Case Study: Ryman Eco - The World's Most Sustainable Font?

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Nils Leonard, Executive Creative Director of Grey LDN, introduces us to Ryman Eco - a new font designed to reduce the environmental impact of printing.

Ryman Ecofont screen grab

"Standing in a queue outside hell with lawyers and estate agents, the advertising industry has been given a reprieve. Somehow, through the noise and clawing for fame, brands and agencies have worked out that they can make a positive difference to the world, and actually sell stuff at the same time. Because where sex and controversy used to sell, now the stuff spreading across our timelines is good stuff. Ideas that make the world better. Good is the new sex.

At Grey LDN we spend our days trying to improve culture. To play a part in it. We don’t always succeed, but that’s OK. We’re trying to be an agency that people want to exist, and to do that we need to matter. We need to check the content we are placing into the world, and create ideas that make culture richer while making our brand partners successful.

Recently, we looked at ourselves. One of the flaws of the communications industry is that it still needs to print. Rather than add to the worthy baseball bat of eco anger telling everyone to print less, we thought about how the act itself might be improved upon. What if how we wrote, not what we wrote could make the bigger difference? We set about creating the world’s most sustainable font. Introducing RymanEco".

Ryman Eco font sample

"Hemp T shirts. Electric cars. Those flip flops made of tyres. The truth about most stuff that’s good for the world is that it’s butt ugly. Stuff that’s good for the world tends to put the aesthetic on the back burner and ultimately this limits its potential to succeed. We needed our font to save ink and energy but we also wanted a font that people would use outside of its noble purpose.  A font that would be beautiful enough to not just appeal to businesses and those working in Word, but also to designers and typographers.

The genius of Dan Rhatigan at Monotype was realising that you don’t need to finish a font. He saw that providing you carefully craft the shape, you can rely on dot gain (the process where printed ink spreads into paper) and the natural flaws of the human eye to fill in the gaps in the font. This left him free to craft a very beautiful new form of serif, one with holes in, that leading designers from all over the globe are already using".


Ryman eco font close up

"What we had made, and its potential, hit home. We wanted the font to make a real difference. As well as the Grey network adopting the font as its default font globally, we wanted a client partner that would give the concept real scale. A sustainable font would have real impact alongside a brand that had printing at its heart, and we made a list of clients we might approach.

A good idea can sell itself. I tweeted Theo Paphitis, the owner of Ryman, with the temptation of an idea that could help Ryman save the world. He hit me back the same day and the font was launched three weeks later.

This idea hasn’t saved the world. But it’s had 25,000 downloads in three weeks. It’s becoming the default font on the computers of 100,000 people in a global network. It’s a sustainable brand in the media of your font browser and it was launched with a cheap two minute animated film on YouTube and cost £15k in total to create. This font hasn’t saved the world but it wasn’t an advert, and I believe it made a difference to Ryman that advertising couldn’t.

Right now, 26 of the world’s leading designers are celebrating one of its characters as beautiful posters. Three of the world’s leading publishers are considering printing the world’s most published book, The Bible, in Ryman Eco, finally imagining the good book in a good font".

"My favourite thing about truly good ideas is that the ownership and bullshit attached to most creative work fall aside in pursuit of making a difference. When good is concerned, none of us are as smart as all of us. If anyone has read this and wants to get involved, my email is below.

This font might be a big idea. It’s definitely a long idea. 

It is the start of something, be a part of it."

D&AD Impact seeks to identify and celebrate great, transformative ideas that contribute towards a better, fairer and more sustainable future for all. If you think you have a campaign that makes a real and positive difference to the world then why not enter it into D&AD Impact.



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