Dimensional Glyphs

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DIMENSIONAL GLYPHS is a critical report designed and written by Yue Hu. It researched the following question: “What is the relationship between typographers and typographic technology?” by utilising historical and theoretical approaches corresponding to the use of dimensions.


©YUE HU 2021 All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS BA Graphic Communication Design







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INTRO↙DUCTION We are living at a time when new technologies continue to emerge and keep changing the way we utilise glyphs in typographic practice. It is these circumstances which made me curious: What is the relationship between typographers and typographic technology? My interest in typography was established recently. Developing typography as a core part of my practice was a rebellious thought which counters the stereotype that my Graphic Communication Design education background means that the only thing I should do in my career should be illustration, due to it being conceived as the most widespread form of commercial graphic design practice. In the past three years at Central Saint Martins, I have kept asking, who am I? Am I a graphic designer? Does graphic design only mean illustration, or must we bring a much more holistic approach in modern practice?


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I was particularly inspired by Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design documentary series, which contains an episode on the work of Paula Scher, an American graphic designer who specialises in typography (Abstract: The Art of Design, 2017). Scher’s artwork shows how letters could be used as patterns in drawing. In her branding project for the Public Theatre, she placed the glyphs in funky beats for its poster—you could almost hear the sound just from reading them. By using a mixture of pioneering and traditional typefaces, Scher conducted types like they were instruments in her jazz band with unconventional spacing, various font colours and weights in perfect harmony. Scher’s work amazed me and had a transformative impact upon my own practice. I found that typography can communicate not just based on linguistic interpretation. The choice of typefaces, type size, kerning, leading,



these components could give typography vivid characteristics greater than the sum of its parts. Since then, I have been obsessed with typography and exploring using different technologies to present types in a playful and informative manner. I enjoy exaggerating the form of types while retaining a logical and rigorous typesetting system. During my research of the technological history of typography, I found it coincides with the use of dimensions. Typography has historically been conceived as the art of designing letters (Miller, 1996). Following technological changes from physical production to digital practice, type design has also progressed from the physical to the digital world, and from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional space. In typographic theory, a character is the symbol representing a letter and a glyph is the specific shape, design, or representation of a character (Strizver, 2014). ‘Dimensional glyphs’ is a term I found in typographic terminology which can be used to describe the technological growth in typography.


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Therefore, this critical report evaluates the relationship between typographers and typographic technology by analysing glyphs that exist in different dimensions. This includes critically analysing case studies and my own work within the context of the research undertaken. This report draws from both the history of typographic technology and the theories of type designers. In the first section, I explain how a glyph looks in different dimensions and answer my research question in the remaining chapters. This approach utilises historical and theoretical approaches corresponding to the use of dimensions.




My view that all glyphs can be described dimensionally has been influenced by Abbott’s Flatland (Abbott, 1884), a romance of many dimensions. Flatland is a world where its inhabitants are all in geometrical shapes. One of its citizens, Square, was able to travel in Pointland (zero-dimensional space), Lineland (one-dimensional space), Flatland (two-dimensional space) and Spaceland (three-dimensional space). It is a mathematical fiction which examines dimensions. In pedagogical theory, teaching children to draw shapes and lines is an introduction to writing letters, which will help them learn how to write in early education (Mollie, 2019). Therefore, as a glyph could be considered as a complex shape, I would like to use Abbott’s strategy to introduce a new approach in typography, dimensional glyphs which inhabit different dimensions.


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PHYSICAL GLYPHS Firstly, I need to explain the spaces between physical and digital world. The world we live in is called the Three-Dimensional world (Nag, 2019), which means that any glyphs that physically existing on earth are three-dimensional, regardless they are printed on a thin, flat paper or are handwritten on any surface. However, there is also a virtual three-dimensional space I am going to discuss in digital world, to prevent unnecessary confusion, I will call all glyphs in the physical world ‘Physical Glyphs’.

