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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Senseware 2009: Exhibition Logotype

Senseware 2009: Exhibition Logotype

by Japanese designer and educator Kenya Hara

The Senseware exhibition is interesting on a number of levels, but the logotype Kenya Hara designed for the show entrance alone deserves a closer look.

The design seems to be fairly straightforward, and yet it challenges our perceptions and maintains its ambiguity when we try and define it Typographically.

Q. Is it tangible or intangible?

A. Both.

The typography is tangible in the sense (pun intended) that one could literally reach out and “touch” the substance of the typography. Yet, it is intangible in that—when the water is shed from the surface—the “letters” and “word” become merely a homogeneous/anonymous/continuous amalgamation of droplets. This mass still contains the literal essence of the type and its symbolic signification, but our ability to perceive them depends on the state of the imaged version of the droplets, which comes and goes.

This begs the next question…

Q. What is the Type and what isn’t the Type here?

A. The Type is literally the water droplets as they sit on the repellant surface in the gestalt droplet pattern recognizable as Type. However, the type is also the abstract pattern that exists in our minds, even as the water falls away and the pattern is no longer perceptible. In other words, what is or isn’t the type seems to be an abstract perceptual distinction, rather than a concrete literal one.

I could go on, but for the sake of space-time I'll leave off here with the Q&A.

Being rendered in an explicitly multi-dimensional “sensible” presentation like this, the project reveals a number of general problems with Typography that aren’t typically obvious in what can only be described as “conventional” typographic media.

That said, the question of ”What is the Type and what isn't” is also persistent in metal type (letterpress). Is the type the image printed on the paper (e.g. the ink impression)? Or, is it the metal which transferred the ink to the page and gave it its form, or the matt from which the metal type was cast, or the punch that made the matt, or the drawing from which the punch cut was determined… and we're back to the abstract perceptual distinction of type in our minds eye. Truly a Gordian knot if there ever was one.