Forming the beginnings of an exploration in custom fonts based on personality types, ‘Speculative Type Design’ is the name of Daniel Stuhlpfarrer’s (@dnl_stu) final MA thesis at the University of the Arts Berlin. In the class of Prof. Fons Hickmann, Daniel has been questioning the margins between humans and machines in type design; examining ‘the effect that a cooperation between man and machine has on the design of type and what a future of type design could look like as a result’. Ultimately, Daniel’s thesis raises the question: ‘how relevant is the use of new technologies in terms of type design?‘
Speculating on the possible futures of type design and type technology, Daniel tells us ‘This question was further explored using the theories of Gerrit Noordzij’s “The Stroke”, Donald E. Knuth’s theory of a “metafont” and the unification of type by Douglas R. Hofstadter from the 70s and 80s. These theories were combined with new technologies such as artificial intelligence, algorithms and technological components such as variable font technology’.
Combining theory and different design technologies – not only those present but those that could emerge – Daniel tells us his speculations ranged ‘from a total shift in activity to a more concentrated design effort’. Building on this gathered knowledge, an algorithm and associated web application were developed as a way of expanding some of his speculations into a practical space.
‘This web application generates a custom font based on the personality of the human being’, Daniel explains. ‘In order to put this project into practice, a “metafont” was designed, which combines the most diverse font classifications in one font. And so the variable font “Bagage” was developed, which interpolates on 5 axes. For this purpose, 32 masters – 32 extreme points of a font family – were drawn, resulting in a large number of different possible combinations.’
Merging a blueprint of a human personality as the host for an extensive variable font, Bagage forms the basis of Daniel’s Custom Font Generator – which, fascinatingly, works on a specially developed algorithm to determine the personality of the user and transfers its findings into the axes; therefore transferring it into the font classification. Daniel explains the algorithm uses the Big Five Inventory 10 test (aka The Big Five Personality test) as a foundation for its function. And given that the Big Five test is widely renowned as highly credible, it’s so interesting to think how Daniel’s been translating it into design… ‘With this Custom Font Generator “Bagage”, you can now generate your own personal custom font’ , he adds.
Alongside the Custom Font Generator, Daniel also developed the Speculative Type Design book, printed by AusDruck Berlin. ‘The book “Speculative Type Design” is the theoretical examination of the topic’, he tells us. ‘It contains the various theories on the topic of parametric type design, but also contrary theories on type itself. This knowledge forms the basis for speculation about the future of type design. Furthermore, the book is a comprehensive type specimen for the typeface “Bagage” and a user manual for the “Custom Font Generator” in 312 pages.’
With so much theoretical exploration about the passages between tech, type and the possibilities of the future, it’s amazing to see such a practical approach being taken and a focus on a generative cooperation between man and machine; rather than a battle between the two. If you’re interested in seeing what a custom font generated by your personality might look like – now you can. Thanks, Daniel!