ZERO AND ONE-DIMENSIONAL GLYPHS Technically, dimensional glyphs in digital formats could start from zero-dimensional and one-dimensional spaces. However, my research shows that type could not be visually recognised within these two spaces. This is as in zero-dimensional space, there is only one point which has no length, width or height and in one-dimensional space, there is only one line segment drawn on a surface, it has only length and no width (Nag, 2019). This could be confused with Morse Code, a method used dots and dashes to encode text characters (Beechey, 1876) which could belong to zero or one-dimensional space. However, this is not the case as Morse Code needs to be visible in a higher dimension because in zero-dimension, an object has no size and only tells about the location (Willard, 2004). Furthermore,


What are Dimensional Glyphs?

in one-dimension, everything is just a length on a number line and can only be described by a single number (Gushchin, 2015). Types cannot be presented in those dimensions as glyphs are shapes, so it is impossible to be presented in a dimension which does not have at least length and width. Type can only exist above one-dimensional space.

TWO-DIMENSIONAL GLYPHS Two-dimensional shapes or objects in geometry are flat plain figures that have length and breadth (Nag, 2019). This is the typical typography we read from a screen. Two-dimensional or 2D glyphs do not have any thickness and can be measured in only two faces. This restricts type designers as type in this dimension can only be shown on a flat surface. If designers would like to give types a three-dimensional vision, for example applying visual depths, the practice of type design must move upwards to the three-dimensional space.

THREE-DIMENSIONAL GLYPHS In geometry, three-dimensional shapes are solid figures or objects or shapes that have three dimensions—length, width, and height (Nag, 2019). Unlike two-dimensional shapes, three-dimensional shapes have thickness or depth. In this space, type designers have more potential to demonstrate their creativity not just being limited by type itself. For example,


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they could further explore the properties of the three-dimensional world, such as materials, kinetics or anything as long as it appears in reality.

FOUR AND ABOVE-DIMENSIONAL GLYPHS Since I have investigated four kinds of dimensions, my curiosity has driven me to explore if there is potential that typographic design could be achieved beyond a three-dimensional space. However, in physics, the fourth dimension is known to be space-time dimension (Mam, 2020). When scientists questioned whether humans could ever experience the fourth dimension, they theorised that it would be unlikely. This is as the human brain is unable to process information from the fourth dimension so it can only be described mathematically (Mam, 2020). Therefore, sadly at least for the foreseeable future, typography cannot be practised in this dimension and dimensions above it.

My research of dimensional glyphs has shown that glyphs can currently only exist in physical and digital world in two and three-dimensions. As some may ask, why does the dimensionality of typography matter? J. Abbott Miller articulated: “Dimensional typography adds a spatial and temporal concern to the traditionally ‘flat’ and static province of the letter.” (Miller, 1996). It enables typographers more opportunities to explore type design in a more flexible and dimensional matter. Therefore, through classifying dimensions, it will be easier to understand different typographic technologies which can be used to create glyphs. Furthermore, my research has illustrated how typographers have engaged with these technologies and have sought to innovate new methods of practice with them. This section of my critical report has explained, discussed, and evaluated key terminology which is essential in understanding the following chapters.


What are Dimensional Glyphs?



PHYSICAL GLYPHS The Shift from Handcraft to Mass-Production Technology

Initially, physical glyphs were handwritten. Writing means an action of using a tool to form a pattern (like letters) on a surface. This could be done with tools such as brushes or typewriters which are instruments to add something on something (Flusser, 1999). Writing was a process undertaken with handheld instruments. Modern lead-based movable type, along with the mechanical printing press, was pioneered by the goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg in 1439 (McLuhan, 1962). Gutenberg created a process of mass-production: text and images could now be reproduced


in massive numbers. Previously manuscript text had been the norm, with duplicates in different sizes. Printing caused fundamental changes: in quantity, in speed of production, and above all made sure the identical nature of copies (Kinross, 1992). In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution took place in Britain, bringing about the world’s first industrialised country. The transition from manual production methods to machines began, and new machines reduced the need for labour. The Industrial Revolution increased production and provided more goods; for

