project began as an assignment for my first-year design students to get them to
look more closely at the formal qualities of letters. The results were
interesting and promising, so much so, I felt that it’s something I could learn
from as well.
all day, every day, but rarely look at letters as individual forms. As a matter
of fact we read words as images as researcher Maximilian
Riesenhuber of Georgetown University Medical Center points out, that our neurons…respond to words' orthography—how they
look—rather than their meaning1. Meaning word shapes are cataloged
in a specific part of the brain and then recalled when we read.
to deconstruct letterforms and applied for and received a grant. My premise was
that by removing letterforms from their context and recrafting them we could
make them more visible. Transforming them from delivering content to content
itself. However, the grant total was very small and, in the end, the project
felt kind of stupid. I am not sure that other than type designers, regular
people and even designers really care, but they may if presented with an
abstract shape printed beautifully as a poster or experienced as a large
to say, I never finalized the grant but kept on exploring – working towards an
alphabet, printing these as art prints and using 3D printers to bring them to
life. Without explaining what these are viewers are responding to their formal
qualities and composition and then gradually understand the source material -
aware of Ed Fella’s fantastic mash-up of hand drawn fonts born from mechanicals
and commercial art hand lettering. His work has a wild energy and is beautiful but
can seem random and intuitive. There is no arguing that this work is not random
or intuitive but has a different goal — not to make meaning, but to increase or
initiate awareness of normally invisible characters — to render letters as form
only, not to make legible figures.
I didn’t use Fella’s work as inspiration for
this project, but reviewing it now points to a new direction or usefulness. To continue
to deconstruct common elements of graphic communication, but keep it a more rigid
assignment, and incorporate into my client work by either developing a complete
font or using the forms is some meaningful graphic way.