GDV P.3.2.3 Font outline from agents

This is the last exercise about fonts. The Generative Design book describes this exercise as: ‘How long is a letter recognizable as such? In this example, the outlines of a letter serve as a source shape. Each individual nodal point moves like a dumb agent. Over time, the letter becomes illegible and is transformed into something new. Points are again generated from a font outline. Each point becomes an independent dumb agent but remains connected to its neighbor.’ Until here their summary. And here you can find the original code.

I have posted all images I made during the exercise on a summary page which you can find here.

There is no JavaScript involved because JavaScript does not support the Geomerative library of Processing. All altered programs you can find on this page.

For the time being I think I do not want to type any other characters than the letter ‘a’. I took only one letter so I can see the visual changes better. I translated the ‘a’ to the middle of the display and let it run for just a while. I increased the StepSize again and switched off the frameRate. And then the program is running way too fast. Beside of that the program is getting very chaotic after a while. So the first thing I changed was the StepSize and the DanceFactor. Enlarged the ellipses on the character. And I would like to introduce some color. So I introduced the human friendly HSB colorMode.

Just a thought: why choose a character for this if it finally ends up in a total mess. You could easily take some arbitrary points and throw them at random to the screen. Let’s see if I can control that chaos a bit more. Switched on the frameRate again. Make the font size 800.  Randomized the color settings between 300-360. Randomized the color settings between 50-60 for the lines. Alpha settings to 2. But that seems to minimal. Increased the alpha setting to 4.

Increased the DanceFactor to 10. Commented out the ellipses. Made the strokeWeight (0.001). I think this distortion is still going way too fast so I decreased the StepSize to 0.1 (which is in fact too less). 0.5 Seems to be a good-one. Just for fun: RCommand.setSegmentLength (1) which gives a complete different picture if you let it run for a minute or 5. Interesting that the original shape of the character remains pretty well ok. It seems that StepSize is the most important variable. When you rise it’s number to a 100 you see why.

Why does it display twice the same character but in a different color? Commented out the first beginShape Endshape block. Ok. Now it only displays the blue character. So I could add another block in a different color? Yes! That works too. Got a blue / magenta version of the ‘a’. Uncomment the first block and I have three different colors of the same ‘a’.

Increased the StepSize to 6 which gives me a kind of fluffy character.

Decreased the point size and typed some characters. That gives me a very chaotic image. I uncommented the second two beginShape, endShape blocks. Ah… I see. It’s growing way too fast. Let me turn that StepSize down. Even 1 is too much. I make it 0.1. That is definitely slower so I make it 0.5. Adding the two begin- and endShape blocks again.

I give it a bit more distortion and I swap the colors. I think blue should sit at the outline and not in the middle of the character. Experimented a little with setSegmentAngle.

Let’s try another font. Times. That didn’t work out. Also the spacing between the characters is wrong. Changed it to Arial Bold. Letter spacing is still wrong.

Made a few proposals with ver ‘airy’ or ‘smokey’ characters. I wonder if I define a key with a color can I than have separate colors per character? No! That’s not working because when you hit the 1 key the number 1 is displayed. Skipped that option. I increased the StepSize to 4 and setSegmentLength to 200. Every character you type now isn’t readable anymore.

Ok. This would be a nice test to finish this exercise. As it is the starting point of this exercise: ‘How long is a letter recognizable?’. I just type 12 characters and I lower the setSegmentLenght every run with 20. So I start with 180. StrokeWeight (10); When I reached 120 it seems a silly idea though. Maybe it’s better to work the other way around. Start with a readable character and then add ever more distortion. Did some other experiments by commenting out all control points and leave only the ellipses. I have to make one remark. The letterspacing is very bad. It does not work well. So I had to correct them in Photoshop. To finish everything I made a few versions with rectangles which reminded me that I also could make my own shapes. Which, in turn, reminded me also that the possibilities are endless but I have to continue 🙂

Henk Lamers


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