Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Typefaces Designed by Algorithms

While type design has changed over the years - any typefaces today are still drawn and created by hand; however, some designers are learning how to speed up this process by using algorithms to computer-generate new fonts.


Kyuha Shim, who received his MFA from RISD and is a PhD candidate Royal College of Art, is fascinated by data in terms of how it can be used in the design process. While working on a data visualization, Shim realized that parametric design principles, which are used when designing buildings and jewelry, can also be applied to graphic design.

Hoefler & Co. used algorithms when creating the typeface Obsidian. To save the designers time hand-drawing shadows on each character, they created an algorithm which rapidly lit the typeface and created the shadows needed to show dimension. 


MIT Media Lab's Logo is also created using algorithms. The original version, created in 2011 by E. Roon Kang and Richard The, contained over 40,000 permutations of the logo. In 2014 Michael Bierut used a 7x7 grid to simplify the logo and give it less permutations.

While these algorithms do expedite the process of creating typefaces, they aren't exactly perfect. For example, Hoefler's algorithm for Obsidian only works for that specific font because it is computer-generated rather than hand-crafted. They plan to create an algorithm in the future that can be applied to multiple fonts rather than just one.

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