This weekend I finished Face
, an editor where you can change both the text and the font. I learned a ton doing it, both about how to use canvas, and about how fonts are traditionally rendered.
Face was made to investigate fonts more. Making it I realized I've always chafed against how limited my control of a font in a design is. You get to choose the font, but then you're locked in. Part of this is because font design is complicated. I don't have the skills to go in and edit an individual letterform so that it better fits in this specific design and also harmonizes with the rest of the font. Fonts are generally constructed in terms of vector shapes -- editing one of those is daunting because so much craft has gone into balancing it.
Face uses a pixel font, where the letters have an 8x16 pixel grid, This makes editing a specific letter, or even several letters manageable. The constraints mean you can understand how a letter works and imagine how your changes could affect it (you can have a reasonably accurate mental model), What you lose is access to all the great expressive work font designers have done. You also lose easy scalability (depending on the pixel density of your screen, in-between sizes can result in blurry pixels). These experiments are trying to really get a feel for those trade-offs, and maybe find some different directions around them. I've been working towards something that has a 1-bit drawing mode combined with text, where the text-sizing is regular and predictable.
In all of this I've been thinking a lot about Minecraft. Minecraft seems to me to be a triumph of an understandable mental model -- for both kids and adults. There is something so freeing about everything in the world being built with the same building blocks you have. And it's been so successful, the desire for that sort of play must be so deep (legos are the obvious antecedent, and still massively popular themselves). And yet it still seems like an underexplored space to me. It seems like a space uniquely suited to computers, since in certain ways computers can reprogram themselves -- they attempt to be nothing more than a possibility space -- at least that's my favorite version of what a computer is. I want to do projects that unlock that feeling.