TYPE EXPERIMENTA

LETTER

Please select a letter to view its details

Letter A

This was an experiment in anthropomorphism, attributing this letter human characteristics and traits. By giving the 3D form a human, hair-like finish, the letter gains a personality and is transformed into something completely different than its original form.

Letter B

MetaFont is a programming language created by Donald Knuth, one of its uses being as a tool for designing new typefaces on its own. As MetaFont was programmed by Knuth, a mathematician, the resulting typographic design method relies on equations to specify letterforms and computer code that compile these instructions into a usable font. There are numerous possibilities with this code and all are available to anyone who has access to the original program or access to recent programs that have been built based on Knuth’s original. This brings into question the authorship of these letters. The user is creating the typeface to a point–adjusting the parameters such as superness, slant, aperture of the font–yet with an algorithm that is not created by them, but by a computer. Therefore how can someone take ownership of the downloaded font?

Letter C

Part of a series exploring the difference between line weights and line characteristics within fonts and the point where they become unreadable. Designing a font is, in a way, a series of intersecting and joining lines and therefore the line can be anything you choose: thick, thin, dotted, dashed, warped. Obviously function plays an important role in type design, most importantly legibility, but thinking of fonts as a series of joining lines opens the possibility of experimentation, creation and originality.

Letter D

I wanted this letter to be an interesting form; this is an ongoing project in the experimentation with 2D and 3D Typography. The project treats the letterform more as a shape rather than as a useful or functional tool for reading. I enjoy taking the letterform out of context in order for it to become totally different to its intended purpose, making it almost unrecognisable. The lack of functionality of the letter then brings into consideration the ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’ aspect of the form

Letter E

This letter, ‘E’, is an homage to Karel Martens, a Dutch graphic designer who specializes in typography; most notably his letterpress shape typography. Again, this execution explores ownership and authorship. Kenneth Goldsmith once quoted, Yohji Yamamoto, “Start copying what you love. Copying copying copying and at the end of the copy, you will find yourself.” When breaking this quote down, we’re meant to reproduce what we are inspired by and then hopefully, at the end, we have something that is unique, even though it started from a place of replication. Technically, this letter ‘E’ is inspired by Karel Martens typographic experimentations, but in creating a new letterform with a different composition and colour, I have created something new, even though it is, in essence, the initial work of Karel Martens. So then can we call it original?

Letter F

Continuing to investigate the idea of creating a letterform that is far removed from its original aesthetic and meaning, this ‘F’, out of context, could be just an abstract shape. The idea behind F was to create something that appeared tactile and tangible through its appearance, but wasn’t instantly recognisable as a letterform.

Letter G

The font Futura is a long time favourite of many graphic designers and, when seen, is instantly recognisable. The typeface was created in 1927 by Paul Renner and is based on simple geometric forms which is something that initially interested me. Renner's original plan was for two versions: a more conventional version suitable for general use, and a more eccentric, geometric lowercase version based on the circle and triangle. The “Original Futura” is often forgotten, but is beautiful in its design. This ‘G’ was part of a series created with Original Futura, trying to take the shape of the typeface and recreate it to almost resemble a structure.

Letter H

Chairs to me are very reminiscent of a letterform. This letter is based on a design - child chair ti 3a and chair ti 3a, 1923 - by Marcel Breuer. One of my favourite chair designers, Breuer joined the Bauhaus movement in 1920. He was a student, a professor and finally the director of the Furniture department. This letter ‘H’ resembles more a chair than a letter but can double as both.

Letter I

This was an experiment in autonomy and authorship. I wanted to test whether taking an image (one created by another person/designer/artist) from an online source and then redesigning it, or repurposing that image, was considered stealing. Images of design and other’s work can be seen so easily through online platforms, such as Tumblr and Instagram, and even through personal websites, that it becomes so easy to take someone else’s work and claim authorship. However, if a newly created image is heavily inspired by another’s work, with strong similarities yet used in a different context, is the new creation considered an original piece of work, or just a modification? Or, more importantly, who is the originator of the piece? This letter was inspired by the drawings of Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. Their book, of the same name, features line drawings and experiments. The original drawing, of which this letter was based, was taken from their instagram account. Their creation is an experiment in drawing using a certain material: pen. Mine is taken into a different context by recreating the letter using a digital process. Therefore, is it stealing? This is a comment on social media and the free sharing of information and how it affects originality. There is that overwhelming possibility of stealing work and creating nothing new, but simply redesigning a form of something already created.

Letter J

“Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it,” Guy Debord, a French strategist and founding member of the groups Letterist International and Situationist International.

