With an image in mind of a piece of metal or wood, there’s nothing quite more static in our Imagine typefaces, and your mind probably conjures an image of a piece of wood or metal, literally cast in a permanent, unchanging form. But experiments in digital typography are exploding that conception, making fonts dynamic, kinetic, and very much about creating digital motion. Nowhere is that more true than in the rough-hewn, sketchy shapes of Sweaty Feet, a typeface produced by people running around city grids with GPS-enabled smartphones in hand. These fonts are literally a record of motion.
We’ve been following Letters Are My Friends, the Berlin gallery, and their wacky typographical adventures this year. So far, that has included exhibiting a typographical audiovisual synthesizer:
Modulating Type with Synthesizer Knobs: Meek FM
– and making analog-looking graphical forms with generative visual software:
Dynamic, Morphing Type, Generated in vvvv
Now, working with the iPhone app FigureRunning, an exhibition this month merged the activities of jogging and drawing, scrawling letter forms by recording a path across a city grid. App users in 13 cities from San Francisco to Amsterdam to Tokyo made the letters, giving the alphabet a varied and personal flair. Some of the participants spelled out entire words (one gave his wife her whole name across the city of Bussum); then the designers picked out 26 faces. As typographical design, it’s far from perfect, but the informal quality is half the fun. The design is also collaborative: the designers assembled a charming book full of faces, stories, and maps.
Launching the typeface itself filled a Sunday afternoon and evening in Kreuzberg, as exhibited in the photos. But wherever you are, you can enjoy the typeface: it’s available as a free download.
All of this to me shows great potential for what can be possible with the connection of place, people, and movement in digital design. Just prepare to get those feet a little sweaty.
Thanks to Willempje Vrins for showing me around her work and her contribution to the app (partially as a fitness instructor, no less)!