WEB
TYPOGRAPHY
for
THE
LONELY

BRIEF

In the last year, a plethora of new technologies have hit the web, creating immense and often unexplored opportunities for artists and designers. One of the unforgettable bullet points on this list of upgrades, is the addition of web fonts. Previously, if typographic visionaries wanted to work with real text online, rather than resorting to add-ons like adobe flash, they were limited to a depressingly short list of web-safe fonts, which were either overused or comic sans. Today, It is now possible for typographers to make their work available to web designers through a wide variety of formats. These typefaces can then be supercharged using new browser technologies such as html5 canvas, css3 transforms, and the massive and powerful vector-based SVG specification. The goal of Web Typography for the Lonely is to explore the outer reaches of these technologies: deconstructing and reconstructing typography in fascinating and inspiring ways.

INTERACTIVE

I left my web typography out on the kitchen counter overnight, and this is what happened to it.

Traditional design dogma recommends two type families per page, but I think you should have four per letter.

Stained glass reached it’s apex in the middle ages. Learn how to utilize it’s effects in your type for fun and profit.

Ghosts have been a part of science for many decades, but ghost typography has remained elusive, until now.

How to make big bangs, supernovas, and other common galactical happenings inside of your web fonts.

See the original presence of Web Typography for the Lonely, complete with a blog and more info.

EXHIBITION
WRITING

My tongue is very dry: this lone thought spins on repeat, blinking incessantly like a Christmas light behind my bloodshot eyes. It is five in the morning, and I am staring drearily at my computer. My professor is probably having her first cup of tea right now. Why won't it work? I ask this question with the same tinge of direness I might typically hear in myself after a rained out baseball game, cancelled vacation, or other depressing, fateful calamity. I type a couple lines of computer code and refresh my browser. Nothing. I pound my head on the keyboard. This too, seems to have no effect. In this state of delirium, I feel it’s reasonable to barter human pain for programming solutions: like a volcano sacrifice in an episode of Scooby-Doo. With my keyboard as a pillow, I begin slowly canoeing off into a delicate sleep, while somewhere deep in the Hawaiian rainforest, Neil Young is singing me a lullaby. Then, suddenly, just as Velma has lost her glasses at the foot of the volcano, there is a connection. I spring into action, typing furiously. All the gears and magnets and planets and ducks and other things that oft align are aligning as I dance about the empty studio, flinging off articles of clothing and doing handstands. In my imagination, hundreds of Hollywood actors pour into the studio and begin reenacting the party scene from the black-eyed peas I Gotta Feeling, much to the revulsion of the security guards arriving for early morning rounds.

Writing code is an all or nothing gamble. The next day, when it comes time for a meeting with my professor, it either works or it doesn't. There's no arguing your case or defending your aesthetic as “raw”. The high stakes and all-or-nothing nature of programming often creates a dramatic atmosphere. When I code, I put my motorcycle in drive, crank it up to top gear, and jump the cliff. When I land, bikini-clad girls flock alongside me, and one of them dumps a big bucket of money on my head. When I return to design, I feel as though I’m never finished. How many times can I move this hexagon one pica to the left? How many times can you kern the word "the"? In design there is no canyon to jump. The canyon either goes on forever or never existed in the first place. After discovering the all-or-nothing lifestyle of code, with it's dramatic finales and big lines in the gravel signaling completion, it makes the endless process of design seem like an existential crisis.

I’m in fifth grade, sitting in front of a wooden desk, glaring at a piece of college ruled notebook paper. On that paper I have scribbled a math equation in pencil. Frustration is boiling beneath my skin. Somewhere near the bottom of the page, I have also written 'I hate math', paired with an intricate drawing of Green Day. My teachers say I’m bad at math, which is ok, because I have so much “creative potential”. As I get older, I learn to despise math. At college cocktail parties, I wax poetic to accountants and engineers about my mathematical incompetence. In graduate school, I have to make a portfolio website, so I start learning to code. It's not really math, I tell myself. I am still making drawings; I just need a few numbers to get there.

With time I discover I really like using numbers to make drawings. This newfound excitement fuels the growth of my skills, along with the scope of my projects and programming mastery required within. I begin with HTML and CSS, which tell information on a web page how to look, but are not capable of mathematics. As my skills grow, I dive into Javascript, PHP, and Ruby. These are true computer programming languages, meaning they can deal with math up to a rather high level. Eventually, I find myself writing some Javascript to create a patchwork of shapes, each with a letter ensnared within it. In order for the shapes to be automatically placed in the grid, in a way that is somewhat random but also somewhat planned, I have to write an equation. After some time, the equation gets pretty long. All the while, I’m grinning ear to ear like a kid with a Klondike Bar. The reality of what is happening hits me slowly at first, and then very quickly: like a comet, smashing into my stellar body and shattering parts of my psyche into smaller, orbiting moons of confusion. I am doing math, and worst of all, I am enjoying it.

