Alternative Fuctional Typography

anonymous's picture

I'm doing an article on functional typography, but not ordinary type. Forget legibility etc. What I want to dicuss is type that has another function besides the presentation of letters and words. Think: Manhole covers, the type gives the name of the manufacturer and perhaps the city, but it must also create grip for the soles of shoes. Braille (probably spelt wrong) must be legible to the hand not the eye.

What I need help with is coming up with more examples...so post away.

Thanks.

P.S. I found this site the otherday, its amazing!

nathaniel's picture

What about type on medicines and hospital equipment. I remember a news paper article about a case where a doctor administered the wrong medicine because the packaging and typography was almost identical to something else.I think the patient actually died.

Also type on packaging boxes that reads
THIS WAY UP or FRAGILE.

Off topic but are there different styles of braille obviously keeping the same dot pattern
but instead of dots, raised squares/stars to give certain words more importance like warnings on hazardous liquids like bleach?

Hope this helps.

Diner's picture

Military Dogtags, Lit Exit Signs, Debossed Tire Tread Inflation Specs, Vintage Bricks Embossed with Company's Name, Illuminated Elevator Buttons, Country Design Napkins, Themed Adhesive Bandages, Pyrex Liquid Measuring Cup, Coffee Maker Water Indication Fill Lines, M&Ms, Andes Mints, Alphabet Soup, DYMO Lables, Old School Typewriter Balls, Fruit Roll Ups w/ Die Cut Letters, Tic Tac Toe - any application, Scrabble . . .

I think alphabet soup is my favorite - not only are the letters decorative, they also serve to enhance the 'body' of the soup as a pasta.

Stuart :D

gulliver's picture

Food: Along with alphabet soup, there's Alpha-Bits cereal, candy letters, letter-shaped cookies/biscuits, and even letter-shaped pancakes.

There are letter-shaped notepads, keychains, bookends, candleholders, and the like, which function as monograms or identification in addition to their more obvious uses.

How about beads with letters on them that are made into personalized necklaces and other jewelry?

Also, customized vanity license plates serve the dual functions of vehicle identification and personal expression.

David

beejay's picture

LAX (airport) and Disneyland both have letterforms as 'public art'. At Disneyland California (a newer theme park right next to Disneyland) people snap pictures of their subjects sitting in the counters of the letters. The letters are roughly 15 feet high and spell out California.

Never been to the Trajan column, though.

gulliver's picture

I also thought of the gardens at Disneyland, where the flowers are arranged in the form of the Disneyland logotype. There's also the "HOLLYWOOD" sign (formerly "HOLLYWOODLAND") which could qualify as public art, or at the very least, a major landmark.

Here in Utah, high schools, colleges and universities have enormous whitewashed concrete letters embedded in the sides of mountains (Brigham Young University's "Y" or the University of Utah's "U"). An extention of this was the huge light sculpture of the Olympic rings which adorned the mountain near the "U" at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

I also came up with children's building blocks -- the cubes with letters and numbers marking the faces of the cube. They can be considered educational as well as recreational.

David

Michael Surtees's picture

hopefully this post isn't too confusing.

when i considered functional type to meaning, i equated it with its form. lets say i were to copy the aesthetic of a postal systems stamp {that stamp the postal office puts on a the stamp that you put on an envelope} and change the words of that system stamp to something that really didn't relate to its form. if i was a person that takes visuals for granted, perhaps I'd look at that circular mark and understand through its form that its gone through the mail system. if that's the case than its functional to me.

w/ all that said though, i think that if a letter that a sign maker has produced works for support for a bird as a home for its nesting materials then whom i'm a to disagree w/ its function? i hadn't considered that materlal aspect as much as i will now which is very cool in that if the original question hadn't been asked i would be no further ahead.

Jared Benson's picture

I keep thinking of bicycle (mountain bike/bmx) hand grips - there's a company with a typographic logo who repeats it over and over in the rubber, the result being a highly grippable surface.

glutton's picture

Actually there is a history of beautiful lettering and design elements (e.g. knotwork) to come out of Ireland. Some of the most famous illuminated manuscripts ever are Irish. The look is a bit over-exposed in the U.S., but it definitely gives you a starting point. Good luck!

hrant's picture

Ian, this is a great project.
Please keep me/us posted - thanks.

hhp

hrant's picture

Ian, here's something for you:
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/amster_h.jpg
It's a photo I took in Amsterdam a while back. I think you tie boats to it. So it's an "H", but not because it *has* to be. If you'd like to use it, please let me know.

hhp

beejay's picture

nice. where did you find that?

