What marks the ‘birth’ of a typeface? When it was first drafted? Mastered and exported as a font file? Made public, available for purchase, or plagiarised? Or when it is first used by someone else? If we see typefaces as tools to be used by others, then we can argue that a typeface is only truly alive when it is put into circulation by the hands of others.
Once a typeface is released, or projected into the vacuum, it gradually escapes the designers’ control, their gravitational force. Its signals bounce back and forth in the circulation, sending feedback and receiving updates from the creative cycle. The typeface may orbit tightly around its original context, or be let loose on an unpredictable trajectory; nevertheless, these changing conditions continuously test the fortitude of its concept and the flexibility of its form, while making the typeface ever more alive.
In type design, proof is an essential tool to test the typeface in question throughout its production process. The title Proof of Concept situates each object on display as the latest proof in its ongoing conceptual exploration. Most if not all of the typefaces in use are works in progress that require further proofing, and the gallery offers a transitory space for these proofs to discover their performative qualities.
The exhibition features 14 objects designed by students from the Master Type Design programme at ECAL (University of Art and Design Lausanne). Practitioners are invited to identify projects that they wish to translate into physical proofs, and the translated objects would conceptually or formally connect to the original typefaces. From there, these proofs take on wildly different forms, small as a sticker, large as a floor choreography, light as a piece of paper, and heavy as bricks.
Objects were produced on demand via orders to online manufacturers and local service providers in China. With each order, long-held beliefs in type design are confronted with a series of limitations and opportunities specific to the Chinese context; with every unorthodox combination of form and content, there is always an unforeseen element ready to go rogue. In retrospect, this process of constant adjustment and self-discovery reflects the reality of contemporary type design: you can never make the same proof twice.
Eran Ben Barak
Thorgeir K. Blöndal
In Collaboration with:
About the Master Type Design programme at ECAL
ECAL is introducing a new master’s degree in Type Design as from the 2016 academic year. Unique in Switzerland, this two-year programme gives graduate students with a Bachelor in Graphic Design an opportunity to develop projects in the long term. This training provides privileged access to one of the flagship disciplines in Swiss graphic design, relying on ECAL’s expertise in this field as the first Swiss school to have integrated digital typography as part of its curriculum.