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the first time in history, average people can afford products that only the rich could buy before (Hudson, 2011). Likewise, in typography, traditional typesetters and printers were replaced by mechanized methods. Papermaking shifted from manual production to mass-produced products, resulting in pale yellow acid paper. Books were no longer printed by hand but mechanically bound. As Meggs and Purvis noted: “Handicrafts greatly diminished as the unity of design and production ended.” (Meggs and Purvis, 2016). Cost reduction made it more affordable for people to access books, but led to a decline in quality, skills and the awareness of individual typographers. Another potentially negative impact on design was the shift from manual typesetting to new printing techniques. Many printed books and leaflets adopted a more rigid system that could be easily copied (Bolter, 2001). Therefore, the role of the typographer diminished because of mass-production. This led to a shift from ornamental typography to grey text on low-quality paper becoming the norm. During the same period, British designer William Morris was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement in the United Kingdom (Meggs


and Purvis, 2016). Morris valued artisanship and found the mass-produced methods of printing, design, and bookbinding off-putting. The rush to publish large quantities of publications damaged the crafts of fine illustration, typography, and printing. To counteract this phenomenon, Morris established his own press, the Kelmscott Press. In his notes on aims in founding the Kelmscott Press, Morris mentioned he considered mainly the following things in book design: “The paper, the form of the type, the relative spacing of the letters, the words and the lines; and lastly the position of the printed matter on the page.” (Morris, 1895). Morris’ critique of mass-production has made a profound impact on many typographers, including myself. I am particularly inspired by his emphasis on carefully considering all typographic elements in publication design. The first book published by the Kelmscott Press was The Story of the Glittering Plain, a fantasy novel written and designed by Morris. This was the only publication that Morris republished (Beckwith, 1987) and it reveals his design decisions and demonstrates his emphasis on experimenting with typefaces, typesetting, colours and illustrations.

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THE STORY OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN Published by Kelmscott Press, 1st Edition, 1891.


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THE STORY OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN Published by Kelmscott Press, 2nd Edition, 1894.


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Morris’ journey is important for designers today to consider in typographic practice as it shows the importance of the consultation, negotiation, and iteration development processes in publication design to create a better reading experience. The first edition of The Glittering Plain was printed using his roman style typeface ‘Golden’ in 1891. Morris later reproduced his book using his new Gothic typefaces ‘Tory’ and ‘Chaucer’ (Beckwith, 1987). Massproduction technologies had provoked Morris into embracing various classic scripts from his cultural heritage. The success of this book shows how legacy typography remained relevant despite advances in typographic technology. People still appreciated delicate publications and respected design traditions. While Morris claimed that only ornamental typography and high-end production could prevent typographers disappearing due to industrialization (Morris, 1895), Adolf Loos, an Austrian architect provided a different perspective. Although Loos was not a specialist in typography, his views on ornamental design and Morris’ practice are still valuable in considering the indirect impact on typographic practice.


In his essay Ornament and Crime, he advocated for smooth and precious surfaces in contrast to lavish decorations. Loos argued that the overuse of ornaments leads to a premature devaluation of the product of labour (Loos, 2019). He also argued that changes of what is considered desirable in culture could lead to the elimination of ornament from useful objects (Loos, 2019). Loos believed it was foolish to add excessive ornamentation because it is just a style that could become outdated quickly. His radical views on ornamentation are considered fundamental to the Bauhaus design studio and helped define the ideology of modernism in design (Letson, 2017). Although Morris and Loos had different opinions on visual styles, there was one thing they had in common: they both believed that mass-production technology had degraded their creative practice. The technology was a flawed tool which needed to be either dismissed and bring traditions of artisanship back according to Morris, or in Loos’ view a flawed tool which needed to be developed further to embrace modern styles of design.

