James Brocklehurst, leader of the graphic design course at Plymouth, talks us through the university’s new experimental font

Brocklehurst explains to us that the letterpress workshop at the university is a special one, which has one of the most “extensive collections of moveable type, composing desks and presses in a UK university. Unfortunately, not that many people know about it,” continues Brocklehurst, “so I initially started the project as a way of showcasing the workshop to the world.” The random letterforms feature, which Brocklehurst explains is achieved by using a scripting function built into the OpenType font format, involved “a lot of Googling” to figure out from scratch.
According to the programme leader, traditionally, a typesetter would “seek to achieve a clean and solid print,” whilst the letterpress is known today for its “distressed” and textured print quality. “I was keen to capture as much of this as possible, and found that the only way to do this convincingly was to use a new feature of the OpenType font format,” he says, “which uses bitmapped images to render each character, instead of plotting the letterforms out mathematically using vectors. Using images allows for shifts in tone and translucency which isn’t possible with traditional methods.” Brocklehurst wanted to include multiple variations for each character, to “convey the diverse range of typefaces available in the workshop.”
James Brocklehurst is leading a new kind of innovation method for typography, harking back to the good old days of the letterpress. The technology uses scanned letterpress prints for each letter, and through scripting, randomly cycles through a range of alternate letterforms whilst you type.

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