Like a tightrope walker, one draw letters, moving points and lines between the edge of the screen in a everlasting quest for balance. This comfortable box where we make things fall into place, is only the thin surface of a fascinating mechanism. A font face is not simply drawn but described to the machine. By clicking and dragging our mouse, we define a set of instructions that, once compiled, transcoded and intrepreted by the machine, take shape on the screen.
But outside the frame of the editor, there is a fertile space where letters soften-up, slide into pipes and squeeze together in an orthotypographic anarchy dictated by the byte.
Some programmers and typographers explored this layer of abstraction, and came up with original new approaches to type design.
Donald Knuth - metafont - or more recently Yannick Mathey and François Poizat - Prototypo - created new font software and widened the scope of letter shaping.
But one is not obliged to create such complex and complete drawing programs. Playing with code can bring a meaningful approach and raise questions about this practice, as the work of Walter Bender - Turtle Font - shows us.
The Letteror Studio - Erik van Blokland and Just Von Rossum, glitch the glyph with their experimental type face Beowolf. Through this work they free themselves from any typographic rules, the font being generated each time it's printed. This subversive typo virus exist only in an everlasting shape changing state.
Legibility, Visibilty, Debility
In February 2017, for the Mirage Festival, I developed, within the Bonjour Monde collective, a system called dataFace.
Our aim was to simply create a fun tool to distort font, that anybody can use and modify as they wish.
It is a post production software, like adding reverb to a sound, it tackles the letter shape and creates most of the time very surprising effects, that could inspire a new family.
DataFace is a very simple tool allowing the user to import a font file and display each point composing the outline of a letter in a data-visualisation. This graph become an interface of control and drawing, the user can move the points impacting the shape of the displayed letter. It's also possible to automatise or randomise some effects and modify the entire font very quickly.
The important thing is to surprise yourself, to move all points in endless possibilities.
A good example of usage, is the Syne font. We were looking at how we could create an interesting monospace from the regular, so we used dataFace to remove most of the curves and make the font spiky.
This project was an agglomeration of many languages, including Fonttools, originally written by Just von Rossum, to manipulate font files and get the drawing description of all letters, and also some php/js/html to display the graph and edit the data.
Find more about it here: https://gitlab.com/bonjour-monde/dataface
A grainy curvature
I see in this Kick-Starter the opportunity to build a cleaner and more simple software.
The chain of software will be reduced to one simple interface. Through this tool the user would simply import the characters they want, analyse their construction, modify and re-export the characters. It would allow anyone to destroy their fonts, in a quest for noise and grain and use their zany characters on posters or websites.
Noise is part of the message, I want typographers to tackle more the legibility of their letters,
« when things flicker and the mechanism stops, the language of things rises to the surface [...] it opens a breach to fiction. »
- News From Nowhere, Ingrid Luquet-Gad
About the budget
To do this project I need 4000€, from each pledge 60% will go towards the development of the software and 40% goes towards the production costs of your rewards. I'm working with Toner-Toner an associative print house in Lyon, to print the posters.
Each 1000€ extra, would allow me to add features to the programme, such as preprogram functions or effects (a bit like a musical software).
Reaching 10000€ ? It first means that your are crazy but also means that I could invite a friend to work with me to produce a slick software allowing you to upload any kind of font file and get a live result.
Risks and challenges
My main challenge is to make the software the easiest to use. My goal is not to do a proper font Editor but to propose another approach to font design. I thought about creating a plugin for FontForge, but dataFace had to be independent and accessible to anybody.
I see this project as an artistic software both in the result but also in the way it will be made. One of the biggest challenges will be to transpose my Alpha version into one programming language and produce a simple and light software.
The development will be open and available on GitLab, allowing anybody to contribute or ask questions during the making of the software.
I code this in python and I will create an app for MacOs, Windows and Linux, but the source will be accessible if some people want to use it directly with python.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)