design research project, publication, workshop
TRICOTYPE explores the design of letterforms within the space of the machine knitting punchcard. The project is a collaboration with artist / designer Jonathan Hitchen.
Through design workshops and publications, the project tries to identify the restrictions and opportunities of the standard punchcard - a 24 x 60 grid that will repeat upon knitting - as a space for type design. How can the craft of machine knitting inform the development of typefaces? Can we differentiate the stitch from the pixel? How can the design of letterforms be a starting point for the development of pattern repeats?
Each workshop invites participants to become a worker within the Tricotype Foundry, and design a single given letterform. Letterforms (A-Z, 0-9) and styles (italic, bold, etc) are assigned at random, within each worker sketching out their design within the tight restrictions of the punchcard. After finishing their design on paper, participants punch the type-pattern on a punchcard, before finally knitting the pattern as a textile sample on a domestic knitting machine.
Throughout the design process, there is an emphasis both on the creation of the character, but also the development of pattern repeats. Legibility may be sacrificed for the optical rhythm created by the repetition of the letterform. A secondary aspect comes into play within the workshops - the engagement with the physical, and the slow. Pixel art and type design are patient activities, made even more labourious with the introuction of the punchcing of the card and the knitting of the textile.
TRICOTYPE was presented at TYPO '18 in Berlin, with 24 international designers contributing to the development of a complete alphabet over 2 days.
The project evolved from another knitting and type workshop by Re-Dock, called ALPHAKNIT, working with young people across libraries in liverpool to create their own letterforms and textile repeats. These workshops helped to inform the methodology for TRICOTYPE, and resulted in their own publication - the Alphaknit Pattern Book.
TRICOTYPE will be launching it's first publication, gathering together the designs from TYPO Berlin alongside new contributions from the UK, and presenting the workshop tool kit and methodology alongside a specially commissioned article by textile designer Alex Russell. The publication will be launched in October 2019.
"The nature of the punchcard, with its limited space and resolution, requires any design to be stripped to its most basic elements. Because of this, it forces a designer to determine what the basic elements must be to a level which isn't common in other types of design".
– Paul Lesack, workshop participant
May 2018 - TYPO '18 - HKW, Berlin, De
October 2019 - Tricotype v1