Johan Elmehag, ”A-Z: Coast to Coast Shore to Shore"
It happens very often within the Design field to find projects that attempt at solving climate issues, such as products that actively deal with marine and beach pollution that collect micro or macro plastics and re-purpose them into sustainable processes.
It happens less often to facing projects that accustom the users to project themselves in an ineluctable future, by maintaining a functioning output while proposing lateral visions which draw on the reservoir of Art and Communication.
I’m speaking of a relatively recent project, which is intended to gain more meaning as the years will go by, until the countdown reaches zero.
After the latest catastrophic events occurred in Italy which has bared between flooding emergencies and the meltings of the oldest glaciers, I collided with Johan Elmehag's work and then came across a recent NASA reconstruction of how the slow erosion of those “ice giants” takes place.
I must admit that I was unfamiliar with this process. And that is exactly the point.
“The idea was born out of the sense that climate change is somewhat and abstract and difficult to address, both emotionally and informationally”
Johan Elmehag, A-Z Coast to Coast Shore to Shore, 2018
Developed while studying at Malmö University, Sweden, the graphic designer Johan Elmehag came out with a clever and intentionally disrupting artifact.
After being a keen student of natural and mathematical phenomena, he decided to embark on a creative path like the one offered by his university degree course.
The essential and pioneering project A-Z Coast to Coast Shore to Shore has transferred his interest in climate issues (the first idea was depicting a map for the climate refugees in 2100) into a practical vademecum of the endangered areas of the globe.
The essential and pioneering project has transferred his interest in climate issues (the first idea was depicting a map for the climate refugees in 2100) into a practical vademecum of the most endangered areas of the globe.
Using simulation tools such as Flood Map and data on sea level rise from National Geographic, he mapped the critical earth’s clods perimeters.
The result is “a typeface based on future vulnerable coastal areas - in which - the letters are shaped after the way the world would look like if all the world’s ice melted”.
The font acquires a dangerous meaning, graphically helped by the deliberate choice to maintain a spiky silhouette for each letterform. The aim is to purposely communicate the story behind the outline and make people ask: why? Nothing could be more coherent.
The Coastline typeface, which is freely downloadable on his website, brings the more curious straight to the designer’s intent.
The project is layered throughout multiple outputs that include a custom typeface, a “future world map”, and a divulgation book that explains the upcoming expectation for each covered area: the letter O, for example, illustrates the Caspian Sea connecting to the Blake Sea, or the trace of the letter D tells the saddest destiny of the Borneo isles, such as the Maldives, which is alarmingly pre-announced by the continue episodes of inundations. Or the letter A, found in the wedged area that will divide the Alpes region from the rest of the peninsula and definitively submerge the Venice area which is yet historically known for the acqua alta (high water, in Italian) phenomenon, from its construction.
By adopting the widespread pedagogical format of the abecedary, through which we all learn that T means “tree” and M refers to “mums”, he accomplishes the educational purpose of the project: each letter is paired with a syntactical explanation of the accounted areas.
Moreover, the publication is filled with information on flood management, flood control, vulnerable isles, and, in general, natural phenomena within dedicated chapters.
As a clever way to finalize the visual project, he featured the “kit” with the physical reference of the future map, which leaves no continent uncovered.
The edges and the tortuous lines are collected inside the bi-dimensional reminder that functions as a way to “rediscover” the feeling of finding us on the same boat (literally).
The concept opens to social and architectural topics that need to be taken into account in the next future: “the environment doesn’t care for borders”, stated Johan in an interview, but humans do.
The typeface is the bearer of inconvenient truths about one of the fastest measurable and inescapable processes of earth changing, to which radical physical modification of landscapes will correspond.
He launched his provocation by considering that the glaciers will not melt in unison, but he makes us reflect on a horizontal destiny, that will force people to make common choices.
And last but not least, he casts his hand on the importance of the medium of Art and Design as an instrument of great responsibility in creating scenarios in people's minds.
Credits for pictures: Johan Elmehag, ”A-Z: Coast to Coast Shore to Shore”, 2018
Website and download link: http://www.johanelmehag.com