Experimenting with Evolutionary Typography

By Erika Goering,

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Typography4
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Something I’ve been thinking about the past couple of days is what experimental typography really means.

By definition, experimental typography is a process of discovery. It’s not just an unconventional method of communication; it’s utilizing the scientific method. The goal is to learn and break new ground.

Experimental type is not planting seeds in the shape of letters and watching them grow. Because that’s not an experiment. You already know how it will play out. An experiment would be using your plant-letters in such an environment that would allow things/people/animals/nature to act upon it to see how that degenerative process changes the meaning of the message. No one can predict what exactly will happen. That’s why it’s an experiment.

And because of this uncertainty, experiments will sometimes fail. But that’s okay. Failure is an unexpected outcome. Failure is necessary for progress. And sometimes failure is just as interesting as success. Success is sometimes boring and predictable. And where’s the fun in that?

I was talking with my geeky boyfriend about all of this, and he mentioned the parallels that experimental type has with evolutionary programming, where a programmer writes code at a kind of starting point, and then allows that program to direct its own evolution. Then after that process has completed, the results are completely outside the realm of what the programmer would have originally thought would happen. It grows and changes in ways that no one would have thought.

So, in addition to thinking about experimental typography, I should think about evolutionary typography, where it changes over time to create a message that I didn’t necessarily intend on conveying. And that’s what I plan to achieve this semester. Acquire knowledge through experimentation and unexpected outcomes.

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