I love math. I never really thought I would say it, but I’m not embarrassed. In school, I was consistently labeled as a math derelict. I was made aware of this so often, that I started to believe I couldn't do anything about it, and for a long time shunned the idea of learning computer code for that specific reason. I've come to two conclusions about math and code over the last few years. The first is that the math in most code isn't hard. It levels out somewhere around a 9th grade algebra test. The second is that math can actually be a lot of fun, if you are using it to achieve a creative goal. I've found that of all the things I need to do to complete a website that requires many lines of code in many computer languages, the math portions may be some of my favorite parts, mostly because math just works, which is awesome, and given my previous attitudes, is really a miracle.

It is eight at night, and I am sitting down in front of my laptop to write some code. I have a big HTML document, but it’s very ugly, and I need to write some CSS styles to help design it. I've got a cup of hot tea, and a beer for later. By ten, I am rolling along quite nicely, with several sections of content prettified. At about midnight, I write two or three lines of code to push a rather ugly list of twitter entries in line with the stuff above it. I hit refresh in the browser, but something is wrong. The list didn’t move. Why not? No big deal, I mumble quietly, and quickly pound out some more detailed and forceful code and hit refresh. It still hasn't moved. My gleeful smile slowly fades into a lemony pucker of hapless confusion. I look like I’ve just swallowed a spider. Flash forward three hours. The list is still there. I start imagining a smaller version of myself, living inside of the laptop screen, pushing it ten pixels over. I touch the screen, hoping to physically nudge it with my finger. Flash forward again. It is six in the morning. The list only moves now, because my eyes are watery and delirious. I begin considering different career paths: perhaps as a construction worker? Surely moving a 3 ton girder must be easier than getting this god-forsaken list to move ten pixels to the left.

The process of learning to code often falls into two paths. The first is a hair follicle singeing trial by fire only meant for the most stubborn and sadomasochistic of us. The second involves working under someone who already knows what they are doing. I took the first route, but I don't regret it. All of the wrong turns and mess-ups may have caused relatively simple problems, such as moving a list ten pixels, to take a lot longer to resolve, but it simultaneously informed me about the atmosphere I was increasingly becoming involved in. I could insert a Robert Frost quote here, but I thought it would be more appropriate to finish with a tip and a bit of code. 1) if you are working on a file full of any kind of code, and nothing is happening, Step 0 is ensuring you are using the right file. 2)

								Var Nietzsche = new Object();
								Nietzsche.quote = new Array();
								Nietzsche.thought = function() {
								  words[0] = “What”
								  words[1] = “does”
								  words[2] = “not”
								  words[3] = “kill”
								  words[4] = “me,”
								  words[5] = “makes”
								  words[6] = “me”
								  words[7] = “stronger”
								  return words;
								};
								Nietzsche.speak = function(thought) {
								  thought = Nietzche.thought()
								  var life = document.createElement(‘div’)
								  for(var i; i<thought.length; i++) {
								    var txt = document.createTextNode(thought[i])
								    life.appendChild(txt)
								  }
								}

								Nietzsche.speak();

You are at a grad school party, sipping on your first drink of the weekend, having just finished a coding marathon. You are feeling excellent, like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of computer code, secreting layers of binary power from your biceps. Lounging around the wet bar, you casually make conversation with a group of artists and writers. Things are humming along, when someone unexpectedly brings up HTML. You feel an inexplicable force of gravity pulling you into ominous mental territories with which you are scared and unfamiliar. You black out. You are floating in an empty void. Stephen Hawking drifts by playing a game of checkers with Albert Einstein. Charles Babbage is doing cartwheels around you. You awake mid sentence, talking about the processing advantages of recursion. The party is silent. You are foaming at the mouth.

There are stereotypes about computer nerds being pasty closet cases for a reason. Talking about code is the fastest way to lose all your friends or inadvertently acquire ones who like playing Settlers of Catan. As a designer who hangs out with a lot of creatives, I don’t get to chat about code much. So when someone feigns even the slightest interest, I can be tempted to attack them like a manic star wars fan passing George Lucas on the street. In the end, it’s best to keep jargon to the few and fortunate of us who understand and love it. Though even with this knowledge in hand, I occasionally slip and let loose a couple of CSS properties– like curse words from a nun. People are always kind, nodding their heads whenever I find myself on a tangent. I can almost see the mental hammers behind their eyes, obliterating all of my shoptalk as it passes from one ear to the other. In the end though, it feels good to be in the know, and when I do find someone who shares my passion, the beers and conversation seem to never stop flowing.

I didn’t learn how to write code in a computer science course. There were no professors there to coach me, only design teachers from another era, one where adobe dinosaurs and offset print mammoths roamed the earth, nodding their heads slowly and trying valiantly to help with the limited knowledge they have. Because of this, learning code has become an intensely personal journey, one that is often difficult to find kinship in with other designers. When they have a problem with CSS or HTML, my sleepless nights can usually offer a solution in minutes, but if I run into a problem, it’s another tally on the list of moving lists ten pixels over. It’s easy to get embittered, especially at five in the morning, but when the going gets tough, I’ve always got Nietzsche and mathematics on my side. In one day I can jump from something as abstract as branding, to an incredibly technical engineering problem. The dynamism of it is invigorating, and I feel absolutely fortunate to be involved in such an embryonic and explosive world. At the very least, I’m certainly never bored.

BY CHRISTOPHER CLARK ~ SITE ~ TWITTER ~ 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED