National University of Ireland, Galway
All lettering uses modularity as the basis of form can be seen across different cultures such as the Roman order systems for construction numerical and Chinese types always adhering to a square grid structure. Johann Neudörffer the Elder the author of Fundament, [Becker, 2005], and credited with the development of a blackletter type ‘Fraktur’ which he released in copybooks for people to develop the calligraphic style. He also constructed full type systems using a square which provided the basis for each letter and was divided into ten equal parts allowing for a grid to be placed in his copybooks. While researching historical modular type systems a little know typeface ‘Fregio Mecano’ was identified, a modular typeface of Italian origin that dates to the 1920s. The designer of ‘Fregio Mecano’ is unknown but it features in The Encyclopedia of Type Faces by W. Turner Berry [Berry, 1990], alongside the typeface, Fregio Razional attributed to Giulio da Milano for Nebiolo, so it can be assumed that da Milano designed Fregio Mecano also. Using the original grid form of ‘Fregio Mecano’ as a basis, the twenty elements were created in various orientations and positions to construct the letterform. By investigating visual forms in upper and lowercase characters, it is hope to be able to draw insights around the use of vertical sections, curved joins, negative counters, and other comparative elements common across the forms. The system of typographic modularity was developed through simple graphical techniques, such as layering. Comparative insights were generated relating to various themes and visual characteristics that were common across each of the glyphs. A completed typeface – including numerals and punctuation, has now been constructed. This has allowed an exploration of how these modular elements combine to demonstrate how this practice-based method can help designers, students or educators build a modulator typeface from a fixed palette of visual elements. The arrangement of these elements can create various styles of type for use in different contexts or visual approaches.
This research was presented at the Affiliated Society Meeting: Design Incubation Special Program on Typography on February 23, 2018.