materials and surfaces

Writers may use almost any surface or substance to make their mark. When created manually, text may be painted, written, carved or cut. With contemporary technology such as the laser cutter or 3D printer, digitally produced type may also be printed onto, or carved into, any number of surfaces.

While many contemporary typographers combine digital technologies with traditional surfaces, others prefer to work with hand-made type, and seek out unconventional materials to shape and mould into letterforms. As with photographed type, this treats the letter as a physical object as well as a representative sign.


Adam Kirkman, Type Experiments, 2009.

Adam Kirkman uses arrangements of nails to retell a Japanese proverb, 'the nail that sticks up will be hammered down'. This is just one of numerous examples of typography which use the subject of the text as the material for its creation. The nails in the word 'down', are hammered into the wooden surface, in a literal illustration of the words in the proverb. This illustration serves as an 'in-image caption', reinforcing the literal interpretation of the text, and favouring it over the usual metaphorical meaning.

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Peter John van Riet, Crap Toilet Installation, 2009.

This installation was created for Dutch Design Week. It features several rolls of toilet paper, unravelled and arranged so that the sheets form the contours of letters. As with the nails above, the material reflects the sentiment of the text.

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Richard J. Evans, Information Leak, 2009.

Richard J. Evans' depiction of letter-objects flowing from a tap is a metaphor for an 'information leak'. The type (the 'information') overflows from the sink and down onto the floor, its flow seemingly uncontrollable.

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Steve Haslip, I'm Most Productive in the Morning, 2009.

Steve Haslip presents a series of images for 'I'm most productive in the morning'. Three-dimensional type-objects, constructed from matchsticks, are shown in each photograph lit from a different angle. The different photographs represent different times of the day, as marked by the location of the light and the angle of the shadow cast by the letters. This particular image respresents sunrise, when the light is low and the shadows are long.


All of the above images link to sources.


foundations typographic landscapes photographed type in-image captions unconventional materials and surfaces
typographic portraits wearable type typographic objects image fonts further research

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