Also there was that T-shirt submission with the chocolate candy letters. You cold probably use the tray as a candy mold, too. Nice touch for a get together with some other type peeps.

hrant's picture

> You cold probably use the tray as a candy mold

Your freudian slip was cool (pun intended).

{Martin, sorry for being an pseudo-erudite pig.}
I can't help but mention an article by G W Ovink in an old issue of Spencer's "Typography" magazine (ask me to look up the exact issue, assuming you're willing/able to make me care enough) which explains in delicious detail how the Dutch make their chocolate letters.

hhp

beejay's picture

>> {Martin, sorry for being an pseudo-erudite pig.}

okay Ice Cube. no worries.

hrant's picture

I know you're not Martin, 'cause I've met both of you, plus it was like at the same time.

BTW, I've always prefered Ice-T, 'cept when Cube had that rad TV show, remember?

hhp

Miss Tiffany's picture

Wasn't that LL Cool J? ;>

Miss Tiffany's picture

Didn't notice if this has been added yet, but what about the braille on ATM machines?

beejay's picture

Ice-T is actually a gifted typographer. He's really good at the 'T' especially.

:: Is a 3-day weekend coming soon?

hrant's picture

Typophilia knows no holiday.
(Hmmm, t-shirt text?)

hhp

Jared Benson's picture

I have that ice cube tray! It sucks, because the type fragments into a million pieces when you try to extract it from the tray. What a drag.

"Uh, here, have some Carson-esque ice with your Coke"

hrant's picture

> the type fragments into a million pieces when you try to extract it from the tray

Use slightly impure water (like from the tap, or add a touch of salt or sugar).

hhp

Miss Tiffany's picture

ROFL Three-day weekend INDEED!

> Use slightly impure water

I was just going to add that you should use warm water not cold water.

Are we typophiles or ...

tsprowl's picture

you could start the book with byzantine art leading to illuminated manuscripts. the Drop cap often having a dual purpose, 1) for starting the passage, 2) an illustration.

I don't know if this fits (maybe just functional typography with no other purpose then simply functional) AMBULANCE...often printed backwards and reflected so we can read it in rearview mirrors at the flip of a dime.

telephone buttons - after its stardard 3x4 rows of digits, even if the printing has rubbed off we associate a pattern of dailing a number without seeing the number. keyboards work on the same concept. letter forms arranged in a functional manner that facilitates typing - and then how that invention almost westernized the whole world's form of cummunication. Ethiopia for example having to adopt the roman alphabet, transforming their entire language into 2 different modes.

hrant's picture

> that invention almost westernized the whole world's form of cummunication.

Oh, Latinization is just gaining steam now. Part 3/3:
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/ss_rome3.html

> Ethiopia for example having to adopt the roman alphabet

Did this happen last night?

hhp

tsprowl's picture

why yes supreme knower of all,
it did for me at least when I realized I had to lay out a magazine in Ethiopic and was informed of the new fonts they've just released for communication....before it was either that or scanning the articles or english.

here's some background from:
http://www.ethiopic.com/index2.htm

Ethiopic or Geez is one of the oldest alphabets and has been in use in Ethiopia for more than 3,000 years. Until we computerized Ethiopic, the alphabet was printed manually or in the printing presses. Starting in 1982 we have taken the beautiful Ethiopic through DOS (ModEth, 1988) and Windows 3.0, 3.1 and 95. We have continued to develop applications for communicating with Ethiopic scripts via e-mail and the Internet since 1994. Our Ethiopic scripts contain the 480+ characters and require a maximum of two keystrokes to type each character. Our clients have started enjoying Ethiopic HTML (and HDML) on the information superhighway. Our sites are under continuous construction and the pages will have many language alphabets. Currently most of our Ethiopic web pages are in English and Amharic (Aírµ) languages. We expect to see documents in many of the languages of this historic African region in the near future. As of January 1997, Ethiopia has obtained limited access to the Internet and this has enabled Ethiopians to see our multi-lingual site for the first time. However, the use of Ethionet requires prior publication of Ethiopic documents using our software.

These pages are also dedicated to Ethiopic and the technology we have been developing and standardizing for it. You will find some free software or links to software for use with Geez documents. We will have many links to Ethiopic and Ethiopia related references, news, lessons, products, advertisements, organizations, entertainment, etc. in Amharic and English. This is the multi-lingual Ethiopic information superhighway at its infancy.

Our products are protected through pending patent, copyright, trade secrets, etc. We have also submitted patent application to the Ethiopian government though there was no patent protection in Ethiopia. (In spite of these, our fears have come true by the proliferation of copycats to plagiarize our products. Beware of copycats who would try to peddle incomplete character sets and macros as Ethiopic software. None of the copycats can type the Ethiopic characters using two keystrokes or less per character or post Ethiopic documents on the Internet. Click here to read about our concern and elaboration on this topic.) Click here for the Amharic version of this introduction.

hrant's picture

Dear Miss Spgrowl,
As that page states, Ethiopic digital fonts have been around since '82. By "westernized" I thought you meant the actual forms (not the technology), not least because printing -from movable type- was invented in *Korea*.