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ORNAMENT AND CRIME Written by Adolf Loos, Released in 1931.


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However, is mass-production technology an awful thing at all?


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In my project CITES, INHALING, EXHALING, AND US, I produced a guide book that showcases and promotes solutions for urban air pollution that will help every individual breathe easier. The book is my response to mass-produced scientific magazines which usually present important social messages in a dull and difficult to interpret manner due to their rigid typesetting systems. To minimise the production cost for commercial purposes, scientific magazines are often printed on low quality paper which does not result in an attractive tactile experience. Warde noted that “the book typographer has the job of erecting a window between the reader inside the room and that landscape which is the author’s words” (Warde, 1930). As we are living at a time when the environment and human life are threatened by pollution and poor environmental management, I believe that the capitalist priorities of science communication designers need to change. Commercial science publications present information in an inaccessible way which is challenging to understand for most individuals. Personally, I barely read mass-produced scientific magazines. The same is true of my family, except for my 85-year-old grandma who


used to be a chemistry professor at a university. However, even she does not regularly read them as she prefers well-designed poetry books now. Hence, I decided to use my knowledge of typography as a tool to communicate science, breaking down important information regarding air pollution, which is considered as the most harmful pollution in urban areas (World Health Organization, 2021). I wanted to interpret the scientific research while making it accessible to the public. In the design process of this project, I carefully considered the readability and legibility of the typesetting system and ensured that it highlighted key information. ‘Swear Display’ and ‘Neue Haas Grotesk Text’ are the typefaces I selected for this book. The first one is an artistic choice I made for heading text, with razor sharp glyphs which fiercely urge readers to focus on the book. The second typeface, which I used for body text, was chosen for more utilitarian reasons. ‘Neue Haas Grotesk’ typeface offers a clarity which works perfectly for the explanatory texts. Both typefaces offer contemporary stylings which fit with the theme of air pollution caused by rapid urbanisation, a problem unique to the modern world (Breathelife, 2021). To communicate information in a straightforward manner, I expanded my typographic practice by utilising data

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visualisation and illustration to present visual representations of air pollution and mitigation measures. The book was initially designed in a digital space, thus there were two options for the format: keeping it in the digital space as an E-book or printing it out as a physical book. I chose the latter as when reading a digital text, the reader is more distant from the content because they cannot touch the material. Whereas, the reader of a printed book can touch the material itself (Wagner, Benlian and Hess, 2012). As I was uninterested in costdriven commercial print production, my aspiration was to print the book in a way which created a unique reading experience. However, the mass audience nature of the project in comparison to the narrow audience William Morris aimed for required a printing technology that could enable mass-production. I do not oppose the concept of enabling average people to access to the product; I only disagree with the lack of consideration for design and the exclusive concern for profits in modern commercial design. My research into print and production led me to a modern printing technology released in 1980, Risograph. Risograph is a brand of digital duplicators manufactured by the Riso Kagaku Corporation, which


are designed mainly for high-volume photocopying and printing (Riso Kagaku Corporation, 2020). Risograph is suitable for mass-production, affordable and relatively sustainable. Most importantly, the ink it uses will never dry, which means it may smudge the book while readers are reading it. It can also leave visible inky traces on readers’ fingers. Their hands can be stained, just like the cities whose environments have been damaged by air pollution. After I decided Risograph would be the printing technology for the book, my final design decision was choosing the medium of the book—paper. Materials Matters: Paper outlines how “materials have the power to affect human experiences and emotions by helping us build intimate connections with inanimate objects through touch and feel” (Materials Matters: Paper, 2019). The book emphasised asking readers to minimise pollution in their daily life, thus I chose paper made from recycled materials (paper cups and plastics), which was surprisingly affordable and viable for mass-production. I actively participated in the book’s entire design journey and it did not require a lavish design, despite Morris’ claims in his manifesto that “without dignified, creative human

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CITIES, INHALING, EXHALING, AND US Designed by Yue Hu, 1st Edition, 2021.

occupation people became disconnected from life.” (Morris, 1895). While this comparison could be seen as unfair given how technology has advanced since the time when Morris


was active, current mass-production technology has helped me to further my typographic practice in a manner which is accessible to the public.

