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Adding More Variability to Variable Typefaces

In Peter Cho's thesis paper on Computational Models for Expressive Dimensional Typography, one of his statements was, "each character outline of a type font is represented as a list of two-dimensional data points connected by straight and curved segments." This got me thinking.

If we break down a letterform, what remains are points & lines each positioned on an elaborate pre-defined grid. The automation provided by Glyphs (software) to enable the creation of variable fonts, as explained by my mentor, allows a designer to define a path from point A to point B manually for each character. The journey in that path is then defined by the automation of the software.

Now if we combine these two understandings, it can get pretty interesting. By specify these points for each letter (as shown below) and then allowing the user to play around with the lines joining these points, we would end up with a model for a multivariate hyper-customizable typeface.

I used Processing to add two customizable factors: Weight & The Bezier Curves (view the video below to understand better).

These are just two of the many possible factors that can exist. For example: slant, sharpness of end-strokes, serifs + serif styles, inktraps, contrast and so much more. My plan is to establish the individual relationships between these points & lines and the factors to customize them one by one and then finally collate it into a format where sliders could control a plethora of factors and result in a completely unique downloadable OTF.

As of June 05th 2021, I continue to develop relationships between 2 factors and a letterform every week. Upon successful completion of these smaller parts, I would be able to think rationally about the bigger picture and start working towards a collated usable platform.

The assumed demand for something like this blurry but vast. By giving the user complete control over secondary characteristics of letterforms for a given font, this system becomes a hyper-customizable modular typeface that can generate a contextually appropriate font. For example, a designer could create a sharp, thick-weight, geometric sans-serif font to use on a banner for a protest as well as create a thin, rounded, ornamented serif font to use on a wedding invitation; all derived from the same system & place. A limitation of this, however, is that the primary characteristics of the generated fonts would be the same such as the X-Height or general construction of letters or the usage of certain glyphs over others (for example, if I include a double-storied "g").

I'm hoping that this evolves into something bigger than just side-experiments; even become the starting point for my Bachelor's thesis project / a project in the distant future. If this interests you in any way or if you have any sort of feedback, please get in touch with me by using the contact information listed below. To stay up-to-date with the happenings of this project, you can follow me on Instagram.

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