Movable type:
a brief history of my Letterforms

For the kind of pictures I was trying to make I needed letters that could coexist with other forms. Everything I draw is in some way referent to our three-dimensional, or “real”, world. So I needed a letter that looked like it was part of this world before being  flattened by the drawing process. When one sets out to render 3D letters the common instinct is to make what we call block-letters. Block-letters are essentially a flat letter with an additional arbitrary depth (think of the 20th Century fox logo). To me this solution is problematic. Block letters always read to me as false objects; their form has not really enhanced their function because the block letter is immediately recognized, accurately, as a arbitrary stand-in for the text it conveys. The text is still not IN the space.

I thought of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland. In this story an anthropomorphized sphere meets a square. The sphere tries to teach the square about the illusive third dimension. The square- only being able to perceive two-dimensions- sees the moving sphere as a fluctuating circle. Thinking of this I took the shapes; circle, square and triangle. I compared them to their closest three-dimensional relatives: sphere, pyramid and cube. I deduced that the three-dimensional form’s silhouette should resemble the original shape from as many angles as possible.

If we apply the math used to make a block-letter to a circle we end up with a cylinder. Instead I created letters that remained legible as they rotated in actual space.



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