Type Generator

Last weekend, I stopped into mudac, the museum for design here in Lausanne, for a few hours. The primary reason for the visit is that another postdoc here at EPFL, Ingmar, had told me that that as part of an exhibit on the 2007 recipients of Swiss Federal Design Grant there was a program on display that let you play with a the parameters of a typeface.

An installation on meta-type designMore of the installationA video component to the installation.My attempt to make some legible
A close up of one of the figuresAnother close upAnd another closeup

It was interesting, but I would have to say that I was impressed. The software Type Generator was designed by Remo Caminada and Ludovic Varone, and programming in Flash by Patrick Vuarnoz.

I think my impression may been coloured by the fact that the user interface was entirely in German, and therefore it was quite difficult to puzzle out what sliders did which things.  However, I felt that it was very difficult to create a reasonable typeface merely by tweaking the parameters.  I felt that there parameters could have been better constrained to prevent the user from adjusting them in ways that simply exceeded what was sensible.  It very easy to tweak some parameter and suddenly have spikes sprout from all the letters because you had caused some curve to extend in the wrong direction.  It could be argued that having such fine controls give the designer greater freedom, but it feels like the wrong level of abstraction.  I think Knuth's Computer Modern, for example, gives you much more sensible parameters to work with.  The version of Type Generator that was available as a demo was clearly not intended to be a completed production development tool, so perhaps some of these complaints would be resolved as it is polished.

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