Ips typographus (‘de letterzetter’, or The Compositor) is a small beetle, that lays its eggs in spruce bark. Its larvae eat themselves a way out, leaving intricate tunnel patterns. A healthy tree fights off these otherwise useful beetles, but the drought of the last couple of years weakened the trees. All over Europe dead or dying spruce forests can be found.

The Plot (see also here) was cleared last year because of an Ips typographus plague. I’ve collected pieces of bark displaying these almost hieroglyphical alien alphabets.

What are they telling us?

To get a grip on what these hieroglyphs are trying to tell us, a variety of works is being made, departing from the tunnel patterns.

Letterzetter: De Font Maker

Jeroen van der Ham, working as Joebob Graphics designed the published version of my graduation paper in 1998. His speciality is turning hand written letters into usable fonts which keep the flaws and mistakes of handwriting. Names of his fonts include: Dearjoe, Old Letterhand, Coalhand Luke (you can tell there’s some sort of cowboy and Western connection here), seriousSally and serialSue, mixtapeMike, onetrickTony, moanLisa, and fancyPens. At his Instagram account he’s collecting sightings of Joebob fonts under the hashtag #lostandfont. I’ve always been impressed with the use of dearjoe 2 in Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

“As I strutted along the virtual streets of Vice City I suddenly noticed my dearJoe 2 font was used for the Malibu bar display.” (text & image Jeroen van der Ham).

He’s the perfect person to turn Ips tunnels into letters. I want the font to be about 26% readable. The font can be used as initials, but also to produce ‘hidden’ texts: text that look like patterns at first, and only can be read with some effort.

At Joebob’s office in Den Bosch (NL) in September 2020. Jeroen studies some Ips bark here.