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Character Building

If you have ever spent more time deciding which font would best reflect the tone of your document than considering its content, or lost sleep tipping between Helvetica and Ariel, you are not alone: You are a typofile. Last month SP@CE224 gallery at 224 Allen Street, in conjunction with JRVisuals and Silo-Design, hosted a gallery opening to celebrate TypeIsArt and invited anyone who has ever seen anything in print. is an interactive web space where weary wanders of the world wide web can hang up their hat, have fun with character design and learn a little about a medium many of us take for granted. This on-going project examines the various ways the structure of a type character can be manipulated and rearranged to create something new.
Jose Rodriguez—the JR in JRVisuals—became interested in the design aspect of font and typeface after being inspired by NYC designer Susanne Cerah’s work. The concept of the website was born when Rodriguez’s son—not yet guided by the formality and structure of letter forms—observed the fact that if he simply moved or switched one part of a letter with another, a new design appeared.
“All letters are composed of 21 distinct parts. Most Commonly these parts combine to form the characters of our alphabet. TypeIsArt allows for experimentation of forms beyond it’s typical character set,” the website simply states. Click, and you enter a space where you can create your own design utilizing a spine—the curved stroke that makes the “S” shape, a counter—“the fully or partially enclosed space within a character” (the quintessential part that makes an “e” an “e”), and a tail—the design added to a capital “O” that makes it a “Q”, among other design elements that make letter forms. The interface also allows users to increase, decrease, rotate and save images making for hours of protean typophilliac enjoyment.
Jose Rodriguez explains the font face on is called Centaur. Based on a 1475 font, it was developed for the MOMA in 1914, but was not released for public use until 1940. “Type has a illustrious history filled with espionage, romance and theft,” he adds. Font face characters certainly have character.
Indeed, the artistic design of different font faces evoke certain images. This is why we choose one over the other on our business reports and greeting cards. Printed words do not simply convey a message—“[it] is not just text, as many people see it on the newspaper or billboard,” Rodriguez says. “It’s all actually art and design.”
Silo-Design Inc., is a Brooklyn-based design and art house that focus on consulting, print, interactive, art and the convergence of these media thus making it a model partner for TypeIsArt. Finding a space for the show was easy too—Rodriguez’s wife, Jen Rodriguez operates the locally run and owned gallery and artist workspace SP@CE224. Everything serendipitously came together when the typography conference TypeCon2008 (going on now) stopped in Buffalo this week.
The TypeIsArt opening at SP@CE224 gallery is an interesting concept in that it shows print pieces, made from digital design images and inspired by an original print piece. Patrons are invited to create their own TypeIsArt design on the spot, essentially contributing a constant fresh flow of art. The interactive designs, projected on the front window of the gallery make patrons a part of the show. This allows anyone who walks by to join the experience as well—blurring the hazy line between artist, art and viewer.
If you missed the TypeIsArt opening at SP@CE224, I challenge you to visit during their public interactive art project and not become immediately intrigued with the structure and history of font and type. Interact with the newly designed webpage and make your own new art connecting hairlines and spurs. In the meantime, Jose and Jen Rodriguez are working on compiling enough images to produce a TypeIsArt book.
Type Is Art : Parts of a Character, a public interactive art project (through July 19th) Gallery hours for this event 6PM-9PM Tuesday, July 15th thru Friday July 18th, open Noon till 10PM Saturday, July 19th. Visit for more information.

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