On 2 August, 2012 Adobe released their first open source typeface, Source Sans Pro, designed by Paul D. Hunt.1 In February 2013 An Endless Supply initiated Source Sans How to work together — the font used for titles above, and across this website2 — a multi-authored typeface developed through conversation between its contributors.
Using Source Sans Pro as a base and in the spirit of its open source mission statement,3 type designers are assigned an individual letter to adjust or reconceive. Throughout the development of the typeface the font will be recirculated amongst its contributors who are invited to amend their initial contributions in response to the continual development of the typeface as a whole. Through this process the typeface will shape-shift as more contributors means more negotiation and compromise, all working together towards an unforeseeable, ever-changing goal.
The delegation of characters operates in sets of four. The first generation of glyphs have been contributed by Kaisa Lassinaro, Roman Gornitsky, HIT Studio and Dries Wiewauters. The second by A Practice For Everday Life, Noël Leu (GrilliType), Mylinh Trieu Nguyen and Studio Frith. (Kaisa, APFEL and Studio Frith are the respective in-house designers for The Showroom, Studio Voltaire and Chisenhale Gallery, the organisations that founded the How to work together project.)4
In its earliest stages Source Sans How to work together has moved through two broadly defined forms of working together: moments of ‘positive’ collaboration and discussion, working towards a common goal, producing letterforms that speak the same language; to more discordant, ‘negative’ additions, whose motive is more individualistic, aiming to break any conventional harmony or rhythm.5 Embedded in the invitation to work together is the option to refuse (either an outright refusal, or, more interestingly, a disruptive addition). In the event of refusal it is the host’s duty to try to patch things up, perhaps through editing, introducing rules, or more explicitly directing future collaborators. Source Sans How to work together is destined to this process: the repetition of cohesion and variety. As the font develops there will be more material to work against or with (both in terms of letterforms and the How to work together public programme), and the quality of these collaborative gestures (positive and negative) should become more sophisticated and complex. With the increase in authors one predicted answer to the question of how to work together might be, ‘in groups limited in size, where every individual still has an interest’.
IMAGINE the image of two unicorns in the moment of butting heads. This image is based on a scene from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) in which the two characters Station charge towards one another, fusing to form a singular Station.6 It represents the split second before the moment (a potentially endless moment) of creation of Source Sans How to work together. Volatile in a positive sense, an attempt at connection and unification. As the separate entities collide parts jostle for position, negotiate space, reconfigure, realign, fuse, until finally something entirely new is formed. This new being retains qualities of its original self but sacrifices individuality for the sake of its new unified oneness. 1 and 1, and, in the case of How to work together, 1, self-sacrificed to create the number 4.7
An Endless Supply.
1 ‘Generally, open source refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design.’ From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source.
This text is set in Times. The multi-column layout you are reading is output using another open source software, the Financial Times Labs’ FTScroller. At the time of writing FTScroller is inconsistent when used with webfonts (i.e. Source Sans How to work together), and requires pre-installed system fonts to work successfully (i.e. Times).
3 From the Source Sans Pro user agreement: ‘Preamble: The goals of the Open Font License (OFL) are to stimulate worldwide development of collaborative font projects, to support the font creation efforts of academic and linguistic communities, and to provide a free and open framework in which fonts may be shared and improved in partnership with others.’
4 The alternate characters are served through the webfont’s OpenType stylistic alternates feature. For an overview of OpenType features visit http://blog.fontdeck.com/post/15777165734/opentype-1. At the time of writing Chrome and Firefox are the only browsers to support this feature. Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera are served separate font files that simulate the stylistic alternates.
5 Even within these ruptures there is the potential for order: order wherein the rupture becomes a dominant form; or, order whose underlying scheme is intentionally degenerative.
7 Based on the five members of experimental music group AMM, who considered themselves a sextet (the sixth member being the five of them as one entity). This concept was introduced to the author by The Tiger’s Mind, edited by Will Holder, published by Sternberg Press, 2012.