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TWO AND THREEDIMENSIONAL GLYPHS The Game Changer from the Physical to Digital Space

Rapidly advancing technology revolutionised typography in the latter half of the twentieth century. During the mid-1980s, personal computers allowed type designers to create typefaces digitally using commercial graphic design software programs (Meggs, 2021). Digital technology also enabled designers to create more experimental typefaces, as well as creating practical typefaces with traditional typography. Since then, typographic practice utilising digital technology


has become popular and this change has been called the ‘democratisation of type’ (Rothenberg, 1990). Democratisation has given designers more opportunities to enter the typography field. When digital typography was in its infancy, text could be digitally set on screen as lead types, while previously they had to be set by hand or using machines (Moma, 2011). Wim Crouwel, a Dutch graphic designer pioneered experimental digital typefaces using then modern

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technology. Cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors were screens which early electronic devices used (Owens, 2006). CRTs could only render images in large pixels. Traditional curvilinear glyphs are too complex and detailed to be legible on a CRT monitor. This pushed Crouwel to experiment creating alphabets using only horizontal and vertical lines. Crouwel called his invention ‘New Alphabet’. He explained that “it would have to be based on a pattern of horizontal and vertical rows of pixels and a 45-degree angle. When you enlarged, reduced, widened or narrowed it, the patterns would always remain the same. That was the cornerstone for everything”. (The Foundry Types, 2020). Crouwel’s practice shows the resilience that typographers should have while facing dramatically changing technology. His innovative typeface which embraces the limitations of CRTs was designed perfectly for the digital environment of his era. This is an exceptional example


of how technology can inspire a typographer to push boundaries and develop their practice. Although Crouwel never intended ‘New Alphabet’ to be used and it was just a theoretical exercise, it received heavy publicity and inspired debate (Middendorp, 2004). Many of Crouwel’s peers thought the typeface was too experimental and it went too far. However, as a radical experiment, ‘New Alphabet’ opened the door for other pioneering designers to explore digitised, screen-adapted type design. It also brought an emphasis on style, artwork and design to typography, when the main focus of typographers were previously legibility and readability. Crouwel produced a typeface which was not merely a reflection of the available technology but was also experimental. ‘New Alphabet’ subverted the norm that typefaces were purely meant to be read, as Crouwel’s glyphs were works of art in their own right.

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NEW ALPHABET Designed by Wim Crouwel, released in 1967.


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Nearly two decades later, with the introduction of the first Apple Macintosh in 1984, the software FontEditor allowed non-specialists to design their own typefaces for the first time (Owens, 2006). The barrier to entering type design became lower, and it created chances for both professionals and amateurs to enter to the field. Due to advancements in technology allowing designers to explore virtual reality in three-dimensional space, modern designers are creating more sophisticated type designs. A glyph is no longer solely a linguistic character, it can also have physical characteristics like a three-dimensional object. Yuta Kawaguchi is a Japanese graphic designer known for his unique three-dimensional graphic style which conveys a sense of tangible sharpness, set in vivid, venomous colour schemes (Kawaguchi, 2021). I appreciate his use of metal-like textures in typography design. For instance, in his graphic design for UNDERCOVER (Kawaguchi, 2020), he utilised 3D software to digitally designed a set of three-dimensional logotypes with the lustre of steel. Kawaguchi considered the use of light in digital modelling process carefully to create


