Project #Fontphoria Previews a New Future for Working with Type
A typeface is more than just text for reading. Type has personality. It conveys attitude, personality and purpose. And in the hands of a talented designer, stylized text can communicate even more—it becomes an intricate part of design and evokes the range of human emotion.
Getting it right can be profitable for designers. Brands will pay tens of thousands of dollars, or even more, in the quest for the perfect logo—the right mix of type, design and personality that captures brand essence.
But working with type as a designer can be deceptively complex. It’s an art that can take years (or even a lifetime) to master. For illustrators or logo designers, each letter represents a complex formula of lines, curves, spatial relationships that is intertwined with every other letter and symbol in a typeface.
Adobe Computer Scientists Nipun Jindal and Praveen Kumar Dhanuka, along with Sr. Research Scientist Matthew Fisher, wanted to make specialized type design more accessible to everyone. They collaborated to develop Project #Fontphoria—a collection of new tools and technologies for exploring, iterating and manipulating type.
“Our inspiration actually came from interactions in Reddit’s r/PhotoshopRequest, where people make different requests for help with editing pictures,” says Matthew Fisher. “We noticed that a lot of requests were to do things like edit a stylized band poster, where someone wanted to recreate a particular style or create a parody meme, perhaps just changing a word or two. People see design styles that they like and want to have fun and play with them. Our goal was to make that easier.”
As demonstrated onstage at Adobe MAX 2018, #Fontphoria is actually a series of tools. The first will allow a designer working with type in a program like Adobe Illustrator to make a stylized change to just a single letter, and then automatically transfer that style to every other letter and symbol in the typeface, while still keeping the text live and editable (rather than a series of paths).
Another tool will allow a designer to import a photo with stylized type, such as graffiti written on a wall, and generate an entire live typeface in that style.
“This sort of glyph generation is essentially a way to quickly create an entirely unique font for a project,” Nipun Jindal explains. “To make it work, we used Adobe Sensei’s artificial intelligence technology to create a deep generative adversarial network (GAN). The generative network was trained with 25000 unique typefaces and works to create a font of 26 characters, starting from a base example of just five. The adversarial network looks at two typefaces, one generated and one real, and tries to determine which one looks better. By pitting them in competition against one another, we’re ultimately able to train the generative network to create extremely high-quality, complete fonts.”
The final capability of #Fontphoria uses augmented reality to visualize stylized typefaces applied to everyday objects. As Praveen Kumar Dhanuka demonstrated on stage at MAX, it gives designers a quick way to preview and show variation of type styles to a client. Using several printed table-top displays for food at a restaurant, he used the live feed of a tablet’s camera to replace the printed text with a real-time overlay of generated text.
Although the capabilities of #Fontphoria are impressive to see, much work remains to be done to turn these sorts of conceptual capabilities into product-ready features. “Glyph generation is probably the most innovative feature. It requires a lot of computing power and innovative algorithms to take rasterized text, convert it into vector paths for manipulation, and then back to rasterized text again. In the demo, we’re using known typefaces, so the generation appears to be instant, but it can still take up to an hour of intensive GPU time to complete glyph generation for highly-stylized text,” Praveen cautions.
There are also important issues around copyright and intellectual property to consider. Praveen adds, “This isn’t a tool intended to breach IP. Our goal is to give designers new capabilities like style transfer and glyph generation to help them create, but we always want to make sure we’re erring on the side of caution and respecting creator’s legal rights.”
This story is part of a series that will give you a closer look at the people and technology that were showcased as part of Adobe Sneaks. Read other Peek Behind the Sneaks stories here.