Independent Study : Final images

April 22nd, 2011 by mclantin

Here are the final images for this Independent Study based on Susan Sontag’s quotation : “The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.”

Instead of using patterns or shapes, I decided to create shapes made of patterns. All patterns were constructed with words from the quotation.

Letters are always visible until some extend.

Tryouts of patterns and shapes… and text!

April 3rd, 2011 by mclantin

Here are a few examples of what I have been working on for the last month. I tried to find the balance between the shapes, the patterns and the text. I need to find a way to incorporate each of theses ideas into the same image.

More on patterns!

February 25th, 2011 by mclantin

I have recently found a new way to make patterns with shapes built in Mr. Softie. In my Independent study project, I need to use repetition to represent the idea behind constructing and disclosing, behind the painter and the photographer.

In my last project, I mixed repetition to the concept of copies where I would print a pattern designed on Mr. Softie, scan it, print it again… until I obtain the texture of the paper, the feeling that everything was copied. However, I had to find a way to show the repetition without falling in such a boring comparison! This new technique is made from a screenshot (yep, only one!). It think it is more relevant mainly because it’s impossible to tell what it’s based on. The result seems incredibly close to a painting which, in the case of my independent study, works perfectly!

First image : the original montage

Second image : same picture, this time with the pattern effect added

Shapes / Patterns tryouts

February 18th, 2011 by mclantin

More details on the first Independent study project

February 12th, 2011 by mclantin

I have been working on using Mr. Softie to create patterns that I could insert in my work. Since it will be a technique I will use again for the second project, I thought it might be interesting to show an example right now.

I first designed this pattern in Mr. Softie and printed it out. I then scanned the sheet, boosted the contrast on Adobe Photoshop, printed it again, scanned it again… it could be an endless process!

It’s also a good way to get the texture of the paper, to add the idea of copy and layering in my work.

Here is the  pattern :


And here is where I disposed it last week :


An independent study with Mr. Softie

January 27th, 2011 by mclantin

The quote for this project is : “The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.” written by Susan Sontag.

Actually, at the beginning, I was supposed to take one quote per image but I realized that this sentence describes the whole project. If you take a closer look to this sentence, you understand that it is an opposition, formally and conceptually. In fact, this quote is split in two, right in the middle.

My idea for this independent study project was to make three images that would use photographs and, by adding words transformed by Mr. Softie, make them look like paintings. From afar, the viewer would be caught between the lines and shapes, lost in a large abstract print. Up close, some words and short phrases would be highlighted (disclosed), visible enough to be read. Words from this quote on perception, would compelled the viewer to question what he really sees. This way, the viewer would be confused and have no other choice than interrogates what he perceives.

I had a hard time to figure out how to add photographs to letters in an interesting manner. I finally came to the conclusion that cutting plain areas by adding lines (or precise shapes) was extremely useful. Making theses lines in Mr. Softie required that I played with the repetition of each words which made me more than happy (repetition is an important characteristic of photography, the ability to reproduce the same frame, the same letters, again and again) and stretch them in a proper way. Indeed, those lines have a huge impact on the photograph that is behind : they make it look like a drawing/painting that was photocopied many times. With a closer view, the viewer can distinguish easily that the lines are made of letters, that the background is a photograph. The two other works can be read in the exact same way : the photomontage effect allowing me to simply distort what is perceived even more.

Also, since I am really interested by this Susan Sontag’s quote, I decided to add a little bit of challenge and group the words The/the, painter/photographer, constructs/discloses together and use one group per image that I will do. At the end, I will have three images and each of them will be composed of one part of the sentence. I could then dispose the three prints one on the other which should give much more dimension to my work*.

Here are two versions that I have been working on simultaneously.

First row : First version with two close-up.

Second row : Different point of view of the second version.

* To be honest, I have no idea if printing on plexiglass could work… Maybe! 🙂

Shaping Language

October 8th, 2010 by Bruno Nadeau

We constantly convey our thoughts with languages and writing systems that evolve throughout the ages. These systems remain in a constant state of change, unconsciously transformed in everyday interactions, explicitly assaulted by playful artistic experiments, and broadly affected by technological innovation.

Spoken languages, which enjoy a much longer history than their written counterparts, were long transformed by the uses and abuses of the people who speak them, indirectly affected by technology. They evolve slowly over time shaped by everyday spoken discourse, and they adapt more drastically in time of needs, but it is not until the recent technological advances of the last centuries that speech became a practice that regularly relies on technology. Societies developed the means to travel ever further, bringing diverse people close enough for their languages to clash, merge and deform, but the direct widespread impact of tools on spoken languages is still recent. It is only with the advent of the phonautograph and later the telephone that spoken languages became directly affected by technology.

