Skip to Content Skip to Search Go to Top Navigation Go to Side Menu

NORM formulating new dimensions in design

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dimity Bruni and Manuel Krebs,two graphic designers from Switzerland. Both born in 1970 and met in art school, in Biel. They founded NORM in 1999 and created their own typographic language by ignoring existing conventions. NORM is now based in Zurich. They’re well known for their typeface «Simple» which first got used in their book The Things. Later, Ruedi Baur of Integral, Paris, asked them to redesign the typeface for use in the new corporate design of the Cologne-Bonn Airport – this version is named Simple-Airport.

Bruni and Krebs developed their own typographical brand. They invented their own way of putting the world into categories and they formulated two rules: — the world is divided into two groups:  3d things and 2d things. — anything invisible is not of our concern.

3d things:  3d things consists of physical things that are of material existence. These items should be solid and visible, though not necessarily visible with the eye.

2d things:  the 2d category can be put into four different groups based on dimensions. group 1, those which represent something pertaining to a three-dimensional space group 2, those which represent something not pertaining to a three-dimensional space group 3, those which represent nothing group 4, those which are as yet unknown to us

group 1 represents the physical spacial things. It is bound to its own being because we recognize 3d things through its build, size  and materiality. When speaking in 2d matter, things lose their necessity of being a certain size, light, color. This is quite a wide range of objects, so NORM has categorized group 1 in sizes, — smaller than human beings, but large enough to be seen with the eye — roughly as large as human beings — bigger than human beings, but also small enough to be seen

group 2 represents the non-spacious, nonphysical things. Things that come down to numbers and letters and abstract ideas like sounds. Letters are the most easy to understand. Letters can also be read as signs. They have a double function, we write them and read them. Letters define their own meaning in a very clear way; while sounds are more difficult to represent, read, and understand. Letters have principles, we have a certain way of making letters and this is why they are so recognizable. Letters are principles. Still, there is much room for playing and sculpting in this field. — when designing a new system of writing, signs should be simple. they should be simple, because it makes them easier to remember, to recognize, and reproduce. — also the signs should be in a small quantity, because it makes them easier to learn — no sign should resemble another, because it will create confusion. so each sign should appear no more than once — it should be possible to align the signs in straight rows. always on a horizontal/vertical grid. this is so we can recognize a text, even when the script is unknown to us. — the characters should be simple graphic forms, recognized, and written easily as possible.

group 3 These things represent nothing. the things indescribable and invisible, so no concern

group 4

NORM has great interest in the 2d things. Therefore they have classified it. To do this they made up a code, a code through which new alphabets can be created. They formulated a grid in which every letter from the latin alphabet can be found, together with many other combinations creating a new alphabet of 65.535 signs.

I find this approach very interesting. The grid relates to a code I developed when I was younger. My code relates to them because it is based on the same grid. I would place all the letters of my sentences in one place, in the grid.

In this way it was impossible for others to read. For me, the grid is a very pure and natural way of putting signs into place. Signs that represent words. But NORM uses the grid differently, for them it is a sign-generator. They use the grid the other way around. Not for hiding letters, but for discovering them. For them the grid is a base point from which they create ‘basic’ signs. They want to create typefaces that are so ‘clean’ that they will exist throughout writing in all cultures. Also they created five new typefaces from the sign-generator.

I find their way of creating a philosophy. Their take on things is as minimalistic as possible. They take things back to their starting point or further than their existence. In this way they see the 2d world as a puzzle they should categorize.

With this approach NORM has grown out as a big name. Their typefaces [simple] is well-known and they have an overflow in assignments. I hope they will keep growing and discovering. Check out their site on and try the grid here [ x ]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log in