realistic designs, and this subtle light control also helped the logotype look like steel. Kawaguchi’s unorthodox approach to typography provides bold ideas to typographers, like Wim Crouwel’s practice, Kawaguchi’s typography worked with the features and limitations of the most modern technology available to him. Three-dimensional computer modelling software enables designers like Kawaguchi to utilise materials such as steel, which is rarely used in typographic practice in the physical world. This enables him to create metallic textured typography in the digital space. By giving typographic characters textures from unconventional materials, Kawaguchi established his own acid style. Kawaguchi’s work inspired me to explore the use of texture and three-dimensional typography in my own practice. Kawaguchi has also expanded his three-dimensional typographic practice into virtual reality. In his solo exhibition at the Diesel Art Gallery (Maze, 2020), he created three-dimensional works that exist in the physical world such as neon tube art, but also a giant three-dimensional visual that floated in augmented reality. Viewers could use their phone to scan a QR code and then watch his three-dimensional glyphs on their phones’ screen.

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3D LOGOTYPE FOR UNDERCOVER Designed by Yuta Kawaguchi, Released in 2020.

His typographic practice demonstrates a variety of expressions that are not just limited to literature. The works of both Wim Crouwel and Yuta Kawaguchi’s show how digital technology helped them to produce more experimental and expressive type designs. Although


active in different periods with Crouwel living from 1928-2019 and Kawaguchi born in 1989, both actively engage with what was considered advanced technology of their time, and both pioneered with contemporary styles. Technology enabled both to realise their creative visions.

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MAZE IN AUGMENTED REALITY Designed by Yuta Kawaguchi, Released in 2020.


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However, is digital technology a wonderful thing at all the time?


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‘SIO2’ is a three-dimensional typeface I created during my exploration of two and three-dimensional typography. Its shapes and forms are inspired by the manufacturing process in glass factories. ‘SIO2’ typeface comes with 26 uppercase letters and 10 numerical figures. This avant-garde typeface brings physical glass properties into a digital space, which gives viewers a surreal and futuristic vision. This project was initiated by my wish to further my use of typographic technology to design a three-dimensional typeface. Yet, my research shows that most three-dimensional typography currently available is simply an effect added on to a 2D typeface. For instance, CCTV’s New Year’s Gala is the most common watched television programme in China (CCTV, 2021). Chinese designers cooperated with 3D typographers to design the logo. This logo was a single flat image which could not be seen from 360 degrees. This made me realise that in three-dimensional typographic practice, producing professional results relies on designing in a digital three-dimensional space. It is not adequate to just apply a visual effect to an existing 2D typeface. The use of a Photoshop filter to create an embossing often creates an inferior


experience for the audience. For me, 3D typography needs to be more playful to create an effect which appears more tangible. Therefore, I decided to develop a ‘true’ three-dimensional typeface. When looking for inspiration for this typeface, I watched Cao Fei’s video Whose Utopia and I was moved by labourers’ hardships in mass-production factories (Whose Utopia, 2006). Previously, I discussed how mass-production impacted typographic practice, so I chose to use my typography to raise awareness of labourers’ difficulties. I set out to design a typeface which celebrates labourers’ work by reflecting the manufacturing process in factories. This led me to investigate industries, and I was interested in the process of glass making. Consequently, I chose to create a three-dimensional typeface based on the manufacturing process in glass factories. The design process of the typeface followed the technological history of typography. It began with the physical world as I referenced the form of molten gloss from factories and drafted them on my sketchbook. To create a digital typeface, I digitally redrew my draft in Adobe Illustrator, which I used to model the 26 uppercase letters and 10 numerical figures

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Designed by Yue Hu, Released in 2021.

