Typography under the influence of gravity
Let's release those letters from their cyber environment.
What’s the point? Art? Outside-the-box approach to typography? To catch attention? Well maybe a little, but it’s really more a branched exploration of the role of physics in design and technology, a craft of UI and UX designers alike in their quest to achieve the most desirable human-computer interactions.
While real mimics of physics in design often involve carefully applied Bezier curves or meticulously crafted animated effects, this perhaps could be seen as more of a Dali-Newton take on the whole thing. It began with an attempt to create a personal brand/identity logo which somehow incorporated my initials into it, an approach commonly taken in personal branding design. After countless failed attempts, I began to question why I wasn’t finding it so easy compared to some of the fantastic designs I had stumbled upon in the research phase. Some innate sense was struggling to find a harmony of balance with the letter ‘D’ – besides its obvious asymmetry (at least on the vertical axis), it just carried an uneven weight distribution. And suddenly, it became subject to gravity.
I started to imagine other characters in this situation and questioned which ones would, effectively, fall over and which would stay standing. Would there be any correlation between those evenly weighted, standing characters and their workability in terms of logo design? Well, the answer really is subjective, as is the case around almost any aspect of design, however for the most part those standing characters do possess a particular balance that lends itself to an more intuitive design approach. Of course, this quality can alter dramatically with the introduction of a new typeface or a serif, or the application of any common type style in fact.
For this particular demonstration, I am applying gravity to the two-dimensional space in which typography exists, so there is no acting force in the third dimension. Also, it is assumed that there is equal mass per unit area of a character’s body. For this example, the chosen typeface is regular-weighted Georgia – a veteran in typography, yet a solid serif without any extreme swashes or the like. So how did they hold up under force?
As you can see, quite a few hold their ground while others topple over due to a curved base or top-heavy arms. In this example, base serifs can add structural stability whereas thicker stems can outweigh their slimmer counterparts and pull the character to one side. What about lowercase and numerical characters?
Similarly in the lowercase, many characters simply succumb and topple over, some even forced to roll along their curved outer surface and finally settle at their centre of gravity. Dotted characters such as ‘i’ and ‘j’ simply separate and lose their form entirely, while ‘1’ and ‘2’ remain the only structurally stable numbers. As already mentioned, the introduction of a new typeface or a switch to sans-serif could completely alter the results in any case.
Have I lost the plot, talking of letters toppling over onto their side? Well, not quite. This investigation into the apparent stability of alphanumerical characters in the context of branding design questions to what degree it may psychologically influence, for example, the consumer. Perhaps the reason some brands portray a certain image is down to their choice and use of typography incorporated into their branding? Often, those ‘structurally stable’ characters feature as the base of a solid, dependable, trustworthy logo, whereas ‘imbalanced’ characters may suggest a more stylish or even abstract/unique brand image. Could a person’s perception of a brand really be influenced, even slightly, by the performance of it’s typography in a world of physics? I think there could be some validity to that notion.
I'm not a writer, I'm a web developer. While I use this space as a platform to explore and share ideas and observations, some topics may fall short of my expertise, and as a result are open to correction. So if I've blatantly overlooked something, or even if you'd like to chip in your two cents on the subject, please do let me know!