NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

Member of International Council of Design ico-D

English | فارسی

Neshan 26


Laika: A Dynamic Typeface

Pouya Ahmadi

Type has been always a static element; a tool for conveying concepts. Over time its appearance conclusively influenced by the vision of typesetters, type-designers and typographers alike; a lucid cycle between author, designer and reader. However, since the introduction of electronic devices this cycle was begun to be interrupted. The ability of electronic devices to allow users to manipulate content in increasingly more intuitive and direct methods opens many windows of opportunities for digital type design.
instant need of users has greatly influenced their design (for instance, all the smart electronic devices ask for more interactivity). Karl Gerstner’s2 analytical approach in developing a comprehensive system capable of generating a broad range of design solutions via computer programing is undoubtedly an enormous step towards the optimum use of a type family. However, Nicolas Kunz (typographer) and Michael Flückiger (designer/programmer) founded their research project called “Laika” with the aim of employing the entire font family. Nicolas was born in Zurich and Michael was born in Basel. In 2006, Michael entered the UAB (University of Arts in Bern) where they initiated the project, Laika. Michael joined the MA program in Communication Design at UAB in 2009 and Nicolas started working for the University as a designer. Since then, they started deepening the project in various aspects with regard to its applications and capabilities. From then on, Laika has been featured in several design exhibitions, magazines and websites.

Laika does not have a certain shape. It is neither Serif nor San-serif! Neither black nor thin,wide nor condensed. Its unique and ever-changing form is the direct result of the users interaction with the application. If the user is tall, Laika becomes condensed. If he is short and chunky, then Laika is black and wide. It defines its essence based on events and real-time changes occurring in its surrounding space. It is meant to be used in a dynamic environment where its entire characteristics are engaged. Therefore, its design process requires an entirely different view on typography and type-design. Laika has no pre-supposed method of use or setup. Rather the user can shape it regarding his needs. It gathers the inputs using a series of sensors or by pulling them from a digital data source and then translating them via Processing3 into programed functions which cause changes in the appearance of typeface. For example, during the Breda Design Festival, the Laika installation contained an infrared camera which read the silhouettes of attendees (so called blob-tracking technique) and translated the information regarding size, width, height etc into modifications of the form of the typeface.
Laika raises several critical questions for the process of designing digital typefaces. Should the design of type for dynamic media be revised according to the capabilities of new technology? Does dynamic medium require a dynamic typeface? Why should a typeface be rigidly set when its ultimate purpose is not print? Laika is not just a typeface, it is a thoughtful experiment and attitude which questions the fundamentals of contemporary typography and challenges the accepted conditions for designing new type. In truth, it stands for a number of scientific projects attempting to dissolve the boundaries of science and design; a first step in the systematic design of a dynamic typeface.

1. Laika (originally a Russian word which translates to “Barking”) was a Soviet space dog that became the first animal to orbit the Earth.
2. Karl Gerstner is a pioneer of Swiss typography who was born in 1930 in Basel. His book called “Designing Programmes” became 60s cult classic.
3. Processing is a programming language, open source alternative to proprietary software tools founded by Ben Fry and Casey Reas in 2001.

Pouya Ahmadi

is a Chicago-based typographer and art director. He is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago—School of Design—and an editorial board member ​of Neshan magazine focusing on contemporary graphic design and the visual arts. Pouya's work has been showcased by It'sNiceThat, AIGA Eye on Design, People of Print, Grafik, Etapes,​ ​Type Directors Club, Print Magazine, and many others. Pouya holds a MA/MAS degree in Visual Communication from the Basel School of Design in Switzerland and an MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

We can make it.

Saed Meshki

> more


An illustration with text is not an illustration

Max Kisman

> more

Iranian Contemporary Design

The Other Half of the World

Rene Wanner

> more

Project - 1

And they may not pull out their knives except for sharing …

Majid Kashani

> more


The Typographic Matchmaking Projects

Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

> more

Design Today - 1

Non-Format: The Plain Fun

Emily Verba Fischer

> more

Design Today - 2

A Duet for Design ; A look into the works of R2 Design

Majid Abbasi

> more

Face to Face

Gerard Unger: Timeless Typefaces

Kambiz Shafei

> more


Herb Lubalin: Rule Basher

Steven Heller

> more


Jan Tschichold’s Typographische Gestaltung; A reference manual for modernist design

Richard B. Doubleday

> more