• Layered Typeface – Reading Type and Typography

    INTRODUCTION The starting point of the project was the connection of the light to everything and making the invisible visible again. In this case, a stained glass window of the Basilica of Our Lady in Maastricht designed by Daan Wildschut.   I chose the stained glass that has the lightest reflections on the aisle floors, contains the image of Mary during the birth of Christ and has particular line structures in the design. The aim of the research by its start was to build a site-specific experimental typeface or letterforms based on the light running through the window during the day. Later on in the process, the concept changed during the experiments to the question: how can I make a structure that is based upon this stained glass window build out of connecting letterforms and shapes? The projected timeframe of the ‘image’ of letterforms due to the changing angle of the light wasn’t that important anymore to the research. The result could be generated out of the final outcome of the (de)construction of letterforms and structure itself, which was much more interesting to work on from a typographic point of view and my soft spot for grid structures or systems. This project is a small part of the overall research of the Mary devotion throughout my personal view, the church, the city and its inhabitants. In typographic ways, I will explore the possibilities of (un)readability in different grid structures in texts in my master project.   PROCESS I started working on letterforms (related to the church) and their (de)construction, movement and light within different methods for exploring my concept. I found it necessary to try out different techniques to get as many variations in my output as possible to retrieve new knowledge on the topic. Furthermore, the purpose of the experiments was to see how to get these coloured shadow shapes and their perspective in a vectorized type. I also wanted to look closer to the stained glass features itself, like the forms, lines and connections in the lead.   After taking classes in the font editing programme Glyphs, I was intrigued by the new technique of making colour fonts because of its possibilities to imply different coloured layers and work with shapes instead of whole letters. The vectorized ‘flares’ seemed very random and therefore not specific enough. Moreover, it didn’t match the stained glass technique and the reproduced perspective in the letter shapes itself instead of a real reflection didn’t make sense to me. Inspiring for my process was the Typewood research project about designing, deconstructing and transforming multi-coloured digital typefaces into wooden type for letterpress by Mark van Wageningen. This transformation and the idea of deconstructing the characters in shapes and construct a new layered character in different colours from a digital form to analog one was very appealing to me, also in connection to the construction of stained glass shapes. I figured out how to build up the capital A in different colour layers in Glyphs. As a basis, I used van der Laans Alphabet in Stone. This had two reasons that were of interest to me. On one hand, I could construct the font in different shapes due to its use for cutting out shapes in stone. On the other hand, the font in stone reveals itself shaped in the light (the light parts contrasting with the shadow parts). He built his font by a system called the plastic number. This is a ratio of three ways of partitioning a square into three similar rectangles. Van der Laan has described his letterforms as squares and rectangles which can form a set of five authentic and derived shapes. Also, the spaces between the characters are defined by its shapes. I divided the A in a grid that is based on the main five sections and colours of the stained glass window, its patterns and sections.   I realized that this geometrical font with various sides of the characters being curved, straight and inclined, was very hard to use when I wanted to connect more characters to form words in order to follow the stained glass feature of lead as a space separator (and therefore shape in itself) between shapes. Even though I made a condensed version of some characters with the aim to minimize the spacing between them to connect the different components of the characters more easily with a shape or a line, it didn’t suit my expectations. The whole set of characters was out of balance. Using the idea of the letter shape cut outs, like stencils, I focused on researching other shaped letterforms and the spacing between them. This was important for me to get the most out of the composition and balance of the design.   It would be stronger to make the letters or words a transition tool for the reflection of light itself. Acrylic glass as a replica of a window (part) is the suitable material for this because you can make precise cut-outs of it. Instead of building letterforms from the material, they are now constructed within the material (like the Alphabet in Stone).   I investigated the stained glass designs of Theo van Doesburg. He made use of balanced grid systems (form and colour) build out of rectangles and squares. I tried to make my letterforms more rectangular in shape, with less inclined sides. This worked out for the characters but not for the connection of the shapes or spacing between them.   Therefore, I made my set of positive letterforms and negative spacing shapes rounder too. I studied the typeface Boijmans by Radim Pesko for the rounder connections between the characters in outlines and lines. He uses a large variety of linked outlines. My experiments and the designs by Pesko gave me the tools to work further on my own typeface and construction of the inner- and outer shapes.   The chosen method of laser cutting acrylic glass let me think about the letterforms in stained glass in a different way. Combined with the newly gained knowledge of the shapes being at their best rounded and with cutouts, I chose to make a typeface which was compact, round and sans serif. I made sketches on paper, illustrator and the laser cutter of the letterforms, their spacing in words in a grid.   PROJECT Like Dom Hans van der Laans ratio, I based my design on a square form divided by three (trinity) rectangle rows in which the words OBEY PRAY and PAY appear. The words are referring to a protest on religious doctrine and a mantra. The lines and outlines of- and between the characters are equally in width, this makes the design balanced and more readable then my first attempts in which I made use of different widths. It also gives it a complete text-image as one shaped whole. Therefore, it refers much more to a stained glass window than the experiments that are done before.   On top of this, I went even further in my approach to handling stained glass windows and type design. By dividing the separate letter shapes of the window into four different layered colour sections, like stencils, I connected the characters with lines just as much that the minimum of connection was made. The layers of letterforms are cut out of the acrylic glass with a minimum of connections between the forms, in the middle of the shape in a horizontal line. Each layer has its own characteristics and gives the light that shines through it a new transformation. The use of the coloured acrylic plates is chosen by contrast and its most readable outcome. Firstly, the light blue window contains the inner lines of the letterforms. It also consists of the spaces between the letter shapes. Behind the yellow plate, the colour becomes green. Secondly, the yellow plate contains the inner space shapes of the characters. On top of the light blue plate, the colour becomes green. Thirdly, the red colour acrylic glass is the backbone of the window and contains the outer lines of the letterforms. It is darker than the light blue, the yellow and green colours. Lastly, the dark blue forms the basic letterform itself. It is the darkest colour. This plate contains the most cut out material in order to let the other layers ‘shine through’ it.   CONCLUSION The grid, the words, layers, the positive and negative letter shapes and the use of different colours all make the personal and contemporary window an interesting whole with a readable text image. This contrasts with the former images like the (Roman)Catholic church used to indoctrinate her former illiterate followers.   The studio project gave me a wider view of the use of colour in grid structures and looking at their contrast and readability for my master project. The use of colour can also be interesting to further research in navigation throughout the sentence as well as in the grid structure of a book spread.     www.novotypo.nl www.vanderlaanstichting.nl/pics/pdf/scan_van_der_laan.pdf