How can typography be represented in an alter-modern context?

Altermodern. Lettering. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

Altermodern. Lettering. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

Anna Nazarova, a final year Central Saint Martins MA Communication Design student, provides a fascinating account of her interwoven creative process, and in particular highlights the imbricated relationship between physical and digital materials that she employs as part of her design practice.

“In my final year project, as part of my cross-disciplinary practice, I work with typography – its role and place today. I am rethinking the visual and conceptual role of future arts and crafts and their digital contexts. My major piece of research asks: How can typography be represented in an alter-modern context? In my work I place typography, languages and technologies at the intersection of art and design, with a reflection of contemporary context through the concept of altermodernity.

Altermodern. Lettering. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

Altermodern. Lettering. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

The altermodernity was defined by Nicolas Bourriaud. It is characterised as a mixing of the ‘old’ and the ‘traditional’ with the ‘new’ and the ‘modern’, thereby translating and transcoding information from one format to another, and thus creating new pathways between multiple formats of expression and communication (Bourriaud, 2009).

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make the language most appealing to learning and recognition.

Robert Bringhurst

To define typography I looked at Bringhurst’s quote, from which typography is the art
firstly, and then—technique. In terms of this, it is interesting how far you can go in rethinking the role of typography today. How far you can push your mind’s limit in
choosing the medium. It is not about readability or just visual aesthetics. It is about the narrative and the message you want to communicate.

It is possible to understand my practice as a kind of provocative ‘quantum art’, reminding us that we are always becoming, that we always are many things, many times, many places and many people.

Languages and scripts, like plant and animal species, are also subject to change. Their territories grow and shrink and subdivide and fuse, but there are none that are not mortal, none that will not someday be extinct.

Robert Bringhurst

For one of the projects I worked with the Roman alphabet for Latin language, which has an extinct status, but it is still familiar to us in its letter shapes. The letter-sound shape connection is lost for extinct languages. We can’t hear the language, we just have some visual artifacts of the alphabet.

The Roman alphabet blossomed in the heyday of the Roman Empire. Roman capitals in the inscription on the base of the monument of Trajan’s Column are the most legible and perfect visual-aesthetic example of that time lettering (Sacks , 2004). They became a basis for Trajan font, originally designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly for Adobe. I used the 2001 update of the original typeface as a basis for my project lettering.

The Roman letters were carved in sunk relief. They were just a part of round sculptural monument. A subject of my project’s main interest is the letter, so I emphasized them. To transcode their original medium in contemporary context, I made each letter a round sculpture itself through the application of contemporary technology in their production.

3D modeling process. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D modeling process. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

The modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts, such as sculpting. To bring the letter sounds back to the extinct alphabet, I transformed three-dimensional models of each letter, according to the same letter sound. I tried to escape simplifications and changes of the outcomes’ original shapes. That is why the use of 3D printing was vital to the project, only by taking advantage of this technology was it possible to produce the exact shapes required.

3D printing process. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D printing process. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D printing process. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D printing process. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

iMakr store supported me with this project. I was introduced to all stages of the 3D printing process, learnt the basics of software used in different printers for models preparation, looked at the different materials currently available, and analysed prototypes printed with the application of different techniques. I applied that understanding to select the appropriate printing method and material for my project. I chose a powder as a material, to recreate the past letters, metaphorically, by building them layer by layer ‘from the dust of the past’.

3D printed letters. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D printed letters. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D printed letters. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

3D printed letters. Roman alphabet for Latin language. Copyright Anna Nazo, 2014

My work values interconnectedness: I prefer not to view time or the development of identity as linear. In my works I refer to the past (history), the future (technologies, future trends) and current fields of study (art, design, typography). For me, the space-time continuum is a more relevant way of thinking than a geographic, moment-based way. Interdisciplinarity is channeled through my passion for future trends and innovative technologies, leading to typographic work that functions as fine art.

About myself…

I am a multidisciplinary creative, currently completing my second Master of Arts degree in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins. I have a diverse background in mathematics, physics, art history, painting, drawing, sculpture, graphic, spatial and communication design, and professional experience that spans Russia, Brazil, Cyprus, China, and the UK.

I was invited to participate as a font and graphic designer and art director in a collaborative music project in Brazil ( 2011), as well as in the Design & Craft music festival in Cyprus (2013 ). I won several UK typography and identity design competitions and participated in a group exhibition at Somerset House ( 2013 ). Recently I participated as a font designer and a member of the identity design team for the UK pavilion at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture in Shenzhen, China. I am currently involved in creative  and  art direction, scriptwriting and performance for a series of collaborative photography and film projects in the UK.”

Links and References

Bourriaud , N . ( 2009 ) Altermodern. UK :  Tate Publishing
Bringhurst, R. (2012) The elements of typographic style. Seattle : Hartley & Marks, Publishers.
Bringhurst, R. (2004) The solid form of language: an essay on writing and meaning. Canada: Gaspereau Press
Sacks , D . (2004) The Alphabet. UK:  Arrow

MA Communication Design
http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/courses/postgraduate/ma-communication-design/
http://www.imakr.com/
http://cargocollective.com/annanazo