The role of the Internet, with sites showcasing design and art, can be considered a facilitator for the stealing of creative content. This piece is from a series, again, highlighting authorship and creative ownership, and the fine line between being inspired by something and stealing something. This image was taken from an original painting by Nathalie du Pasquier of the Memphis Group. Using the same arrangement and colours of the original, I’ve recreated a section of the piece using a digital process instead of paint, taking the original context away and creating a new project. The question that is still posed is whether this constitutes as original work or not.

Letter K

This letter was made borrowing the characteristics of dazzle camouflage, a technique used extensively in World War I, that consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other. Unlike other forms of camouflage, the intention of dazzle is not to conceal but to make it difficult to estimate a target's range, speed, and heading. Although beneficial in war, at the same time, the technique is quite elegant and aesthetically stimulating. The ‘K’ was made with patterns similar to that of the camouflage used on the boats.

Letter L

I’ve always, from a young age and even now, viewed letterforms as a series of shapes, shown together to create something readable. When learning to read, it was an easier and more efficient way of recognising letters and reading. This piece highlights and exaggerates this way of seeing letters.

Letter M

I was inspired by artist Joseph Beuys when thinking about this piece. Beuys’ work, Unschitt (Tallow) is a piece in which 20 tonnes of beef fat was cast in the hollow of a pedestrian underpass. The result was giant yellowed blocks which solidified and retained the imprint of the crevasse from which it came. This work is literally the manifestation of the potential of public space, and also a testament to empty space slowly being wasted. The empty space and the drawing attention to it, like Beuys did, reminded me of the white space of graphic design. In page layout, illustration and sculpture, white space, is often referred to as negative space. These ‘M’s are reminiscent of the solidified objects and the space they filled; a constantly evolving letter that fills any white space it is put into.

Letter N

These ‘N’s represent two pieces out of a series that was created as a result of exploration into technology. This started out as a research project about being in the moment and creating something that would force a person to reject the technology that keeps them from focusing on life around them. These objects were created as obstacles, reminiscent of childhood playground equipment, and would be placed on a busy street purposefully in a way that people, if their focus and attention was on their phone or electronic equipment, would miss these objects and subsequently run into them. They become quite literally hidden obstacles, ironic that their shape and colour are normally quite hard to miss, but when attentions are not focused on what’s infront of them, they physically stop a person. This ‘N’ is part of a series of ‘obstacle’ shapes, loosely inspired by letterforms due to the fact that letters and words are usually what distracts a person from being in the moment.

Letter O

Long has existed the conversation of design versus art and vice versa. Along the same lines as this debate is the query of whether a letter can be considered an object, or piece of art. This ‘O’ explores this theory by quite literally making the letter similar to a modern art sculpture in material and layout. By making the finish gold, it lends the object more weight and importance than what it actually merits, whilst the repetition also implies great importance as well as attention.

Letter P

Typography as object is something that is curious and something that is more topical today than ever before due to experimentation with function versus non-function. This letter experimentation is taking something (the letter) and turning it into something else (an object, in this case a marble/jade piece set against a backdrop). Something that is aesthetically pleasing, but also questioning its true meaning and use. The main purpose of design is to have function, but when this objective is taken away (an unusable character or letterform) then what does it become?

Letter Q

The safe fonts for email and web are very limited, and quite varied in look. They include fonts like Comic Sans (an interesting topic amongst designers) Tahoma, Verdana, Courier and of course Arial. I even remember my first computer having these fonts and only these fonts. Now one can buy fonts and have thousands stored for personal use. Maybe because of their association with web safe fonts and being the default choices, the aforementioned typographies have become dated and less desirable to use in modern design. This letter ‘Q’ is made up of a selection of these font families stacked on top of eachother. A homage to the forgotten and underused.

Letter R

This is a photographic series in collaboration with a different photographer every time. Inspired by the Fluxus art movement, we each get given a set of “instructions” or scores, as the artists called them. From these instructions we both have to recreate the set to photograph. With these sets of rules, anyone can recreate the piece, which was the goal for the original scores of the Fluxus movement. This particular photograph brings to surface the question of typography as object or object as typography.

Letter S

Having dealt with flat typography for most of the time designing, it’s interesting to give fonts a character or personality. By giving the letterform a surface or pattern, it immediately changes the feel of the letter; like creating a photographic set. The pattern used on this ‘S’ was that of a Gobstopper, blown up to show an abstract pattern. The colour of the letter and the set, the position of the form, the shadow and where the light is placed, the chosen font, each choice brings new and different meaning to the overall image.

