Open Source Publishing practice

  • A practice that use only open source software tools
  • We release all the work under a free and open license
  • Because we think culture should be open
  • Because culture is and has to be multiple

Research ad hoc

  • Research in the mist where errors and glitches are welcomed with the same joy as efficiency and during social events
  • Coding not to automatize nor technical master strokes, but as reflexive modus operandi integrated in the creation process
  • Exchange between machine and designers that expose what could not be planned : the indeterminate
  • Research that accept awkward positions and a certain degree of control loss, where astonishment has more change to occur
  • If unexpected result, using it to try to reproduce it in another way, to another level of consciousness


  • Marvin Minsky, 1960, at MIT
  • Confusion between y and y' that lead to the display of the first circle on a computer screen
  • Using it to develop a full program of visual display, MinskyTron
  • Hackers positionning themselves again the bait of the unified technical environment
  • Hackers promoting the reversibility of technical objects, transgressive usages and modularity

Writing - typography

  • Lettering : shape of the letter as a negotiation between tool (the pen), medium (the paper), and recipe (movement)
  • Lettering : shape being informed by context
  • Typography : shape as a single object, carved like a statue
  • Typography : shape as an aesthetic negotiation between chisel and wood (informed by writing)

Baked typography

  • Techniques for a more perfect, more singular shape
  • Digital typography : the font as a single object designed by the master-type-designer
  • Once designed, ever copied, never changed or detiorated.

Shape modified
by reproduction

  • Reproduction technologies influenced a font's shape?
  • Small changes : mistake or more on purpose, informed by personal preference or contemporary taste?
  • Paradoxically mainstream contemporary font-techniques allow for alternative characters (often inscript fonts)
  • Shapes to become dynamic (OpenType Variable Fonts)

Multiplicity as method in our practice

  • Ways to question the object and it's maker
  • Ways to question the font, and it's designer, as a perfect, singular entity
  • Using real-life commissions to live but also to enlarge and challenge the research
  • Fueled by feminist and queer questions around multiplicity
  • Univers Else : traces of the IBM Selectric (partly nostalgically) on Frutiger's Univers
  • Crickx : digitization of a malled and negotiated font between father, daughters and clients

Multiple truth

  • We do not believe in a single truth, once defined, ever copied, never questioned
  • That is why we release our work under an open license
  • To allow others to reinterpret our work

Pen plotter as a tool
to research

  • Alternative printing technique
  • Pen-plotter : the print (or drawing) becomes again a negotiation between pen and movement
  • Fonts designed as a recipe, not as outlines or shapes
  • A path for the pen to follow
  • Printing is an event : influenced by changing pen, pressure or speed

MetaFont as a tool
to question

  • Developed out of frustration with then contemporary typesetting
  • Where the designer draws the computer a skeleton to be followed by a digital pen = opens the full potential of the computer as a drawing tool
  • Allows the shape of the letter to become again a interplay between pen (shape) and movement
  • Allows the shape to be parameterized
  • Limited perhaps by Knuth's belief in a singular font designed by a master - one fixed, baked digital object


Digital fonts more and more complex:

  • Predefined matrixes of pixels
  • Vector shapes
  • Contextual alternative characters or ligatures
  • OpenType Variable fonts

But all still, only in a pre-encoded fashion, deemed appropriate by its designer

Responding fonts shape

  • Computers, as algorithmic drawing tools, can be used in more interesting ways
  • Calculate the outlines in a more exciting fashion
  • Letting a font's shape respond to its environment
  • We think that the risk of results with a low typographic quality is largerly conter-balanced by the potentialities of opening up the process;a=blob_plain;f=documentation/sticker-on-mac-1600px.jpg;h=d37a4230e2158297774001071273868e46bcdf54;hb=HEAD

A call for stroke fonts

  • A font(-standard) where no longer the outline of a font is defined but it's gesture
  • Allowing every user or algorythm to influence the resulting shape
  • By changing a pen, a color or by making the shape respond to its context
  • Multiplicity of strokefonts as an alternative to the habit of more traditional fontdesign to define a single 'true' shape

Some experiments

  • Metahershey
  • UmeStroke
  • Metadin
  • Belgica-Belgika
  • Metafranquin
  • Metahoguet
  • Up pen down


  • Hershey fonts
  • During the Relearn summer school 2013, Gijs De Heij (OSP) and Simon Egli (Metapolator) converted the svg points coordinates of the Hershey fonts into Metafont files and switched the straigh connexions into curves.



Ume Stroke

One of the many derivations of the Ume family we developped for the identity of the Balsamine theatre.



  • Stroke font system based on voluntary primitives only : straight lines and arcs
  • No fixed drawing


  • A attempt to produce lettering fonts based on Franquin comic author lettering
  • Criteria / axis wil include width, boldness, incline (x and y), contrast (x and y), perspective (x and y), roundness, tension of straight lines, element positions, openess and endings

Workshops, residency


2 days workshop that took place in Brussels last week. Particpants are graphic design students freshly filling in Metapost lines. They drew together a multilayered alphabet playing with basic typographic variables, reflection variable, penpos experiments. →

Download the font →

Up pen down

As a serie of workshops in collaborations with the dancer Adva Zakaï. Up pen down brings together digital typography and choreography.

Back to strokes!