optical illusion type

fatbob's picture

Hi there,

I've been designing a font for a while and it seems to be an on/off project. Mainly because I find more and more (wacky) ways of writing it, use it as a graphic element, etc. I'm a fan of optical illusions so I tried to get this font working as a hommage to Reutersvärd and Escher. Well, I managed to get quite a bit of impossible figures into it (it's most obvious in the B), though not in all of them. My focus was the outline of the characters, I tried to still make them legible even when not filled with the 'shading'.
I'm happy with it now and actually a bit proud to have managed to squeeze a font in the most restricting three dimensional grid possible.

fatbob's picture

Here's an image of the font 'in action'. I've already used in on a couple of designs and got some good feedback from publishers. There's just a wee bit of a technical issues to solve (won't work in fontographer).

Frode Bo Helland's picture

This is amazing. Is it available for licensing?

fatbob's picture

So far it's not (yet) available for licensing. As I mentioned, I already have some very keen publishers, but couldn't get my head around the writing angle of 30 degrees. (They want me to sort it out...) To my knowledge, all fontdesign programs are adding the characters on a horizontal line. This font was initially made to write from top to bottom but playing with it, I found more and more interesting ways of displaying it.
I thought about writing a webapplication for it, but lack in skills. I would appreciate any ideas and/or technical hints that would help making the font available to the public.

Mark Simonson's picture

The easiest way to make this work as a font is to rotate everything 30 degrees clockwise so that it can work on a horizontal baseline. When using the font, rotate the text box 30 degrees counterclockwise to get the proper effect.

hrant's picture

Very cool. In fact, I love it.

BTW, are you familiar with the work of Takenobu Igarashi?


fatbob's picture

Yes, I've seen some of his work, although I'm not too familiar with it (Love the Univers Revolved!).
Currently I'm planning a couple of lasercutting and -etches, but due to the optical illusions I guess it will never see the third dimension ; )
Mark, your suggestion was actually the first I stumbled upon and while you've got a point, some of the characters make the kerning too difficult. It needs to be done on a case-by case basis to make it legible. Another point is that any charakter is underneath the overlapping part of its predecessor. I don't know if fontdesign programs support layers (and are smart enough for the kerning).
At the end of the day: Is it worth to go through all this pain? I guess noone would ever use it as copytext...

It's still good to design some mastheads or other products with it. Here are some skis I designed recently:

P.S.: will post a picture later

fatbob's picture

The solution to the picture is:

Be soft in your practice
think of the method as a
fine silvery stream, not
a raging waterfall.
follow the stream, have
faith in its course. it
will go its own way,
meandering here,
trickling there.
it will find the grooves,
the cracks, the crevices.
just follow it.
never let it out of your sight.
it will take you.

- (quote by Sheng-yen)

fatbob's picture

Here's a picture of the skis:
(sorry for the multiple posts – couldn't find how to edit an existing one.)

hrant's picture

I'm starting to think that you need to bring this (I mean the font but
also stuff with the font on it) to market ASAP before somebody copies it.

BTW, you might have sorted this out already, but in terms of layering
shaded parts you should look at FF Primary as a good precedent:


Frambwaze's picture

Reminds me of Catherine Zask's Alfabetempo

fatbob's picture

Thanks for the comments.
There are some news regarding the font. The ski have been produced and the font had some exposure already. It has been published in Los Logos 4 by Die Gestalten/Berlin.
If you are keen to get your hands on a pair of the skis go to Kingswoodskis.com

The font and the ski also won one of the BeST awards 09, so I'm pretty happy with the outcome so far.

Regarding the licensing of the font: It is on Primetype's and Die Gestalten's desk so it may be up and running soon.

Cheers, Klaus

d0mino's picture

nevermind, realised this was posted in 2008!

ophello's picture

I assume that legibility isn't one of your concerns. The "in action" example is completely unintelligible. But as a graphic element, it's very interesting.

Somehow I'd prefer to at least be able to read it slightly, so perhaps the letterforms shouldn't obscure each other?

fatbob's picture

Hi Ophello,

I agree - readability is an issue as they obscure each other. This happens if choosing the direction to write in a 30 degree angle upward direction meaning I have to set one letter behind each other, thus making it hard to follow. My intention was to provide a sort of a starting point to lead the viewer in in order to let him 'see' the font later. (unfortunately sacrificing readability)
However - if I start setting the font in a 30 degree downward direction it is way easier to recognise as such and readability increases. The characters still obscure each other but the mind seems to fill in the gaps. I'll post a sample if I find the time…

Cheers, Klaus

fatbob's picture

here we go:

The most readable option is in the lower left corner, though I prefer the one above.

Cheers, Klaus

hun's picture

digging it
smart stuff :]

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Very cool indeed. I've made a lot simpler version:

StudioGaro's picture

I created a design a while back using an isometric grid to gain a kind of similar effect

alphapeta's picture

Hmmm—I designed an experimental typeface a little like this for my MA a few years back.

In fact I did a metal plate version, which starts life as a net, and folds into a character multi-dimensional character
—it looks like a multi-dimensional textura! I also did a 'negative space' version of this akin to using the x-y-z axis—
a little like yours. I made the forms out of wood and made it into a flick book, the characters rotate when flicked
(you can only read the letterform at a certain angle).

I haven't had it published as yet, but I would like to!

vilbel's picture

Have you seen Univers Revolved? Have a look at the prints section, you could do very similar things with your font.

ellusian's picture

I know I'm coming to this thread WAY late in the game...but curious, did you ever get the font published/license released, and if so, where and what is it officially called?

Love it--it's perfect for a short film title sequence I'm concepting...

Jean-Lou Desire's picture

This is quite similar to one I designed and is licensed by Acme Font.

mattmatthew's picture

I think it reads better with two step shading rather than the 3. When it's viewed as lines of copy, the letters seem to have better definition, each letter more discernible from the other. Maybe try a version where outer outline is given a little more weight? Or even taking that intermediate shade and using it as a shadow behind the letter to increase legibility?

DavidMac's picture

This is an old thread but if you are still watching it FatBob it this might interest and amuse you. It's not as clever, ingenious or elegant as yours but is more legible. It was an intermittent project of many months.

It's pretty useless but it gave me a lot of fun. Like you I love illusions. You will find plenty of other illusion stuff there too.


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