Writing is a different beast, forever dependent on some form of technology, it relies on a range of heterogeneous tools used to delineate spoken words. The accessibility to these technologies tends to change over time as they infiltrate everyday practices, and often, as their cost decrease. Scribes in Ancient and Medieval times were provided with the once expensive materials with which and on which to write, and new discoveries and inventions provided new writing technologies, new inks, new surfaces that transformed their practices. Computers enjoyed a similar but significantly more rapid evolution as early programmers with access to expensive systems made space for the everyday typist. Writing necessitates materials, technologies and skills that are not equally available to everyone. The practitioners who engineer and possess the skills to use the technologies we write with have had a significant impact on the production of language.

It is hard not to wonder how the printer hired by Mercure de France, the house that published Guillaume Apollinaire’s Alcools in 1913, reacted, proceeded and affected the outcome as he was asked to bend his standard practice? How did the advances in techniques of lithography and photolithography transformed the work of F. T. Marinetti when his requests for an unusual page were possibly met by the frowns and blank stares of some printers? How do the decisions of programmers and software engineers behind font formats like TrueType and OpenType, type design applications, like FontLab Studio, Fontographer and FontForge, and any application that make use of the type they help produce affect our everyday typographic landscape?

Mr. Softie Goes Cross-Platform

September 12th, 2010 by Bruno Nadeau

During the last few months, Mr. Softie development took a new direction. We put aside the extensive list of new features we want to experiment with to concentrate on making Mr. Softie accessible to a wider audience. The limitations inherent in the original decision to use the Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC), which meant producing a Windows-only application, became increasingly obvious as more people were asking about a OSX compatible version of the software. The idea of running Mr. Softie in a virtual machine like Parallels often lead to blank stares through a thick barrier of entry; it was time to put what we knew aside and leap into cross-platform development.

Enters Qt, a cross-platform application and UI framework that is a peanut butter solution to the hair loss caused by years of MFC use. The idea was simple, stop adding new features for a period of time (as short as possible) and port the code to Qt. It took a bit longer than expected, mostly because of the many Qt features that use different approaches than MFC, and the easily underestimated hours of finicky cross-platform UI tweaking, but we made it to version 1.0b for Windows and OSX.

Needless to say that the trailing ‘b’ in the version number could be an uppercase at the moment. Most of the features that are present in the last windows-only version of Mr. Softie (v0.9.6.9) made it to this first Qt version. Many features were improved. Arranging text objects forward and back is more flexible than before and can be applied to any type of text objects (i.e. glyph, word, passage) unlike the previous passage-only limitation. Transforming is simpler, no need for a shortcut to rotate objects, handles are available around the selection. There are too many changes to list here.

With every major code transformation comes an infestation of bugs. During the next months we intend to play with Mr. Softie, find those bugs and clean up the application as we release updates up to a stable 1.0 release. Until then, enjoy our experimental typographic text editor.

Download: 1.0b for Windows | 1.0b for OSX

Mr. Softie at Typ09

December 22nd, 2009 by admin

Mr. Softie will be at the Typ09 conference in Mexico City on Thursday October 29th. We are organizing a workshop, Bending Letterforms with Mr. Softie, as part of the TypeTech section of the conference. Limited space, register soon.

Typo at Center Stage

November 2nd, 2009 by Bruno Nadeau

Day 1

Typ09 began in style.  Speakers had to adjust to the 360 degrees of audience surrounding them, wishing they had paid more attention to how they appear from behind when practicing their talk. The audience, surrounded by 16 screens displaying the same slide presentations and videos, must decide which one to pay attention to, and end up looking like noone is listening because of each participant’s different focus point.  And, to whoever sets up 16 contiguous screens, please exploit the opportunity of making one connected screen space instead of just duplicating content.

Among the tidbits of information that struck me most, Jan Middendorp presented some really interesting work of hand-lettered book covers of the 50’s and 60’s. One caught my eye more than others, a design by Hermanus Berserik that could have been the long lost relative of Donald Knuth’s Punk font (I couldn’t find the cover online, so if anyone has it please forward).

Soon after that, Francois Chastenet presented his research, which was recently published in “Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles.” Looking back, this was for me one the most interesting talk of the five days of Typ09. I am curious to know more about Chastenet’s comparative study between photography of 1970’s LA and his recent research. From my geeky perspective, I couldn’t help but think of how graffiti, its form and style, creates not only the physical boundary that Chastenet’s was talking about by defining a perimeter, but also creates boundaries between the different groups that interact with the signs. Who writes them, who erases them, who understands them, who doesn’t.

