Pseudo-random distress: a redundancy?

Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,524
edited May 2018 in Technique and Theory

If the purpose of display type style is, more so than body text, to signify a certain kind of tonality (such as artistic), then ironically, mimicking an “organic” process defeats that purpose, because it just looks like an organic process has been used—whereas as if the medium is clearly faux (note the identical “O”s above), the artifice of the effect, the intent of the signification, is plain to see. 

And in comparison with a truly hand-rendered sign (see above, at top), the faux font still operates within a sophisticated, precise layout, suggesting professional quality.

So for this reason, and because it is less work, I am no longer quite so keen on making pseudo-random fonts.
Also, although FontSpring supports <calt> in its online type tester, MyFonts, my primary retailer, does not, which doesn’t exactly help sell the feature.

The following statement, then, holds true at two levels—for the typographer who may appreciate the cleverness of a pseudo-random effect when it is employed, and for the end-reader for whom all rendered letters are fonts, when it isn’t.

“…we don’t look for definition or richness of imagination in (synthetic) images; we look for the giddiness of their superficiality, for the artifice of the detail, the intimacy of their technique. What we truly desire is their technical artificiality, and nothing more.” —Jean Baudrillard

Photo taken at Maggioly Art Supplies store, Orangeville, Ontario


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,214
    I guess that is why I have never considered doing a pseudo random font ;-)
  • Sye RobertsonSye Robertson Posts: 226
    Interesting take. As a user, I love pseudo-random fonts, and will try to employ alternates wherever suitable. I especially enjoy this in fonts that are not trying to emulate organic process, so for example if a font has a straight leg R and a curvy leg R I will test to see if using both suits the composition (aiming to provide some extra visual interest while still being readable). But maybe I am really just referring to have alternates to choose from?
  • Sye RobertsonSye Robertson Posts: 226
    edited May 2018
    On the other hand, I do actively find it frustrating when fonts that claim to mimic organic progress do no supply any or enough alternates, specifically in script fonts. 
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 973
    I don't buy the theory. But it is funny that, when I see a repeated letter that gives away the game, my usual thought is "they should have used contextual alternates" rather than "they should have hand-lettered this"!
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,524
    I don't buy the theory. 

    I beg to differ: you own it, as admitted by your thought of <calt>. In Baudrillard’s words, you instinctively “desire technical artificiality”.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,855
    I think some reasonable people might disagree on that being a fair description of what they desire. (While others might embrace it.)
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 973
    I beg to differ: you own it, as admitted by your thought of <calt>. In Baudrillard’s words, you instinctively “desire technical artificiality”.
    But I don't prefer "technical artificiality" that outs itself as such over less clumsy simulacra, which is what I took you to be saying in the first part of your post. 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,524
    There is a distinction between how lay end-readers react, and type-aware professionals. As a type drawer, you said you would like to see type more cleverly imitating analog media, rather than actual hand lettering.

    Similarly, the other half of my theory is that for the lay reader, a sophisticated layout that signifies “home made” is preferable to an actual home-made design.
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