The Cholla typeface family was designed in 1998–99 by Sibylle Hagmann and named after a species of cactus indigenous to the Mojave Desert. Cholla was originally developed for Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Denise Gonzales Crisp, then art director of the college’s design office, collaborated with Sibylle Hagmann to design a family of typefaces that would include a vast variation of font weights. This diversity of styles was applied to echo the institution’s different areas of study, yet the typefaces were to exhibit a unified feel.
Formally the individual styles have slightly varying personalities with subtly distinct ideas applied, but all weights share a tapered curve marked out as, for example, in the lowercase a’s bottom transition from the stem into the bowl as their unifying detail. The Cholla family was first used in the radically designed 1999/2000 Art Center catalog, which won a honorable mention in I.D. magazine and was featured in EYE, 31. Cholla’s original weight range as designed for ACCD included 12 different styles.
Cholla received some awards, among them one for Excellence in Type Design from the Type Directors Club of New York in 2000. The Cholla type family was a winning entry of bukva:raz!, an international type design competition of the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) in 2002. It is featured in Language Culture Type, edited by John Berry and published by Graphis, New York, 2002, a publication that presents the winning entries of bukva:raz!.
Cholla was one of the typefaces showcased in the exhibition Frische Schriften (Fresh Type), at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Switzerland, in 2004. Experimental Typography, edited by Teal Triggs and published by Thames & Hudson showcases in-depth sketches of Cholla’s development. Frische Schriften (Fresh Type), Edition Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, 2004, with texts from Andres Janser, François Rappo, and Fred Smeijers also includes a feature on Cholla.