Primary Tools & Materials:

Additional Tools & Materials: die cutting machine, ruler, utility knife, double-sided tape, camera

 To cross paper and data visualization, I first wanted to consider the capabilities and characteristics of paper. Paper is versatile; available in different weights, sheens, colors, and textures. It can be cut, glued, torn, folded, layered, and scored. For this study, I was most interested in paper's flexibility. To demonstrate the flexibility of paper through a letter study, I looked for examples of data visuals that were fluid, organic, and curved. I found a category called chord diagrams, in which data points are connected between two poles (or on points of a circle) with long, string-like lines. Since today's assigned letter was 'I', I thought I could use two slabs on a capital I to connect the data points, represented as cut strips of paper.

To do this, I chose a thick slab serif called Acknowledgement, and cut out three capital Is with my digital die cutting machine. Two were identical, the third was stretched, to serve as the piece I would shred for my "data points." Using a utility knife and a ruler, I carefully divided the center stroke of the I into a dozen or so random, vertical, parallel strips of varying width. Then I sliced off the bottom slab so the strips were still attached to the top, but loose at the bottom. I taped one of the two identical letter Is to the back, serving as a template for constructing this letter. I placed a long strip of double-sided tape along the bottom slab, then carefully repositioned each vertical strip so that it lined up again along the bottom in a different order than it started at the top. Then I trimmed the slabs off the second identical paper I and taped them over the rough ends of the taped vertical strips, and the uneven origins of the strips at the top. This left me with a sort of "backing," where the layered and twisted strips of paper were outlined with a solid yellow background.

Though the "backing" gave this letter structure and allowed it to keep its shape, I wanted to remove it and see what the free-floating vertical strips would look like as they defined the shape of the letter by themselves. As I suspected, the structure of the letter collapsed, but I found that with another two strips of double-sided tape, I could tape the letter down and not only line up the top and bottom slabs, but pinch the top and bottom closer together or skew them, creating a kind of italic version. 

I think the idea of incorporating this flexibility into a typeface could have great promise. Perhaps only curved parts of letters would be made by webs of flexible, interwoven strands. Or perhaps the letter's most stressed stroke is given this treatment. Maybe the difference between Roman and Italic letterforms would just be the position of the points that connect these strands. Devising a system for when and where this flexible component is used could be a challenge, but I think the resulting typeface could be very interesting.