Peter Cho: digital typoTypo(design-po)graphy

Contemporaneously with J. Abbot Miller’s Dimensional Typography, Peter Cho (an award-winning designer who later received a fine arts master from UCLA and a masters of science from MIT) was beginning to release typographic experiments that stretched conceptions of type as a carrier for meaning; the boundaries were stretched digitally with a zen-like precision using programming and rendering. His concerns place him at the membrane between an artist, a poet and a designer, but his consistent focus has been fonts, glyphs and the squirming squiggles of the semantic word. In 1998: Peter Cho developed Forefont type.

“These letterforms stemmed from dissatisfaction with flat, texture-mapped type that disappears when rotated in a virtual three-dimensional environment. Forefont type pushes up against a grid and retains its “bumpy” profile when tilted towards the viewer.”

In the same year Cho developed, a storm swarm 3D algorithmic text, Nutexts

“Nutexts is a series of experiments exploring three-dimensional space through typography. In each experiment, the text of a short or medium-length written work is laid out in a virtual three-dimensional environment according to a set of simple metrics or rules.”

Cho’s 2008 work Wordscapes continues the process of exploring dynamic force and participatory 3D typography. Interactive thoughtful and brief, one word for each letter of the alphabet is mapped to a set of mouse-sensitivities. The interactivity amplifies the semantics; it is animation in the classic sense. This is Warner Brother’s not Dostoyevsky; behaviors do not change over time, but each in its succinctness satisfies and nourishes expectation. Delivering a wry synaesthetic insight with elegance and brevity. Genuinely a coherent step toward an animate alphabet.

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Cho’s work that reaches the deepest (for me) is Takeluma a speech-sensitive installation completed in 2005. Takeluma reminds me of Kurt Schwitters if he had been exposed to shape-memory alloy. It is in essence a project that directly explores synaesthesia and develops a speculative language around form.

“Takeluma is an invented writing system for representing speech sounds and the visceral responses they can evoke. Takeluma explores the complex relationships between speech, meaning, and writing. While modern linguistics suggests that the relationship between signifier and signified has no discernible pattern, poets and marketing experts alike know that the sounds of words can evoke images which elicit an emotional impact. The project explores the ways that speech sounds can give rise to a kinesthetic response. The Takeluma project comprises several animated and print works and a reactive installation.”

By loosening language from the strait-jacket of definition, Takeluma explores a tentative hybrid between linguistics, abstract art and sound poetry which succeeds formally, intellectually and physically.

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