Designed by Yue Hu, Released in 2021.

in Blender 3D for the complete typeface set. I chose these characters as I found that there can be some serious readability issues during my practice of 3D typography. This typeface is intended for use as an artistic element or as a headline rather than being a typeface used for extended paragraphs of text. Thus, I created only uppercase letters and numerical figures to suit these intended purposes. This typeface was named ‘SIO2’ as manufactured glass is technically

known as ‘silicate glass’ (Pilkington, 2021) which is created using the chemical compound silica and ‘SIO2’ is silica’s chemical name. ‘SIO2’ typeface has two digital modes, 2D and 3D. The two-dimensional typeface is a traditional digital font with flat figures which would allow users to install the typeface on their devices and use it in a 2D format. The three-dimensional typeface is a virtual model with a designed mould and glassy material. Users could change


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its parameters of materials, lighting or anything required to make this glass typeface more suitable for their projects. Both the 2D and 3D typeface could be utilised for a consistent product and branding as is relevant depending on the format of the project. After designing the ‘SIO2’ typeface in a digital environment, I found there was a lack of accessibility in digital typography caused by the necessity to view the typeface digitally. Keeping a typeface purely in a digital format means that viewers can only see it on a screen from a digital device. Touch Graphics: The Power of Tactile Design in conversation with artist Rosalyn Driscoll noted that “if you are touching something, you have internal sensations that give you a subjective dimension, a sensory experience inside the body. If you are only looking at something, you are not aware of that sensation.” (Street and Lewis, 2001). Therefore, I decided to create a tangible version of my typeface in a physical format. My first experiment involved the most common method, printing the typeface on paper. I created a 12-page specimen demonstrating the details and uses of this typeface and printed it with a laser printer on Munken paper. Although laser printing is an affordable and fast


digital printing method, it cannot print complex images (Cabading, 2019), especially detailed images such as ‘SIO2’ typeface’s three-dimensional glyphs. Laser printing is only effective for two-dimensional glyphs that are flat with solid colours. To demonstrate my typeface in a paper format with greater quality, I found another digital printing method called Giclée (Inkjet) Printing. It uses pigment-based ink to print on acidfree paper with archival quality, and the products it produces will have a longer lifespan than other digital printing methods (Marmet Fine Art, 2015). I created a poster with the ‘SIO2’ typeface in 2D mode to narrate the story of glass production. This poster also used three-dimensional glyphs from ‘SIO2’ typeface in a large size to demonstrate the properties of glass within the typeface. The result of this technique was amazing, Giclée printing retained all the fine details of both ‘SIO2’ typeface’s 2D and 3D modes. It is suitable for printing with complicated details. However, glyphs on a flat, thin paper give viewers an illusion of two-dimensional features, but three-dimensional typefaces will completely lose their uniqueness as they will no longer be visible from 360 degrees and their materiality is buried under the tactility of paper.

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SIO2 (LASER PRINTED SPECIMEN) Designed by Yue Hu, Released in 2021.


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SIO2 (GICLÉE PRINTED POSTER) Designed by Yue Hu, Released in 2021.


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SIO2 (3D PRINTED LETTERS) Designed by Yue Hu, Released in 2021.


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To enhance the accessibility of the three-dimensional ‘SIO2’ typeface, I researched technologies that could create physical glyphs in a format visible from 360 degrees and provide a more immersive tactile experience. It was 3D printing technology. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a printing technique that creates physical objects from a digital three-dimensional file (Lipson and Kurman, 2013). This enabled me to print the 3D model I designed for the typeface, bringing it out of a digital format. Therefore, I printed out the ‘SIO2’ typeface with 3D printing


technology using a transparent material, clear resin. Although the inspiration of the typeface was glass, it was impossible to 3D print with glass with the available resources, and clear resin was the option available to me with the most similar characteristics to glass. The results of this printing experimentation were a success, the three-dimensional typeface became could be tangible in a physical world while retaining its 3D characteristics. I have documented the interaction between the physical ‘SIO2’ typeface and my hands to prove its tangibility using a camera and a photo scanner.

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SIO2 (3D PRINTED CARD) Designed by Yue Hu, Released in 2021.


