Font Fiction


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Cats have 9 lives.
Fonts can become immortal.
The difference between fonts and other cultural fields, like music, art, architecture, literature or fashion, lies in the fact that fonts have the capacity to grow in correlation with the developments of a society. So even when a font was designed centuries ago, there is a chance that it will become cutting-edge again within a totally different era hundreds of years later. Leonardo da Vinci painted his Mona Lisa in the same period as Francesco Griffo created his typeface. This typeface, which we meanwhile know under the name Bembo, has a very different position and relevance within our current society than the painting. The typeface recently became state-of-the-art again by being revived with the latest technology and released as an OpenType Variable Font, while the painting is doomed to perish slowly, hanging on the wall of the Louvre.
While all things exist to perish, fonts have the ability not only to live eternally, but even to grow forever. Without any limitation in time, fonts can have a perpetual development even when the designer isn’t around anymore.
Human creation always happens in three dimensions. One we are actually working and designing in. One we wanted to enter but could not succeed in entering. And one we are not yet aware of.
Because fonts can become immortal, you are inevitably dealing with all three dimensions when designing them. Although you are captured in the first dimension, the other two dimensions are inevitably present.
Font Fiction is a method of dealing with all 3 dimensions, by defining instructions for the space we know but are unable to reach and by defining general principles for the unknown spheres. Putting this into practice, Francesco Griffo could have come up with clear instructions to transfer his design to a variable font with flexible weights for example, although he could not have built it himself. This technology didn’t exist five centuries ago. It was also impossible for him to imagine something like hinting, or a character like the Euro sign, as these things happen in a sphere outside our imagination and therefore can only be addressed by general principles. In this example, it would have been principles about form and resolution.
Font Fiction is about taking responsibility for the legacy we create while designing fonts. This responsibility is taken by expanding the traditional notion of type design into the realm of the three dimensions wherein fonts exist. It includes the unreachable and unimaginable.
Font Fiction is not about diegetic prototypes, but about incorporating all dimensions, wherein fonts can and will exist, into the contemporary creation process. Font Fiction is not offering a new perspective today on our future of tomorrow, but it’s today’s responsibility for the future of fonts. As fonts will eternally grow in yet unknown dimensions, type designers have to define a font’s general principles today to assure its time ahead.
Font Fiction (Basic Principles version 1) was written and published by Underware on the occasion of their lecture Export Future on Saturday 14 April 2018 at the TYPO Labs conference in Berlin, Germany.

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