Photo courtesy of Mary Huang
By trade, I’m a technical writer. A lot of technical writers are interested in the arcana and history of writing. Some folks are fascinated by books–their history, how they’re made, how their distributed, and on and on. Some people go more for the technical side–what kind of eBook readers are there out there? How many different web-creation tools are available? You get the idea.
One thing–something so small a lot of people rarely notice it–is a common area of interest for writers: type faces and fonts.
Fonts have been under development since the first movable type printing press was created in China back in the 11th Century (out of porcelain!). Gutenberg, of course, independently invented movable lead-based type. And we’ve been torquing it ever since.
Nowadays, someone with a deft hand and/or decent program can invent their own fonts, and you see them popping up all over. Heck, I even tried my hand at it when I was at SGI, and they had a program that let you do font design (when I had no kids and a lot more spare time). But as I was poking around the web recently, I found a site run by a designer named, on which she describes a program that she is developing called . According to the web site, “TYPEFACE is custom software that translates facial dimensions into generative type design.”
Or to put it another way, your face is scanned, and hey-ho, bango, you get custom fonts based on your own personal biometric features. Yowza!
Ms. Wang says that she hopes to have TYPEFACE available soon, and she is going to make it available free for whoever wants to download it.
I found Ms. Wang’s site is interesting in itself, and I thought it was worthwhile to ask her a few questions about her design work, which she was kind enough to answer.
Gear Diary: Where are you located currently?
Mary Huang: I’m currently living in Copenhagen, since I’m in a master’s program [there] until later this year.
GD: What other designs have you done?
MH: I have a lot of other work on my website:
I work between a variety of different design disciplines. I think the interesting ideas tend to occur in combining disparate fields.
GD: What gave you the idea for this project?
MH: I’m very interested in computational design (which involves design mediated by code, data, and novel interfaces) and typography. I was playing with the camera vision library, which does facial recognition and blob tracking, and pondering what I could do combining that with type. The pun is really obvious, but in a way, made me want to follow the idea even more.
GD: When do you think you will complete this project?
MH: I do hope to have a downloadable version for people to try soon, since many people have expressed interest. I will probably do a series of revisions, since there are features to complete and fine tune. Type design is really about detail, so there is a lot of time devoted to polishing how the letters are drawn and change. I would actually like to make a physical photobooth, with the software on a computer and a printer inside, and create a complete interactive experience.
GD: Are you planning on selling this software?
MH: It will be offered for free. I suppose I could be commissioned to create custom versions of the idea if interest arises.
GD: What other applications do you see for this software, if any?
MH: I think the part of writing with live generated digital type has potential, since it’s about making digital correspondence more personal. And, if we design typefaces to be dynamically changeable, then the approach to designing a font-family becomes entirely different. The type design considerations become about defining rules and structure instead of exact vectors.
(N.B.: My thanks to Ms. Huang.)