Several people – especially via email, but also in the comment section of various blog posts promoting the project – asked me, what the idea behind CROWDFONT is. It’s not about creating the perfect typeface for text and display usage. There are already tons of typefaces, that are on point for any application you can think of.
On the one hand, I’m interested in type design from a technical point of view. To draw a typeface from scratch and to learn the ‘craft’ of type design. Furthermore I strongly believe that good design comes from certain constraints (may they be determined by the designer or external, like the production costs in industrial design). That’s why I thought of asking the crowd for its opinion and setting a general framework for the typeface and its look.
It’s also about democratizing design and participation – type design is rather unsocial I guess. Like Byung-Chul Han mentions in his book ‘Schwarmgesellschaft’, (old) mass media is based on asymmetrical communication, which means that the recipient is passive. That provokes a system of heteronomy and rulership, whereas (new) digital media generates a more symmetrical communication – everybody can be sender and recipient. Typefaces have always been made by a single person or a small group (exception of the rule: Google’s Noto, which derived from a huge community of type designers, researchers, …). Of course they consider typographic rules and stuff like legibility in an other way like the crowd does because of their know-how. But has anybody ever asked the guy next door if he really likes e.g. Helvetica that much? Sure, it has its advantages, but innovations in type design are pretty rare. Maybe, because we just follow certain rules and don’t come up with rather unusual combinations of typeface elements.
As online apps like Prototypo (‘create a font in five minutes’) or Modulator by Metaflop are on the rise for typographers – which doesn’t equal type designers –, I had in mind to combine the crowd’s decisions with my design skills to bring up something (hopefully) completely new. And as the results are already in, I really think, that the CROWDFONT (or whatever its name will be) will have a rather unique style, at least in its details.
Nevertheless, I want to open the type design process, because only a handful of people I know (and who aren’t graphic designers) are fully aware of it. They use typefaces every day, but have no clue how they’re made. For me this project means learning something completely new and at the same time sharing all those insights with a non-design community.
I’d like to finish with a quote by IDEO’S CEO Tim Brown on the democratization of design(ing cities):
I believe that [the mechanisms] fundamentally lie in getting the tools of design, both the methodology, the mindset, and literally the physical tools of design into the hands of many many more people. When you only have a single, central point of control, as the designer or architect, you will inevitably get a linear top-down design solution. But if you put the tools of design into the hands of many more people, then you will get something that is emergent and bottom-up. That is the fundamental principle in my opinion; you need to literally democratize the tools of design so that many more people in these complex situations, such as cities, can actually participate in design.