If a typeface could TALK, what would it sound like? If a typeface could MOVE, what would it do?

PersonaType: Living Type Specimens combines web fonts with user-generated web content (pillaged from posts, tweets and comments) to demonstrate the emotive qualities of type. Through the magical wizardry of CSS3 animation and a few sweet jQuery plugins, these kinetic, or living, type specimens allow users to watch/listen to text speak/move in several sensory ways, making auditory and visible the personified characteristics that can be assumed by a typeface. The project serves as an experimental prototype to model future methods for exploring the kinetic experience of web fonts, screen readers and voice recognition software.

the personality of type

Throughout the history of typography, designers, printers, poets and visual artists have utilized typographic expressiveness as a means for exploring the boundaries of visual communication. A thorough understanding of typographic personality, both a typeface's historical context and contemporary connotations, allows graphic designers to select appropriate typefaces for specific purposes. Type selection and typographic sensitivity is a fundamental skill of graphic designers, one that, arguably, sets them apart from non-designers.

But what about non-designers? On what basis do non-designers select fonts for personal and professional use? In 2006, the study Perception of Fonts: Perceived Personality Traits and Uses (Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University) asked survey participants to rate the personality of 20 typefaces using 15 adjective pairs, such as: Stable / Unstable, Conformist / Rebel, Polite / Rude, Feminine / Masculine, etc. Focused specifically on user interactions with screen-based typography, this study indicated an association by users between type classifications (such as Serif, Sans-Serif, Script, etc) with specific personality traits.

As part of an ongoing exploration into typographic personality, the PersonaType project pairs typefaces with voices and animation to demonstrate the performative possibilities of combining written and spoken language.

project credits

Amy Papaelias is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Foundation at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Amy develops experimental typefaces that challenge the relationship between verbal and visual communication. Previous projects include Type Talk Fonts and Sonotype. Her current creative research considers ways of improving, reimagining and recontextualizing screen-based reading experiences. amypapaelias.com

Tim LaSalle graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz in Dec 2011 with a BFA in Graphic Design. In Summer 2011, he helped develop the initial Personatype website, and has been instrumental in the laborious task of coding the majority of the specimen animations using CSS3. For his BFA thesis project, Tim designed a typeface that improves the legibility of screen-based kinetic typography. timlasalle.com

site colophon

This site was designed and hand-coded by Amy and Tim, with some javascript help from Garrett Gardner. All web fonts used on the site are served up via Typekit. Several Javascript Libraries and jQuery plugins are utilized, including BigText, Lettering.js, Modernizr, WDJ Content Slider, and jPlayer. The embedded voice recording plugin is ListenUp (no longer available for sale).

questions? comments?

Say hello: voice [at] personatype [dot] com.

special thanks

Garrett Gardner, Andrea Varga, Easwaran Chirrakal, Anita Gonzalez and everyone that has submitted a voice recording!

This project was made possible with support from the State University of New York at New Paltz through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program and the Research and Creative Project Awards program.