Course outline


Thursday, January 31st 2019

The workshop is essentially about questioning type. how do we develop it, how is it displayed, what does it do. The work eventually goes into Typographic Singularity (Hopefully at Elephant West).

The brief is Make a piece of typographic work that aadds some dimension, such as

  • Time (kinetic type)
  • Space (dimensional typography)
  • Data (generative stuff)
  • Interactivity

The work needs to be based on a text, which can be:

  • a location or
  • a factual statement or
  • a poetic statement or
  • an opinion of yours.

The outcomes can be speculative (yuch).

Week one is about subversion of tools and processes. If your tool is InDesign, question its assumptions (why is the page limited? Why does it give me default font choices) and subvert them.

The history of type (slightly abridged)

  • Lettering ≠ Typography
  • Type is about systems, repetition, process
  • The first kind of writing is Cuneiform
  • Interestingly, Cuneiform can be applied to different spoken languages in the same way the Roman alphabet can.
  • Early written languages are essentially tools for bureaucracy: Most of teh clay tablets we have say stuff like Farmer so-and-so has 12 goats, and owes 3 sacks of grain in taxes
  • Cuneiform is a 3d-language: the depth of the cuts carries information. This is why we 3d-scan them instead of photographing them
  • Next: The Romans
  • You can roughly draw this line to describe the development of the modern alphabet from the roman: Square capitals → Rustic Capticals → Unical → Carolingan Miniscule → Modern Writing
  • For about 400 years (from Rome to Gutenberg), writing was only done by trained monks.

36-line Bible Gutenberg’s 36-line Bible (1458-1460). Commons

  • Letterpress is great for Roman type, but other languages (Arabic, Asian languages) often have to be compressed, simplified to work in letterpress.
  • OpenType gives us way more power: We can essentially program all kinds of behaviour directly into our typefaces (such as contextual alternates).
  • Unicode is big enough to hold enormous charactersets (like you might need for Chinese), way more than a printer’s typecase or Linotype keyboard.
  • Typefaces can advance social goals: Aravit cobines Arabic and Hebrew script in such a way that speakers of both languages can read it.
  • Monospace typefaces exist to make typewriters work.
  • Duospace
  • in the 1970s, photosetting allows people to do all kinds of thinhgs that were impossible in letterpress: Stretch, compress, rotate, scale type freely. Fonts for photosetting had to have reverse ink-traps so they wouldn’t look rounded off (because light would bleed around the edges).
  • Demos is a typeface that’s inspired by the smoothed-over look you get from photosetting (also the kind of thing that would be impossible to cut into a punch).
  • Compare also Retina and Charter (the phonebooks with the mad ink traps) and Miniscule (a typeface that’s designed to be readable at 2pt)
  • A whole aesthetic comes from dot matric printers and low-res LED-displays. LEDs of course are also very good at making type move.

Poem Field No. 1 (1967) by Stan Vanderbeek

  • Machine readable typefaces: OCR-A and OCR-B
  • Wim Crouwel (1967): New Alphabet
  • Tomato: Sony Corporate Identity
  • With LCD screens hinting starts to become a thing. Wonder how much that changes how we design, think about, read type. Verdana was a huge design effort, largely because of all the manual hinting.
  • Then in the 90s we start to get what we’d probably call Grunge.
  • Emigre, Fuse, Raygun Magazine
  • Brody: FF Blur (which is in the MoMA)
  • Also around the early 2000s: Experiments in interactive type
  • FF Beowolf by Blokland and Rossum is probably the first typeface that has behaviour programmed into it: Each time you type a letter, the vector points are moved around by a randomised amount (within certain limits — these are the cuts of the typeface). This is essentially asking the question: Does every letter in a typeface always have too look the same (as it has done the entire history of printing)?