Fe2O3 – making glyphs with ferrofluid and magnetic fields

Fe2O3 print detail showing a series of ferrofluid glyphs

Typographer Craig Ward has once again collaborated with biochemist and photographer Linden Gledhill on the development of Fe2O3 Glyphs, an ornamental typeface produced by subjecting ferrofluid to magnetic fields. The resulting glyphs are set to feature on a series of unique letterpress prints…

An original ferrofluid glyph, captured between two glass slides

Ward is no stranger to experimenting with typographic forms and has previously worked with Gledhill on artwork and moving image projects for Jon Hopkins’ Immunity album and a music video for composer Ryan Teague. In 2010, Ward also created the ‘A’ for CR’s Annual cover – using pollen cells grown in an immunology lab.

For his latest project with Gledhill, Ward has been creating a series of glyphs by placing small amounts of ferrofluid between two glass plates and subjecting it to vertically and horizontally spinning magnetic fields. The result, Ward explains, “is a library of complex hieroglyphics – each one as unique as a snowflake – that call to mind both indigenous markings and symbols from science fiction.”

Another ferrofluid glyph in glass

Once the pair created a good number of these intruiging forms, each was traced as a vector and cast as both a working OpenType (.otf) typeface and also as a moveable type printing system – combinations of which will be used, Ward says, to create a series of one-off prints, where no arrangement of glyphs is ever repeated.

A set of 36 test glyphs have already been cast as a moveable type letterpress printing system using two inch photopolymer plates (examples shown, below). The custom system allows the duo to create grids of the glyphs in various sizes and swap them out for each new print, ensuring that no arrangement or combination is the same.

Letterpress glyphs in a type tray

The unique prints will be created using a mixture of ferrofluid and Pantone Pure Black printers ink – in this way, says Ward, “the printing medium dictates the form of the glyphs, as opposed to the other way around.” A video is here which explains the process in more detail.

Ward and Gledhill are looking to create another 100-plus glyphs, alongside a series of one-prints via a Kickstarter campaign which ends on 30 September. According to the pledges made, backers will receive the working .otf typeface along with a signed, one-off letterpress print in a format of their choosing (showing either four, 16 or 36 glyphs).

More at Craig Ward’s website is at; Linden Gledhill’s is at

One of the unique prints (and detail)

138 unique characters form the monospaced .otf font

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