Travis Kochel: Typeface as Interface

Interfaces allow us to interact with systems that use other languages that are not our own. The process is always a little awkward. Travis illustrates this with the example of a conversation between two people who don’t share a native language, but do both speak english. They get by, but only in a strained manner.

Type is an interface between people and language, a sophisticated solution, since only a small set of memorizable shapes can be rearranged in countless ways to produce words and language. Type has its problems as well, for example in pictures or icons included in fonts. For a great part of the history of these, one had to either search a glyph palette or memorize and key in seemingly arbitrary key commands to get the correct icon to appear. Peter Bil’ak’s Greta Symbol variant accepts a string, say, ‘house’ and shows a picture of a house through OpenType.
Kochel, Travis_Original-1

Travis Kochel

Travis Kochel is a partner at Scribble Tone, a design studio based in Portland, Oregon. Their work explores intersections of typeface design, interactive experiences and branding. They are creators of FF Chartwell, a set of fonts to create simple graphs within text boxes. Published by FontFont in 2012, it has received awards and accolades from Fast Company, Communication Arts, Typographica, and ATypI. Travis graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. He currently teaches Typography, Typeface Design, and Interactive Design at Portland State University.

Travis then shows his FF Chartwell and further explores the idea of type as an interface. In designing the type/interface, he worked to create something that could be simply understood and used, and that anticipated user error as much as possible. The final remarks focused on the advances and limitations of OpenType programming and with encouragement to the attendees to keep exploring.


Text — David Sudweeks