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Furthermore, to show the 3D printed typeface in use, I created a business card intended for a glass technician, using the ‘SIO2’ typeface to create a headline identifying the glass lab’s name. I chose to use the example of a glass technician as they were the source of inspiration for this typeface. I 3D printed the ‘SIO2’ typeface onto the front of the card, creating a protrusion which gives a tactile experience. Also, as the typeface was not specifically designed for readability of extended text, I decided to add further information using UV printing. UV printing is a method of digital printing which uses ultraviolet light to dry ink. As UV printing process can be used to print on almost any surface (TaylorSmith, 2018), it was suitable for the convex surface of the business card. This enabled me to add the glass technician’s information and contact details on the back of the card in a neutral typeface, ‘Neue Helvetica’. This business card is a breakthrough in the use of three-dimensional glyphs as it shows how to use


a 3D typeface in the physical world. It shows that ‘SIO2’ can enable people to communicate short headlines without any explanatory text or illustration as the typeface communicates through its shape and material. This has made the ‘SIO2’ typeface accessible in a greater range of formats, improving accessibility. The ‘SIO2’ typeface explores how a digital typeface could be presented in two and three-dimensional spaces to enhance the accessibility of a digital typeface. It highlights the beauty of the product of glass workers’ labour, despite the probable boredom of working in the factories. Through different typographical technologies, this project experimented with and evaluated different creative tools and methods. The experimentation resulted in a flexible typeface which can be used in many different formats and areas of practice. ‘SIO2’ acts as a proof of concept and has proven how a three-dimensional typeface can be functional, it can both in the physical and digital spaces.

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CONCLU↙SION According to the above critical analysis of other typographers’ views regarding typographic technology, a key common theme is the consensus that regardless of whether it is positive or negative for practitioners, technology has irreversibly changed typography. William Morris’ typography embraced craftsmanship and outdated technology, whereas Wim Crouwel and Yuta Kawaguchi championed new technology and fully engaged with it to design two and three-dimensional typography respectively. As a result of my own practice, I have found that my views have wavered on whether typographic technology is positive for designers. I held different opinions from the designers in my case studies, and yet I cannot say my opinion was invariably right. The ethical position regarding the use of typographic technology is dependant on a project’s context, without context, we cannot fully admire or despise a technique.


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Although I have utilised new technologies such as 3D printing in my typographic practice, I do not believe that typography created using modern technology is inherently better. I am inspired by both practitioners such as Wim Crouwel who embraced modern technology, and designers who preferred traditional methods such as William Morris. As a result of my practice and my research, I have concluded that typography which utilises legacy technology and evolves its use further is just as important as typography which embraces new innovations. For example, if a designer’s job is producing physical glyphs, digital technology may be less important than the choice of paper, ink and printing technology. All typographic technologies are equal, we can only evaluate them based on the context of the typography we are working on. The relationship between typographers and typographic technology is that typographic technology is like a whip that is continually stimulating typographers to push their boundaries further.



Although William Morris did not appreciate mass-production technology, it forced Morris to readopt ornamental types and create numerous dedicated publications. I have experienced a similar phenomenon; when I was struggling with the lack of accessibility of digital type design technology, I discovered the method of 3D printing and brought my three-dimensional glyphs into the physical world to make it more accessible to individuals. Typographers are evolving through the changes in typographic technology. Regardless of designers’ personal preferences, technology always compels creative industries to evolve. As a designer and type design enthusiast, my goal is to learn and embrace different typographic technologies. I do not believe that designers should worship any specific kind of typographic technology. Typographers should always try to push boundaries in their work, either by developing the use of, or by subverting technology. As shown by the designers mentioned in this critical report, some were not satisfied with


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creating physical glyphs, driving them to embrace digital technology. Typographers initially found that there was more potential in developing two-dimensional glyphs, with evolving technologies enabling them to later expand their practice into three-dimensional glyphs. So, how will the continuing evolution of typographic technology impact designers? I cannot predict the future, but I believe that it is essential for typographers to fully engage with all kinds of dimensional glyphs and to utilise typographic technology to enable them to design typography in different dimensions. Hopefully, future technological breakthroughs could create new starting points for types of typographic practice we cannot even imagine today, while traditional methods remain respected and celebrated.




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