As lead designer for 350.org, a grassroots climate advocacy group, Matthew Anderson kept getting the same question over and over from volunteers: Someone in Cairo or Helsinki or St. Louis would see something that Anderson had designed, and ask him to share the font. The only problem: The fonts were always licensed, and volunteers couldn’t afford to pay.
Finally, Anderson decided just to design a typeface himself–and make it free for anyone working on climate issues.
“It started as a side project,” Anderson says. “There’s actually a quote from Jonathan Hoefler [of H&FJ, one of the best type foundries out there right now] that sums it up: ‘I never wanted to draw typefaces, I wanted to have typefaces… I couldn’t find the tools I needed, so I made my own.’ It felt like there was the perfect opportunity to make the typeface that I’d been wanting to use myself, and to make a tool that could help empower people working on climate change.”
Anderson only just released Klima, the new typeface, but has already seen a strong response. Activists are becoming more aware of the power of good design than they might have been in the past. “Definitely, activists in the Internet era are much savvier when it comes to design,” Anderson says. “They still need access to good tools, though, and typography is a huge part of graphic design. If you don’t have access to quality typefaces, you’re left a little handcuffed.”
Though more free fonts have become available in the last few years–through resources like Lost Type and The League of Moveable Type–Anderson says it’s still tough to find good options. He plans to release another typeface soon. Technically, both that font and Klima will be available to anyone who’s using it for non-commercial reasons, but his main goal is to help others working in climate.
“The fact that we can all share tools is a nice reminder that we’re not in it alone,” Anderson says.