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Since publishing their award winning book, A is for Ox, designers Rob Stolte and Maarten Dullemeijer from Dutch design studio Autobahn (@autobahnstudio) have extended their work into a one of a kind, multidisciplinary design project, to dig deeper into the origins of the Latin alphabet. A is for Ox sprung from Rob and Maarten’s conviction that ‘anyone who can write should know where our letters come from’, and now, through GLYPHS – The Alphabetic Perfume Collection, the designers have teamed up with French master perfumer Mark Buxton to determine the scent of letterforms, inspired by tracing them back to their earliest forms.
Rob’s idea to create a series of education objects surrounding the history of the Latin alphabet was sparked by observing his young son’s handwriting. With a four year old’s spatial awareness being far from fully developed, they tend to write in different sizes, mirrored and upside down. Recognising a number of alphabetical primordial forms in his son’s handwriting, Rob created a font from his son’s first scribbles…From there, Autobahn decided to design a series of objects explaining the history of the Latin alphabet.
The backbone of this project is looking back to the figurative, pictorial history of today’s abstract letterforms—A, for example, is derived from a drawing of an ox’s head. Essentially, Autobahn has figured out how a letter should smell, by going back to the historical shape of our letters—’if you want to catch the letter A in scent, you will have to approximate what an ox smells like’, they say. ‘To make a wearable to-share niche perfume out of it, that might sound crazy. But it worked!’
Since 2018, Autobahn has been working with French master perfumer Mark Buxton on three letter perfumes: Aleph – A is for Ox, Beth – B is for House and Gimel – C is for Boomerang. These perfumes come in a rollerball bottle, which you write with, and the bottles are packed in a stone artefact where the development of the letter is cut out by hand. The concepts behind the collection are distilled into every part of the object, creating an engaging, insightful and eye-opening experience—exploring letterforms for the historical, cultural, human artefacts that they are.
Now that the perfumes are ready, it is time to be able to actually produce and distribute them in large numbers. In search of funding for this project, Autobahn will be launching a crowdfunding campaign, which starts May 1st 2021. The hope is to be able to raise funds to deliver the GLYPHS perfume collection to a wide audience, and encourage an educational, sensory experience of letterforms and their histories.