Digitally Analog Typography: hybrid systems in typographic production

From paper to screen, from letterpress to keyboard, designing and composing typography is a task performed using endlessness of means. Sometimes seen as opposing approaches, analog and digital methods can bring value to the typographic scene when combined in agile forms. This paper aims to address the new possibilities of hybrid practices. For that, we conducted a study that reflects on the integration of analog methods and/or tools in the current context of typographic production. The main goal was to clarify their independent relevance and understand what contributions they might bring to the craft when combined with computational tools. We seek to prove that resisting hyper-digitalization not only reflects on the artefacts but will also bring more diversity to the process, therefore resulting in a wider space for creativity to proliferate.
Initially, we conducted a theoretical investigation of these methods by analyzing their historical trajectory and current state of the art. Collecting real-world testimonials from experienced practitioners who used these tools in their use of typography was what followed. Then, we accomplished a series of hybrid explorations that sought to take advantage of their possible strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
In the first exploration (see Figure 1), we reflected on the importance of manual scribing as a translation of the immediate gesture, creating a system capable of composing visual poems. This work mainly connects to typographic composition and manifests itself in a tool in which it is possible to analyze and use parameters such as the thickness or direction of a stroke and use them to compose with typography.

Figure 1

Obtained result from the first exploration with the sentence «Considero a vida uma estalagem onde tenho que me demorar até chegue a diligência do abismo.» by Bernardo Soares, O Livro do Desassosego, 1930

In the second project (see Figure 2), the focus was the process. Many testimonials from designers acknowledge the advantages of manual processes, such as increasing creativity, particularly in letterpress. This fact is related to the physicality linked to this process. Therefore, we tested a device for a hybrid approach inspired by letterpress called “Digital Proofing Press”. With this tool, it is possible to use the hands for typesetting, without acquiring all the material that letterpress printing implies. The main goal of this exploration was to democratize access to the advantages that composing with physical objects offers to typographic production.
Figure 2

Model of a device to be used as a Digital Press developed in the second experiment. The system captures the trust codes through the translucent surface on which the characters can be moved. Its physical form is an allusion to the real proofing press.

In the last experiment (see Figure 3), we focused on typography design. More precisely, in particular form of modular typography – the typographic collage. We made tests for a structure that could offer the possibility to simplify a typeface according to a system of modules. These models should then be the guidelines for an independent image distribution that results in a typographic collage. The possibilities that this system offers is the unpredictability, and the opportunity of giving semantic meaning to these collages, as a way of amplifying communication.
Figure 3

Aspect of the basic structure (left) and example of a result (right) for the generation of the collection ««t» de tipografia», a collection of posters in which modules collected from the entries are used, applying them in a collage over the letter « t».

The paper was accepted in the 12th Typography Meeting and will be made available soon.