The family is designed by Charles Nix, who describes Ambiguity as “as much thought experiment as typeface.”
Its five states—Tradition, Radical, Thrift, Generous and Normate—each express or subvert different aspects of typographic tradition.
Tradition is conservative, relying on historical letter shapes. Radical rejects inherited ideas of proportion, making typically slender letterforms wide, and wide letterforms slender. “It’s contrarian,” says Nix. Thrift cherry picks the condensed shapes from Tradition and Radical, while Generous does the same for wide forms. Normate sits at the center, a synthetic blend of all of the others
“Tradition is very comforting,” says Nix. “It’s the mask of conservatism. It’s calming because it delivers the proportions we expect. With Thrift more fits into a smaller space, so it’s great where words want to get large, like gigantic headlines, or text needs to cram in, like small screen type. You get a sense of carefree and luxury from the Generous cut. One would expect the Radical to be used in a sort of Dadaist way, but in a classic context it provides an enjoyable jolt.”
Ambiguity is a litmus test. Designers could spend hours trying on typefaces that offer just one of these voices. Ambiguity provides five different personalities—ideas—beliefs—each of which also work seamlessly together.
“It’s a palettea, like idea cards,” he says. “It’s a way of making yourself see differently. My hope is that traditionalists will try on radical clothes and vice versa. It’s a way of exploring outside your comfort zone, breaking out of the doldrums, by stepping through a variety of voices.”