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Spring 2023 ︎︎︎Purchase College, SUNY ︎︎︎ (DES3440) Typographic Investigations

Unicode Spelunking


For this project we’ll take a bit of a deeper dive into the technological substrate of typography; Unicode. You’ll be asked to look at an area of Unicode that has some personal significance to you; and create glyphs based on it as well as characters that are variable in the Latin Alphabet. 

This is a bit of non-sequitor but please be aware this will be coincidental with your final project. 


  • Understand the digital substrate of typography.
  • Create a communal typeface as a team-building exercise.
  • Understand variable type on an experiential level
  • Deepen understanding of Glyphs/FontForge


  • Outlines for at least 20 characters in an area of Unicode of your choice
  • Outlines for two (2) states of two (2) characters which can be made variable along 1 axis
  • A .PDF showing all Unicode characters
  • A .PDF showing both states of your variable characters
  • 2 Applications (1 for Unicode Characters, 1 for Variable Type)

Final Deliverables

  • An .OTF font of all characters (I will create this, you must submit an .OTF or .TTF with your characters)
  • A .PDF of all characters specific to the Unicode space you have chosen
  • A .PDF showing both states of your variable characters
  • 2 applications printed or ready to exhibit for class.
  • 2 applications related digital versions (.PDF, .MP4, etc)
  • A looping .gif of each of your variable letters
    • (I will provide a Drawbot script for the above)
  • A looping image sequence of each of your variable letters
    • (I will provide a Drawbot script for the above)

Applications should be at absolute minimum 24in. X 36in. posters. As we’ve seen with previous assignments, I am willing to accept different ideas here. If this is the case for you be ready to discuss your idea and be prepared to make it more ambitious.

Project Steps

For this project, rather than having specific deliverables due for everyone each week, there will be steps that you must complete and you cannot move on to the next one until the previous step is complete. Note that this project has two “tracks” so I present them as “concurrent”

    • Area of Unicode space chosen
    • Characters sketched
    • Final drawings in Glyphs / FontForge and exported
    • Application sketches/concepts presented
    • Applications complete
    • Letters sketched/drawn (both states)
    • Letters drawn in Glyphs / FontForge (both states)
    • Letters tested and work in both states without “breaking”

Grading Rubric

  • 10% ︎︎︎ Unicode Characters (Execution)
  • 10% ︎︎︎ Unicode Characters (Concept)
  • 10% ︎︎︎ Variable Characters (Execution)
  • 10% ︎︎︎ Variable Characters (Concept)
  • 30% ︎︎︎ Applications (Relative Strength & Creativity)
  • 30% ︎︎︎ Applications (Execution)

No Shuriken Mode Challenges

  • Create more variable letters with more axes for adjustment (the communal font will only have one)
  • Work together with someone in the class to flesh out more fully a larger Unicode block
  • Create characters that are related from multiple Unicode blocks (only one will make it to the communal font). For example you could do Phoenician (historically related to latin characters) or different forms of historical Chinese characters.

Relevant Dates

    • 03/07/2023 ︎︎︎ Introduction, in-class research time

    • 03/14/2023 ︎︎︎ Variable type demonstration & letter assignment

    • 03/28/2023 ︎︎︎ Check-in 

    • 04/04/2023 ︎︎︎ Check-in

    • 04/18/2023 ︎︎︎ Final Critique & Writing Assignment

    • 04/25/2023 ︎︎︎ Writing Review

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