CROSS-SENSORY TYPOGRAPHY: the future of type through the computational lens (2020)

  • Bianca Maria Nitu

‘The new Typography is not just about type, it is also about color, texture, lighting, three-dimensionality, and motion. It blurs the boundaries between language and image creating new visual identities and a new visual syntax for words and phrases. The new typography expresses ideas and feelings – on pages, screens, and all around us in the everyday environment.’ – The New Typography: An Interdisciplinary Symposium Noble, I. (2003). The New Typography. Eye Magazine. Cross-sensory typography: the future of type through the computational lens is a speculative typographic, research project. It lays its basis on theories that discuss how typography is moving towards a multi-sensory future where the static becomes fluid, dimensional, and reactive and technology is the catalyst. Throughout the project, synesthesia is used as a metaphor for explaining the typographic speculations and experiments. The curation of materials aims to open a discourse about the advancement of typography concerning automatization. Does the future involve the principles of synesthesia being employed by typographic design? Synesthesia is a principal notion in the analysis of the link between media, culture, and the sensorium. Heyrman(2005) defines it as a natural form of virtual reality. Synesthesia is a neurological condition, in which one sensory stimuli causes different sensory physical experiences as a result of perceiving one or more different senses by cross-modal association, which is automatic, involuntary, and irrepressible (Merter, 2017; Harrison & Baron-Cohen, 1996; Cytowic, 2002). This project aims to involve the audience in a discussion about the future of typography and technology by casting light on the new design approach: the fusion of emerging adaptive technology with multisensory design.

Visit the website:

Synesthesia is in very close relationship with perception, creativity, and imagination. Since design appeals to senses and provides multi-sensory experiences to users, synesthesia can be developed as a multi-sensory design method and framework – a multi-sensory instrument – having the potential to change the perception of the practice and the embodiment of a design idea accordingly - Sevi Merter, Synesthetic Approach in the Design Process for Enhanced Creativity and Multi-sensory Experiences, The Design Journal, 2017.

The digital mutation of typography

The information overload is causing a change in the use of language. The nature of text has been drastically reformulated - it is no longer flat or static. By modifying the language through the machine, our thinking, reading, and visualizing are also modified. The project incorporates experiments that speculate on letterforms and educate on the ‘digital mutation’ that typography suffers.

Publication structure and narrative

The structure of the publication is strictly connected to the content. It includes a curation of interviews, essays, articles, and book extracts. The placement of the information and visuals is mirroring a dialogue, where different thoughts and ideas come together to define a conversation.
Technology and experiments
With the use of Adobe Dimension and Adobe Capture, I designed abstract letterforms in 3D space and studied the role of substance, material, position, and light. Personalized materials have been later applied to the 3D models. From a stylistic point of view, it was aimed for the letterforms to resemble ‘digital sculptures’ - products of the technological age. Mass-produced materials served as inspiration.
Visit the Cross-Sensory Typography website:

Dimensional typography

The configuration of the letters was based on the investigation of lexical-gustatory synesthesia - an effect where words and letters trigger automatic associations to shapes, colors, and textures. Links have been created between certain letters and certain structures, fabrics - organic/artificial, soft/sharp, transparent/opaque.

Typography in space

Interactive HTML Canvas - study of the senses, space, perception, motion and user interaction. This experiment is using a modified and adapted version of HTML/CSS/SCRIPT sample.

Final outcome

The final outcome includes a printed publication, a website, and the identity for a symposium with the same theme.