Rethinking The Baseline: Explorations in Nonlinear Typography


Session Title:

  • From Typography to Design Interface

Presentation Title:

  • Rethinking The Baseline: Explorations in Nonlinear Typography




  • This paper presents a vision for rethinking old paradigms, and ideas we take for granted in our everyday lives by revisiting them through the eyes of new technology. While open to many fields, this paper focuses on methodologies in the field of typography that have been defined and understood for centuries. Many aspects of modern typography were defined at the time Gutenberg’s press was presented to the world, and are now deeply rooted in everyday perception.

    Rethinking The Baseline considers the impact of new technologies on the linearity of typographic practice. It does so by presenting a media-art research project that exemplifies the possibility for non-linear typesetting through original artistic software as well as exhibited artworks that support a challenge to fundamental concepts in the field of typography. The software, called TypeIs, utilizes two elements that separate it from modern commercial typesetting software.

    Foremost, a weighted baseline is used to determine the look and feel of individual characters. Second, a custom system for managing text allows for the individual retrieval of characters for rendering in real-time. Rather than setting a line, copying text, adding it to the line, then performing a variety of typesetting functions in a step-by step manner, the artist can draw directly to the canvas, but instead of ink, letters flow from his pen. Pressure, speed, angle, and direction are all mapped directly to each character which appear individually as the artist draws through any kind of text. Software applications are presented as a series of ongoing media-art research projects which can be thought of as digital canvases, such that the artist plays a predominant role in the creation of artworks, rather than submitting to generative or computational techniques.

    The projects, however, are only example applications that utilize new technologies to rethink old ideas. The work that forms the basis of this paper also has ties to the field of gaming. Through the use of intelligent interactive surfaces, it is possible to reinvent our relationship to the idea of the grid, the turn, and rules that we inherently understand in the field of board games.

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