Jonathan Zong's talk at Before & Beyond Typography (bbtypo.com/). Transcript available here: jonathanzong.com/blog/2020/05/31/biometric-sans-and-public-display-embodied-writing-in-the-age-of-data
Typography is often used as a visual means to express identity and individuality. However, modern typography is premised on standardization for mass production. Metal fonts are models for the efficient creation of a series. Now, computer fonts inherit a predisposition toward homogenization and disembodiment. Handwritten notes are few and far between, and the same technology that digitizes handwriting powers the dehumanizing facial recognition apparatus built on non-consensual image datasets built by academics, corporations, and the government. The tension between individuality and standardization—between being legible as an individual and legible to a machine—becomes a microcosm for understanding power and control within interface design writ large.
I explore the space between mechanical and artisanal writing in Biometric Sans, a typographic software system which elongates letterforms in response to the typing speed of the individual, and Public Display, a digital font that abstracts letters from a facial recognition dataset. Biometric Sans considers the use of keystrokes as biometric data to ask what graphical forms might emerge from the reintroduction of the hand to digital writing. Public Display surfaces the tension of objectifying faces while searching them for legible patterns. The former places bodies in text, while the latter finds text in bodies. Both foreground non-human agency in textual and visual communication as data subjects us to a perpetual condition of being read and identified.