January 22, 2012


Hoptype is a screen font I designed during Ala ma font(a) workshop in Katowice. The workshop was led by Martin Majoor, Filip Bla┼żek, Marian Misiak, Eben Sorkin and Ann Bessemans and curated by Ewa Satalecka. The typeface is designed especially for iPad applications for children who are not yet fluent readers.

Initial research into interactive books on the iPad showed that design factors I had to consider were:

• the amount of words per line, the length of lines and the amount of lines per page
• the resolution, which is much lower than printed text
• change of direction. With mobile devices, there is a possibility of switching the view from horizontal to vertical by rotating the device. The size of the text changes, so that provides an additional challenge
• harmony of image and text. Since applications use full screen imagery, text must work on a colored background

What was my design approach? Click to see more!

The main part of the design process based on Sue Walker’s research (2005) from Reading University showed that it is not the individual typeface design which makes text legible or readable, but the way it is used, that is in its line length, word spacing and line spacing.

An important part of my design research was to focus on the emotional aspect of text in children stories. Therefore, it would be useful to try and create a typeface that combined a legible serif with an emotional character set, to emphasize sounds and emotions.

Inspired by comic books I found, that they rarely contained onomatopoeic words of more than 4 letters and that the only consideration for creating onomatopoeic glyphs, was composition and space available within the frames.

The inspiration came when I though of what makes the comic books so emotionally engaging. And fun to read!

Therefore, I tried to develop a universal, digital form that would work with any imagery. This led me to the possibility of developing an OpenType contextual algorithm, that would make the letters hop.

It would then be possible to enhance the reading experience through play by linking sound and text, creating the use of a “hopping” style through the touch screen.

Special character set was designed to make text more dynamic and to emphasize sounds and emotions in books for kids

The result was a typeface with ascenders much higher than the descenders. This makes the designer consider the use of leading in a body of text, creating more white space, which improves legibility and readability. The space between the base line and the height of the ascender is the space where the additional base line for the slanting, hopping letters are set. The slant adds a dynamic element to the text and allows it to function with changing base line heights. The typeface also has easily recognizable, wide serifs, based on simple geometric forms, which help to create a horizontal flow to letters, supporting the reading process, even in small sizes, rendered on a screen.

Ascenders in Hoptype are much higher than descenders, creating more white space when setting text and improving legibility

I was also testing my design principles to make sure that the typeface would work on iPad screen, render correctly in different sizes and have a friendly feeling of reading a book, not a technical manual.
Hoptype test screen

Hoptype is still in a design process, so it might change :). I'll be updating you on the progress.

If it wasn't enough and you'd like to see more, let me show you a couple of pictures from the Lapikon book, beautifully designed by Zosia Oslislo-Piekarska.
And last but not least, I'd like to thank everyone I had the chance to meet and learn from during Ala ma font(a) workshops. It was an amazing time!

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