including Typoplastic Surgeries, Biotypography, Typosperma, I (heart) Milton and many more.

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What do you hope to accomplish with your new blog Hebrew Typography?

I hope to to show the beauty of Hebrew letters to non Hebrew speakers. As Armin Vit of Underconsideration wrote—great type is universal, regardless of whether you read Hebrew or not.

Additional reporting by Phuong-Cac Nguyen

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