Letter T

Like ‘J’, this piece was inspired by an image taken from an original painting by Nathalie du Pasquier of the Memphis Group. Using the same arrangement and colours of the original, I’ve recreated a section of the piece using a digitised version, instead of paint, taking the original context away and creating a new project. Once again, the question posed is whether this is original or not. Does the use of pre-existing objects or images, with little or no transformation applied to them, constitute as brand new, or appropriation? Poet Kenneth Goldsmith stated that, “Sampling and citation are just boutique forms or appropriation.” Best known for his book, Day, an entirely appropriated text from an issue of the Times, Goldsmith proves the possibility that samples work can be considered and accepted as new to a degree.

Letter U

An aim of this overall project was also to give letterforms and typography another function to what it is originally. To take the language and legibility out of the form creates something entirely different. By setting up this U in a studio-like setting and giving the letter a materiality, it’s creating something quite different and allowing it to become an object rather than anything functional.

Letter V

This letter (like E) was an homage to Karel Martens, but more specifically, The Werkplaats Typografie program. Martens founded the Werkplaats Typografie, a renowned Masters course for typography, and one recurring project Martens shares with successive groups of students is the design of the architectural magazine, OASE.

Martens: “For me this is very important: I’m from a modernist background and in the beginning that was always working with a grid, and using Helvetica and every company had the same logo and colours—a kind of uniformity. For me OASE was a good reason to break from the uniformity of the modern movement”.

OASE is a rule breaking magazine and the covers are inspirational and experimental. This letter V is a nod to OASE #71, a striking cover that is both non conventional in the letter form it displays and a great piece of design that’s well ahead of its time.

Letter W

The aim of this letter was to turn the ‘W’ into something not instantly recognisable out of context. By giving the form an abstract shape not characteristic of a ‘W’, it changes the feel of the letter and creates something that’s aesthetically pleasing when viewed out of context, but when considered in it’s rightful context as a member of the alphabet, this ‘W’ is not correct by typographic standards. When the shape is taken out of the image, the letter is somewhat ugly, which designer, Peter Bilak, argues is a great standpoint for further exploration and experimentation: “the search for ugliness triggers a certain primal, voyeuristic curiosity, and from the designer’s perspective there is simply a lot more space to explore. Capturing beauty has always been considered the primary responsibility of the traditional artist, and even now it is rare to find examples of skilled and deliberate ugliness in type design, (although examples of inexperience and naiveté abound)”.

Letter X

Like the letter ‘K’, this ‘X’ was given the characteristics of Dazzle Camouflage–a camouflage technique not used to conceal a ship but instead to make it difficult to estimate a target's range, speed, and heading–but creating a 3 dimensional set instead of a 2 dimensional flat file.

Letter Y

The ‘Y’ is made up of hundreds of outlined circles layered on top of each other to form the letter. The letter is generated by a program that runs on a timer. It works with a base font and fills the letter–starting at 0 circles–with scattered ellipsis or shapes until the letter form is recognisable. The lines are reminiscent of a spirograph drawing, a geometric drawing toy that produces mathematical roulette curves.

Letter Z

Like the letter ‘O’ in this series, ‘Z’ once again sparks the conversation of typography as object and vice versa. The ‘Z’ is presented as more of an art piece than a letter by way of material and layout. A ‘Z’ is clearly shown, but the viewer can easily detach themselves from the notion of it being a functional letter and rather see instead a cleverly presented piece of design.

ABOUT

Type Experimenta is a project about: realised projects, unrealised projects, unfinished projects, experiments, photographs, 3D objects and fonts. It also questions authorship, functionality and right and wrong (if there is such a thing).

Concept and design by
Georgia Cranstoun.


The reason for this project was to explore typography, focusing on the functionality (and more importantly its non-functional elements also) of a letter. The project is broken up into two parts: the first, is the study of non-functioning letterforms using the medium of 2D, 3D, drawing and photography. The second, is to explore the topical subject of authorship within design and art, and the flow of information and creative property. This will be discussed and made into a book using the letterforms explored initially.

The book (available from this site) is a print-on-demand, 'bootleg' copy of the original: a more expensive, one-off book. The original boasts a foil-block cover with a paper embossing, archive-quality photographic paper and colour images, while this version is a cheaply made knock-off. The images are black and white, printed on the most economical paper via the most economical printing method. The images are actual page spreads taken from the original book, halved in size and placed in a file format that is taken from the print-on-demand service. This book is a comment on authorship; this version is a cheaper version of the original, saying that the original is always better and if you take something from an online source (whether image or idea), there will always be a loss of quality.

Order or download the bootleg copy here soon.

Contact for more information:
georgcran@gmail.com



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