Isabelle Cordova is a sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute pursuing a custom major in User Experience Design.
Elaine Chen is also a sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, majoring in Computer Science and Professional Writing.
For a Visual Rhetoric course at WPI, Elaine and I were commissioned to produce an original font family for an upcoming interactive children’s book, Athena at Night. If our typeface is selected, we’ll get to see our work printed in a real book!
Athena at Night is a pop-up book that follows a princess escaping from a castle. The main character, Athena, is described as being confident, curious, and hopeful, while the hand-drawn illustrations of the book are playful and relaxed. In designing our typeface, we hope to capture the whimsicality of Athena and the Steampunk-inspired illustrations.
The development of typeface and fonts stem from the perspective of how a reader views the words and the meaning behind them. While fonts should not distract from the words meaning and merely assist an individual’s understanding of a writer’s message, typefaces are used to create proper branding and form feelings that intertwine with intended themes. These ideas and arguments are supported through our class readings of Meghan Benton and Paul Gutjahr’s chapter Reading the Invisible in the book Illuminating Letters: Typography and Literary Interpretation. This chapter discusses the purpose of typography and how it is intertwined with how a reader interprets text.
The theme of Athena at Night has elements of Steampunk, independance, and the use of materials. Therefore, for our research we have found ideas revolving these elements and incorporated them into the development of our typeface.
Elements of Steam Punk
- Growing technology of mechanical devices/steampower
- Clockwork/mechanical devices
- Victorian influences
- Industrial/Retro design motifs
- Science fiction that incorporates technology and designs for the 19th century
Emerging Technologies of Mechanical Devices and Steampower
The steampunk aesthetic is heavily influenced by imagery of steam powered machines and other novel technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Associated with a new age of innovation and mass production, objects such as gears, piping, and clock mechanisms are all common features of the steampunk look.
Victorian and Industrial Influences
Designs of the Victorian Era consisted of elaborate and ornate visual features such as intricate line designs. Our type design could be inspired by these influences while still being legible and not overly-detailed.
Our font could contain characteristic of bold lettering, a slight amount of cursive, but still maintain an even amount of spacing and legibility that will hold a loose influence off of the Victorian Era. The Industrial and retroactive influences are also maintained by keeping a simplicity that enhances the elaborated ideas incorporated into the font.
Nineteenth Century Science Fiction
While science fiction has a broad range of ideas and themes, it is loosely used here through the development of our font. Steampunk has elements of development and industrialism that are present in various science fiction works, and specifically relates to Athena at Night due to her ability to use her intelligence and quick thinking to help her throughout the story. Science fiction consists of mystical objects and the make believe, which we hope to entail a sense of magic in readers, while also being aware of the intelligence and bright thinking that will be occurring throughout the story.
Working from the client’s concept, we were able to extract key elements of the tinker/steampunk aesthetic that we think could compliment the story and illustrations of Athena at Night. Upon synthesizing our research we brainstormed some distinct qualities that our font could feature:
- Decorative elements inspired by ornate victorian advertisements, but simplified enough to be streamlined
- Vintage serif
- Bold lettering with complimentary characteristics
- Grand curves and edges
- Elements of Victorian type design consisting of various stroke sizes
Because our concept is rooted in Victorian aesthetics but with a simplified take, our tentative title for our font is Victoria Neue.
Below is a list of sources used in our preliminary research that support our arguments:
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