Typefacial Recognition at H&FJ Labs

Typeface: Ideal Sans

We’re generally content to control font outlines by pushing points around on a screen, but an intuitive interface for managing the entire gestalt of a type family remains elusive. Andy Clymer at H&FJ tends to develop fonts and tools together (one always seems to be the excuse to create the other), and this is his latest exploration: using facial recognition to control the basic parameters of a font’s design.

Behold Andy modeling his latest creation, which employs Kyle McDonald’s FaceOSC library, GlyphMath from RoboFab, and Tal Leming’s Vanilla to mutate the geometries behind our Ideal Sans typeface in realtime. I’m intrigued by the potential to control local and global qualities of a typeface at the same time: fingers and mouse to design the details, faces and cameras to determine their position in a whole realm of design possibilities. I wonder about the possibilities of a facial feedback loop, in which one’s expression of wonder and delight could instantly undo a moment of evanescent beauty. And then there are the possibilities of environmental pathogens affecting letterforms: what might too much caffeine, air conditioning, or ragweed pollen do to a typeface? Listening to Louis C.K.? Too many whiskey sours? —JH

Ideal Sans: A New Font Family from H&FJ

Typeface: Ideal Sans

Typefaces are born from the struggle between rules and results. Squeezing a square about 1% helps it look more like a square; to appear the same height as a square, a circle must be measurably taller. The two strokes in an X aren’t the same thickness, nor are their parallel edges actually parallel; the vertical stems of a lowercase alphabet are thinner than those of its capitals; the ascender on a d isn’t the same length as the descender on a p, and so on. For the rational mind, type design can be a maddening game of drawing things differently in order to make them appear the same.

Twenty-one years ago, we began tinkering with a sans serif alphabet to see just how far these optical illusions could be pushed. How asymmetrical could a letter O become, before the imbalance was noticeable? Could a serious sans serif, designed with high-minded intentions, be drawn without including a single straight line? This alphabet slowly marinated for a decade and a half, benefitting from periodic additions and improvements, until in 2006, Pentagram’s Abbott Miller proposed a project for the Art Institute of Chicago that resonated with these very ideas. As a part of Miller’s new identity for the museum, we revisited the design, and renovated it to help it better serve as the cornerstone of a larger family of fonts. Since then we’ve developed the project continuously, finding new opportunities to further refine its ideas, and extend its usefulness through new weights, new styles, and new features.

Today, we’re delighted to introduce Ideal Sans®, this new font family in 48 styles. Ideal Sans is a meditation on the handmade, combining different characteristics of many different writing tools and techniques, in order to achieve a warm, organic, and hand-crafted feeling. It’s distinctive at large sizes and richly textured in small ones, and available today in packages starting at $149.

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