San Francisco, California

10,000 Original Copies

Kris Sowersby has posted the transcript for his talk, 10,000 Original Copies, which happens to be all about copying and original ideas when it comes to designing new typefaces:

Erik van Blokland ran a small experiment: he scanned a lowercase ‘n’ and asked about 80 designers to digitise it. All we had to do was wrap our own vector outlines around it and send it back. The fascinating result was that with 80 different designers — all digitising the same letterform — no two points lined up. There was, in effect, 80 original copies from 80 different designers.

[…]And it made me realise this is what we are all doing. We’re taking the planks from masters, and building our own ships. We are making ships in our own image, in our own languages, in our own accents.

Kris notes how this sort of thinking about copies and remixes has bled into his own work and experience:

Over the last 10 years or so I redrew National, one of my first typefaces, as National 2. It’s completely redrawn, no two letterforms are exactly the same, and I added a bunch of new styles. But to me it is still National. It’s what I wanted to draw 10 years ago, but didn’t have the skill, time or patience.

This idea of remixing, refactoring, and tidying up old designs is precisely why I chose National 2 for the most recent design of my website. And, subsequently, for a while now I’ve had this very kooky idea of rewriting and redesigning some older pieces of mine and seeing just how different they are with years of experience piled on top.