Building Typefaces as Programs: A node-based approach for modular type design



Designing a modular typeface typically involves the creation of geometric relationships between shapes that are repeated in the same letterform and/or among different letterforms. One can see these relationships as workflows that follow a logic of input, processing, and output of shapes. Therefore, designing a typeface involves a step-by-step set of operations, or instructions, that enables the designer to create a typeface in an algorithmic way.
This paper presents a system that allows one to design modular typefaces. The system allows the user to design a typeface by formalising a “recipe” that transforms a set of input shapes into glyphs throughout a node-based approach. The user can input a set of shapes that through a set of geometric operations are transformed and recombined. There are three types of operation nodes: move, rotate, and scale. The relationships between nodes are established by links that connect them. The output of one node is passed as an input to another creating a flow of shapes from node to node. This way, any modification in a node is immediately propagated to the following nodes and consequently to the final glyphs. To analyse the possibilities and limitations of this approach, we tested the proposed system with fifteen graphic designers. The outcomes and feedback made by the users unveil the value and relevance of the system and point out future directions for this work.


generative design, design tool, modular typeface, type design, visual programming language


9th Typography Meeting, November 2018

Cited by

No citations found