Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are increasingly making their way into popular culture; smartphone game Pokémon Go democratised the new technology two years ago now, enabling users of the app to hunt for and catch virtual Pokémon characters within their real-life surroundings – be it on the pavement, at a bus-stop or in an office.
At the same time, typographers and graphic designers are having to find more and more inventive ways of creating branding, type and imagery. Logos are no longer just seen in two dimensions (2D) – moving, changing, three-dimensional (3D) visual identities are becoming more popular.
The latest BBC Creative identity by Spin Studio, which plays with geometry, space and shape, and Wolff Olins’ work for French gallery Lafayette Anticipations, which constantly changes in type layout and size based on a random algorithm, are two very recent examples.
Now, a new app has been released which looks to bring together AR and type, encouraging users to manipulate text and completely change how the discipline of typography is perceived.
Weird Type, designed by American program developer and visual artist Zach Lieberman alongside artist Molmol Kuo, enables users to create and play with typography in the air in front of them.
It does not stop there – they can take photos with type, layering images of themselves or their surroundings within type templates; use sound to influence and change the shape or size of type; physically walk through and around the type they create; cause their type to explode in mid-air; paint with type; and much more.
Lieberman and Kuo, who have produced the app in collaboration with South Africa-based design conference Design Indaba, have also worked with type foundry Dinamo, designer Richard The and a group of Apple iOS developers on the project.
The pair have been experimenting with AR for the last year, and were encouraged to create an app after receiving positive feedback and eager inquiries from people on Instagram whenever they posted their obscure creations.
While developer-turned-artist Lieberman wants Weird Type to be a creative and playful game where people – be it designers, developers or anyone – can have fun with type, it is also intended to be an experimental platform where professionals can test the potential of AR in transforming typography for 3D environments.
“Space is an important variable for designers to consider, especially as we move towards more AR and VR systems,” he says. “We are really used to laying out type in 2D, cartesian [rectangular] grids, but things like 3D space and movement provide all kinds of interesting challenges. I think the app provides an intuitive interface to play with type in space.”
Intended for use by anyone, the app is “really simple”, says Lieberman. Users enter text onto the screen, change the style of their type and the effects they would like to add through type and scene selection controls, then hit the record button to make and share a video to Instagram or other social media, or alternatively save it to their camera roll.
“We wanted to keep it simple so that users can focus on the art they are making – not the interface,” says Lieberman.
While anyone could spend hours constructing words that shout, explode and capture photography in the air just for the fun of it, the app is also a step towards using AR and VR constructively to create captivating visual graphics.
Hopefully, with more apps such as this one, more and more people will get the chance to play with the technology and start to see graphics from a new perspective (or several, for that matter).
Weird Type is available to download from the iOS App Store now. It is not currently available for the Google Play store.
Design Indaba took place 21-23 February 2018 at the Artscape in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information on the festival and this year’s speakers, head here, and read Design Week’s coverage on the event here.