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Type TesternotdefAbout
on type
Designing a letterform can feel like creating a scientific specimen, a carefully studied sample whose makeup can be crafted and then adapted for use in other characters. The process of designing a typeface is a balance between gesture, intuition, and math. It can produce an abomination, something functional and beautiful, or, perhaps more interestingly, something in between.
NotDef is a collection of typefaces conceived from a formal prompt (gradients, Fraktur terminals, ultra-heavy type, slender counters) and then developed through a combination of that formal prompt and particular cultural references and connotations (corporate nametags, Hōkūleʻa, non-humanoid aliens, Urag gro-Shub the Arcanaeum librarian from Skyrim). Those references and connotations are used to imagine a world within which each typeface exists. The type’s design then defines and expands upon the rules and characteristics of that world, emulating the way we can construe the qualities of a genus by studying the qualities of its individual members. 

This project investigates the ways in which type design might balance legibility and surprise to create ambiance, which can be modified by changing contexts, creating imagined worlds, and shifting materiality. Drawn letterforms demonstrate the execution of a range of expression, expanding upon the elicited feelings that are possible through careful attention to gesture and form.  
Serial Experiments Lain (1990)
on ambiance & the machine
Physical Manifestation
The installation of this project consists of 400 feet of extension cable feeding life into the presentation of the letterforms. An animation is playing on a personal TV from the 1980s, the age of Cyberpunk, a literary genre turned cultural phenomenon that blurred the lines between our human reality and existence through machines.
“While science fiction frequently problematizes the oppositions between the natural and the artificial, the human and the machine, it generally sustains them in such a way that the human remains securely ensconced in its privileged place at the center of things. Cyberpunk, however, is the breakdown of those oppositions.”  

- Veronica Hollinger (1990)
Creating ambiance and emotion, which are innately human, through an inherently technological method of digital type design and font engineering is akin to birthing a monster such as Frankenstein’s of formal decisions in the hopes of generating new life through digitally rendered letterforms.  

The variation in materiality of the installation references LAN parties, internet cafés, and the portrayal of hacker-culture in pop-culture; it also alludes to each font having visual systems and expressions that are distinct from one another.  

The choice to use these visual references also refers to portrayals of lifeforms that are created from the integration of anthropomorphic bodies and technology. In The Matrix, for instance, the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar are plugged into the simulated reality of the Matrix via the means of an intrusive, nearly surgical machine-body interaction. Similarly, when they are initially awoken from their state of artifice in the Matrix, their bodies are decoupled from various mechanical tubes, and they arise out of a viscous liquid as they see the real world for the first time.  
The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
on open source
Int he utopian view of the internet, open source enables the free flow of knowledge, remixing, and redistribution, an idea I am entranced by and see within the nature of the basic and un-restricted portable document format (PDF), a familiar child of computing. These fonts are available for free, under the Open Font License, as an experimentation for the cultivation of further experimentation.
“The question that at this point is really hard to answer is what comes after remix? Will we get eventually tired of cultural objects […] made from samples which come from an already existing database of culture? And if we do, will it be still psychologically possible to create a new aesthetic that does not rely on excessive sampling?”

- Lev Manovich (2007)
These Fonts
The fonts are in flux: in-progress, unfinished, and capable of endless designing and redesigning, free of the restrictions imposed by monetary motivation or professional obligation. The creation of forms for the sake of creation and form, a utopian ideal, surely.
“If you are looking for the true avant-garde of typography, I would not recommend traveling to your favorite foundry, or to the portfolio site of a recent graduate from KABK, but instead to a little website called Dafont.com. The most expressive typographical excursions can be discovered here, a place where legibility is pushed to the brink and corporate logo bootlegs run free. This isn’t to say that there aren’t hideous crimes lurking on the website […] but there are real moments of beauty and expression that exist well outside the boundaries of rules and taste […] it’s low bar for entry has allowed for typographic expression to flourish on the web.”

– Erik Carter (2024)