BTW, Geez is a syllabary, not an alphabet, and it's nowhere near that old.

hhp

tsprowl's picture

yes the forms were changed. I did mean the forms coincidentally the tech has changed for them with the web too. there are 2 different sets of Ethiopic since the keyboard came around. the 82' typeface was altered to facilitate typing. its not the same as the original that is hand written.

1982 wasn't that far away in terms of what I thought was typographical/functionality/change worthy of mention in a book.

anywho, I'm not arguing, I thought your expression sounded sarcastic But I'm not talking out of my ass.

hrant's picture

> yes the forms were changed.

Now that's interesting! And just the type of thing I'd like to add to my presentation in Rome (even though I'm supposed to be cutting down on the content...), since one thing I'm trying to show is how technology can reduce cultural authenticity. Sinhalese is one great example: they actually changed some basic spelling to make it easier to typeset!

So, does that Ethiopic site have any info on this phenomenon, or do you have other good sources?

hhp

garyw's picture

I think this might expand the topic of functional typography into motion graphics.

nop_sing by Benjamin Louis

I found this at soundtoys.net. It is a beautiful audio-visual creation where type functions as texture and form.

hrant's picture

> Reminds me of that horrible font HOBO

Which makes total sense, what with it being in the street and sitting in crud...

BTW, I clearly remember reaching down to clear all the crap before taking the picture - but stopping myself just in time.

hhp

Joe Pemberton's picture

Ian, I think you're trying to get at something
more tangible, like when type goes beyond visual
communication to function as something else
entirely. In your example, type must provide grip
on a man-hole cover. It's no longer just type,
it's actually a texture with a purpose.

I can only think of a couple, like type on the
soles of shoes that also provides grip.

How about the raised letters on credit cards so
one can make a rubbed transfer of the info?

Or how about when birds nest in the counters of
large signs.

Or when the type on a medicine bottle is raised
so that it can't fade or be rubbed off, which
also provides grip.

Am I taking your example way too literally?
If so, please kill me quickly.

anonymous's picture

Joe thats it! Exactly. Today I thought of the S and the P of salt and pepper shakers; when they become the holes through which the substance is dispensed. You are perfectly right in saying that I'm interested in type that surpasses the function the type designer originaly intended.

Typography that is taken to another level, not one of aesthic value, but of a practical nature.

anonymous's picture

Thanks a million everyone. The suggestions are great! You've really filled my head with tons of ideas. I love the alphabet soup.

I'm looking at this from an Irish perspective naturaly because I live in Ireland. The reason I want to write articles like this is because in Ireland there is a serious lack of interest in typography, something I want to address. We have never been famous for our designs, unlike the Netherlands, and I think it boils down to people becoming too safe in their offices sitting in front of their computers. I want them to read about design and not be overwhelmed by the technicalities (such as ledding and EMs). I would like them to perhaps look at design from a slighty different angle than they normally would. It would pleasure me to think that someone on the bus would go "hey thats what that guy was on about" as they drove past an aspect of design after reading one of my articles.

So here I go on my merry quest...
=)

Joe Pemberton's picture

One more: Icecube trays and of course the ice made therefrom...

icecube tray

Courtesy of this site

Joe Pemberton's picture

BJ. I just did a google image search for "ice cube tray".

anonymous's picture

Actually, back to the original subject, I keep wanting to say "skywriting", but that's just a different medium, not functional ... unless you were writing "Just Say No" in Paraquat over a coca field.

It is time for a long weekend, isn't it.

anonymous's picture

Wow, this tread was asleep for a while and now its awake and well. All the suggestions are good. I'm still working on the article but just got a new job so thats slowed things down. When I'm finished it maybe we can post it up here somewhere. Thanks Hrant for the email. Like the H concept very much. Reminds me of that horrible font HOBO (in a good way of course)

Michael Surtees's picture

A while back I thought it would be interesting to collect images of that sort with my digital camera for future reference. Some of the categories that came to mind included public space, office area, private home and everything else out there. Public space could include everything from a parking street meter to that generic closed store sign that shows when it's open. Office could have the hold button on a telephone all the way to the postal systems stamp over a letter. Misc. could include that "Hello my name is" sticker to the type on the outside of a light bulb. As a side note, I'd be interested in reading the article when your finished...

m

Syndicate content Syndicate content