A stunning typography-led graphics project inspired by failure and an unusual commune

Our Polite Society, a graphic design studio based in Stockholm and Amsterdam, has been beavering away on a hugely comprehensive project spanning a book, exhibition and custom typefaces.

Entitled The FACIT Model, the project looks at globalism, localism and identity, and is the result of a four-year-long study of the printed ephemera produced by the legendary Swedish typewriter and office machine manufacturer FACIT AB throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Jens Schildt, one half of Our Polite Society, hails from Åtvidaberg, the hometown of FACIT, and “grew up when FACIT still played an important role in the local community, employing a big part of the population and shaping social life and the vernacular,” according to the studio.

Our Polite Society began work on it in 2015, taking on visual research at the FACIT AB archive in Åtvidaberg, which is soon to culminate in the aforementioned book, exhibition and typefaces.

As well as making typewriters, FACIT also manufactured office furniture and calculating machines. It peaked internationally in the 1950s-1970s and then slowly disappeared into obscurity “because of missed technological developments and fierce competition,” says Our Polite Society. “From today’s perspective, it is often used as an example for a failed business model.”

For Our Polite Society, though, the FACIT story is interesting from a design perspective. “Modernist vision shows in the formal qualities of the company’s output, but also in the belief in a ‘total design’ which included tools, working environments and surrounding social structures.

“FACIT founded Sweden's first professional football team (Åtvidabergs FF), provided leisure facilities for employees and their families, and for decades the company and its vision dominated and shaped a big part of (social) life in the small commune… [we] were interested in this intertwining of modernism, corporate culture and society.”

The studio worked with the type specimens in the archive and interviewed homer FACIT employees to create a series of new, digital interpretations of a number of FACIT typewriter fonts, which were then used to typeset the book for the project.

“The typefaces developed are tools and products, but they are also time-capsules: the digital interpretation of the FACIT fonts brings them to a new life and makes FACIT step into the digital age after all,” says Our Polite Society.

The book The FACIT Model is to be published by Leipzig-based Spector Books, launching at San Serriffe in Amsterdam on 9 May. In addition to a comprehensive selection of archive material, the book contains a number of commissioned essays as well as a series of drawings by artist Samuel Nyholm, aka SANY.

Also on 9 May, Our Polite Society will release a number of typewriter typeface revivals—OPS Favorite, OPS Cubic, OPS Placard and OPS Facitype—through its typographic studio..

The exhibitions making the project will be held at Fanfare in Amsterdam from 11–27 May 2019 before moving to the FACIT Museum in Åtvidaberg, Sweden) from 1 July.