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Typeface Customisation for Bonnaroo

Filed under: custom

The design details behind MD Bonnachrome, a custom typeface (based on MD Nichrome) for the annual Bonnaroo music festival.

First held in 2002, Bonnaroo is an annual music and arts festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Ahead of their 2023 event, the festival’s organisers reached out to us about using MD Nichrome — and about making the typeface a little more Bonnaroovian.

Bonnaroo 2023 logotype and subtitle

In particular, the idea was to bring Nichrome’s visual style more in line with Bonnaroo’s logo: perennial and beloved, the iconic triple-infinity sign and Bauhaus-inspired geometric wordmark are the cornerstone of a brand that otherwise reinvents itself every summer.

In practice, that meant focusing on some key glyphs: we redrew the lowercase a, b, d, p and q to match the logo’s more circular construction, simplified the t, added a new question mark, and switched out the default m, n, r and u for their existing rounded variants.

MD Nichrome’s lowercase letters
MD Nichrome’s default glyphs.
MD Bonnachrome’s lowercase letters, with the ones changed from Nichrome’s defaults highlighted in pink.
Custom glyphs in MD Bonnachrome.

The final element was an all-new ampersand, which references the infinity logo while remaining legible as a symbol. We christened the new typeface MD Bonnachrome, a name which embodies the same playfulness as the brand — and the festival itself.

MD Nichrome’s default ampersand
MD Nichrome’s default ampersand design.
Bonnaroo triple-infinity logo mark
Bonnaroo’s triple-infinity logo.
Custom MD Bonnachrome ampersand in bold weight
Custom ampersand, bold.
Custom MD Bonnachrome ampersand in ultra weight
Custom ampersand, ultra.

Alongside the typeface, we also worked on tidying up Bonnaroo’s ‘music & arts festival’ subtitle. While keeping the same style and approximate proportions as the original, we balanced the letter widths and the spacing, smoothed the curves, and redesigned the ampersand to match the custom typeface.

Bonnaroo subtitle lettering. Original above, new version below.
The original (above) and updated (below) subtitle lettering. It’s not Nichrome, but it probably listens to the same bands.

Lettering rather than type, the subtitle’s shapes could be tailored more precisely to the logo and to each other: each instance of the letter s, for instance, has a slightly different angle and width to allow for better spacing.

The s from the word music.
The s from arts is a little more upright.
In festival, the s leans further forward.
The differences between all three s glyphs.

MD Bonnachrome rolled out in stages, the last of which was a set of eye-catching OpenType features for display use. Referencing the logo, we drew two double-o ligatures (and one triple-o one), which connect to form an infinity-like mark. In headlines and short texts, these give a sense of playfulness to the typography, while still remaining fundamentally legible.

In all caps, ‘infinity-like’ OO ligatures add a playful, dynamic flair.
In sentence case, oo ligatures and numerous rounded alternates give MD Bonnachrome a uniquely retro-futuristic feel.

We also added a handful of emoji-style glyphs, to be used as throughout the festival’s creative materials. (Personal favourite: Bonnaroovian figures, with dynamic context-aware hand-holding.)

For easier typesetting, we programmed these glyphs to be accessible via memorable shortcuts: <3 becomes a heart, :) a smiley face, ?? turns into an alternate question mark, and any number of hand-holding people can be created by typing /\ one or more times.

Context-aware hand-holding figures (any number can chain together, without the outlines overlapping).
We included smiley face and heart emoji, in both solid and outlined versions.
A larger, infinity-loop question mark for headlines and icon usage.
A triple-o ligature allows Bonnachrome to mimic the iconic Bonnaroo logo, while matching its weight and proportions to other text.

The result is a typeface that complements both the visual language and the playful attitude of Bonnaroo. It’s a design that provides a broad palette of typographic options for the festival’s creative team, and which feels right at home as part of its visual identity — both for this year’s event, and for the future.

A post from Bonnaroo’s social media featuring large text in MD Bonnachrome alongside the logo and subtitle.
A lineup poster for the Bonnaroo ‘Who Stage’ set in MD Bonnachrome.
A social media post featuring an illustrated landscape background, with MD Bonnachrome caps and lowercase overlayed.

The art director for this project was Anna Woodard; illustrations are by Max Löffler. MD Bonnachrome is a custom font based on MD Nichrome.