Rhode Island School of Design
Bozoni is a typeface made of a system of 3 stacking fonts. It is based on the original well known Bodoni font. The idea of the Design considers what happens when a vector shape (with curves and obliques) is rasterized into an orthogonal pixel grid of a screen, and what happens when our expectations for beauty and elegance are processed through imperfect technologies.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The brief was given during a workshop with designers Sulki & Min at RISD. The workshop asked a question from Norman Potter's book "what is a designer?" Consider noise, signal, redundance; are there distinctions here that would help you design anything.
To answer he brief, I decided to explore how the tools we use to reproduce language affect and distort the formal qualities of the message.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
It has been said that typography is like music in having its own beauty, and in being beautiful as an accompaniment and interpretation. From the craftsmanship of the calligrapher to the skill of punch cutters, designing letters has always been a display of the artist’s virtuosity in reinterpreting letterforms.
To celebrate the bicentenary of Bodoni's death, this project takes a look back at Giambatista Bodoni's greatest legacy, a family of modern serif typefaces: the Bodonis. This resting typeface however, ignores conventional rules and approaches type design from a different perspective; one that dismisses the genius of the creator in favor of an un-original process, based on appropriation and systematic design. In doing so, it explores contemporary screen mediums that display typefaces, and questions the notion of creativity, and generative design.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
For this project I started with the classic typeface Bodoni, known for its harmony, elegance and association with the refined fashion taste. While the design reproduces well on paper it performs poorly on screen. The contrast between thick and thin strokes create fuzziness and the curved and oblique strokes are forced into an straight pixel grid.
The only way for the software to reproduce a smooth curve on a right-angled matrix is to transform the smooth lines into jagged ones. This aliasing is countered by an anti-aliasing process where gray pixels are added on the peripheries. Aliasing is the effect that causes signals to become indistinguishable when sampled down to mediums that cannot represent a big amount if data, such as the number of points needed to accurately display a smooth curve or oblique line.
These gray elements added by anti-aliasing become noise added to the original (pure) design. They refer to the distortion or artifact that result when the signal reconstructed from samples is different from the original continuous signal. This is where the new typeface was born. I started by deforming the grid on a skewed matrix to represent how the screen scrambles signals in systematic way. This was the firs component.
The second component consists of serifs detached from letterforms. Historically, serifs are added noise inherited from the practice of stone carving.
The third component is the body of the letter, in the case of Bodoni, it is the thicker stroke that remains once the first 2 components are removed. The three versions of the typeface are therefore created by separating first the peripheries or noise added by the anti-aliasing process, second, the serifs and third, the body of the letter. This is a typeface made of three stacking versions. The resulting system disregards Bodoni’s curves in favor of syncopated ones. A closer look however reveals that a new organizing principle has been created. It is called BOZONI.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
In today's digital age, anything that is not replicable has no value. Communication happens with sharing and reproducing, it relies on the environment that surrounds it. It exists through the tools and contexts that enable it. These tools play a major role because not only they allow communication to take place but because they fashion the way it happens. Whenever a tool fails, a window for critical observation opens up.
Bozoni investigates the screen as a communication tool and its ability to reproduce original design authentically. Drawn by a computer screen and generative processes, Bozoni is a tool born to echo the device that shaped it. It embodies a design thinking that embraces technology and its shortcomings. It reflects a design practice that flourishes within the medium’s limitation in order to question the fundamental unit of language: a letterform created through accidents that are made aesthetic. By working with the original Bodoni, the project questions whether copies are an homage for the creator or a degenerated copy of the original.
With the death of the pixel and the rise of retina displays, Bozoni itself is already a relic of one technology on the brink of extinction.
The installation closes the loop from material to digital back to material bringing a digital typeface back into tangible form.