I was looking forward to Alberto Coberto’s talk on “Spanish Type Specimens, and even though I was please to see so many specimens I would never come across, I felt it fell short of what it could have been.  From the title, my expectations where steered in the direction of Alastair Johnston’s “Found Poetry: The Dude Typographers” article found in “Text on Type.” Coberto did poke at the idea when he mentioned, over a single slide, the religious used as content for the one specimen. I would be surprise if this was an exceptional case. As a recent example of interesting type specimen that goes beyond the oh-so-common and boring lorem ipsum or random news headlines, Tipo distributed their type specimen as a nice recipe book, found on the table of free goodies. This leaves me with one problem. Where do I place this ‘book’, on the shelf with other type specimens, or in the kitchen with the cook books?

Day 2

And on the second day Spiekerman spoke. After a morning session that involved too many instances of the word “global” without really digging into the interesting and “honest” (thank you John Downer) reality of type designed today, the work of contemporary Mexican type designers closed the session. However, already after a day and a half, my brain was overflowed with type design, so much that I remember apppreciating the work of comtemporary typography in Mexico, but could not name one that was presented.

Which gets me to Spiekerman’s presentation. This was a great example that all those monotone try-to-talk-about-everything-i’ve-done-in-the-past-until-now presenters should look at and remember the next time to want to entertain an audience. People, pick a subject, no matter how precise and be excited about it. Spiekerman’s talk  about his work designing door numbers for modern furnishing supplier Design Within Reach was inspiring, not because it showed a million typefaces on slides flicked at seizure inducing speed, but because it showed the whole process, its ups and downs.  The first types of numbers are beautiful and designed for certain contexts, and just like any other technology, type is used and abused in ways that type designers could not have even imagined.

Another somewhat unrelated tidbit of information that struck me was the presentation of Chilian artists by Felipe Caceres. The one Chilian artist that caught my attention enough for me to remember is Alejandro Faure (1865-1912). At first sight, and before Caceres mentione the name of the artist, I would have sworn that the art work in front of my eyes was made by Alphons Mucha (1860-1939), a check artist whose work I really appreciate. Given the simililarity of their work, the two artists must been part of the same singles, and everything came together when Caceres mentioned that Faure moved to Paris for a certain period of time, just like Mucha did in 1887. This is something I would like to did further into.

Day 3 (aka First Signs of Type Overdose)

The morning session took us in an interesting direction, from my perspective, that would question some technological issues. One presentation I was looking forward to was Granados and Zenke’r talk on “Reading Technologies” (I’m not sure which one of the two presented). Sadly, this presentation fell short of what it promised. Instead of truly questioning the Amazon Kindle, with its e-ink paper, networking capabilities, and graphical possibilities, the presentation digged itself a hole by complaining about issues pertaining solely to the Kindle’s software. If half the presentation involves slides that show a close-up of the screen of a device, without pertaining to the actual devices, then you should realize that you are talking about a completely different problem. A problem that might be present on the Kindle currently, but that is not tied to the Kindle.

Soon after, Christopher Moore briefly explored the possible uses of e-ink paper in the future, based on, again, the Kindle and one of Esquire magazine’s cover that used the technology. However, ten minutes is no doubt too short to really dig into the subject, Moore started a discussion on a subject that will certainly be more present in the future of the Typ conference. Hopefully, the conference’s organizers will realize that 40 minutes to talk of one persons typeface is often too long and boring (unless they are Dutch and can make it exciting), and that 10 minutes to question a difficult subject is just a tease and leave the audience a little dry.

Day 4

On the fourth day, we presented both workshops, “Computational Typography for Beginners with NextText for Processing” and “Bending Letterforms with Mr. Softie.” The workshops went well, even tough the number of attendees was fairly small, probably due to different reasons. Coding scares people, especially when the workshops are organized in a school or department that might be unrelated to the subject (we had to kick out med students that were having a quiz in the room scheduled for the workshop).

Mr. Softie, which is considerably more user friendly, attracted a few people who actually stuck around, went for a break and came back to play with the software, which was a nice thing to experience. If beta testing is like leaving your children uder  someone else’s supervision for the first time, this might be similar to having the baby-sitter aggreeing to come back a second time, telling you that you kid is, well, baby-sitter friendly. Of the things I might would change for future workshops would be to start the conversation with the attendees earlier.

Day 5

Say no to tuna tacos.