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Stories from Design Bridge: Bacteria Typography by Bursary winner Raven

It’s amazing to see that many of our current Senior Designers, Design Directors and Creative Directors started here on placements or as graduates, and have since gone on to develop exciting careers in our award-winning studios. We have a strong record of growing our own talent, and seeking out the best new creative minds is incredibly important for all of our Studios. With this in mind, we have created an annual Bursary scheme which we award to promising design students, providing their valuable first steps into the professional design world and helping to cover the cost of studying.

This year, Raven van Baak was one of the lucky Dutch design students who was awarded the Design Bridge Bursary, and we thought it would be nice to share one of her intriguing concepts. During her studies, Raven created a font grown out of live bacteria – here’s Raven’s story…

During my Arts&Nature minor course at AKV St. Joost art school, I got very inspired by bacteria and fungi. Not only visually – by the shapes and textures they have when being grown in a petri dish in a laboratory – but also by their anonymity. I realised that these little lifeforms are absolutely everywhere and are so crucial to life itself, yet they have a reputation of being dirty and unhealthy – if they’re even being thought of at all. Of course there are good and bad bacteria but, let’s face it, without bacteria, you and I wouldn’t even be here right now.

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I wanted to make people aware of the hidden beauty of these tiny creatures as microbes are so invisible, and yet so indispensable. I did this by combining the bacteria with something that is, on the contrary, very present in our society: letters.

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After a lot of trial-and-error at home, and coming to the conclusion that maybe starting a microbe farm in your living room isn’t such a good idea, I teamed up with a laboratory where I put on a white lab coat and things got more serious.

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Here, I had access to dozens of different bacteria and endless possibilities. I worked by placing different types of bacteria on a specific nutrient medium, which created a reaction between the two and resulted in different colours. Eventually, I knew which bacteria made a particular colour, and I could really start to design the letter (to a point). After placing the microbes onto the petri dish, it took up to two days to grow inside a controlled environment, so it was always a surprise to see how the letter had turned out.

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The interesting thing about these letters is that they keep on changing, as the bacteria that make them are still alive and eventually dies when the petri dish runs out of nutrients. This changes the colours, textures and even the shapes. It also demonstrates the constant evolution of society and nature – of life as a whole, really. All with the help of these tiny microbes.

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Thanks, Raven!

Are you a design student, dreaming of working at an International Brand Design Agency, and looking for an internship? Then this is your chance! We have an internship available in our Amsterdam studio as of September. Send your Curriculum Vitae and motivation letter to us at: nicolien.zijp@designbridge.com.

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