Frere-Jones Type: Weight mapping

“Contrast never goes away completely”, as Tobias Frere-Jones writes: Strokes do not keep a constant thickness across letterforms but swell and taper, sometimes in ways that are hard to see. When Tobias, of Frere-Jones Type, asked me if these changes in stroke weight could be visualized as color gradients – turning glyphs into little choropleth maps of weight, as it were – that seemed a cogent and compelling thought.

Actually making it work (as a Python script that runs in DrawBot, reads font data, and generates these images from it) was a little less straightforward – so cracking a tricky challenge, and getting to contribute to work I admire, made this a doubly gratifying assignment. First seen in Tobias’ talk at How Design Live in Chicago, visualizations of a couple of glyphs that he made with the tool I developed are shown towards the end of Typeface Mechanics 002 on his blog: the second instalment in a series you should be reading if you’re interested in how type is made – it shines a spotlight on the tiny, crucial details that make type designs work, or not.