Josh Nimoy
I am designing a new kind of dynamic type display signage.

Because I am trying to expand the world's limited number of methods for doing just this.

In order to better understand why there isn't a larger diversity of dynamic type display styles in existence, and in order to see what happens when you put a new one into the world.
Here are some examples of pre-existing dynamic type systems. Notice that each one features letterforms individually deconstructed into smaller toggling parts.

- introduce the magic 8
All the examples I just showed you are embedded into our everyday repetitive lives. For example, the magic 8 is in wrist watches.
There is a painfully small number of signage display typeface styles, relative to the number of fonts available for desktop publishing software. Relative to the infinite variation of human handwriting.

Why does this huge gap exist?
1. TOO HARD- Requires conceptual collaboration between engineers and typographers.
2. Most dynamic type paradigms were created by very utilitarian needs - traffic control, the display of time or stocks. If it was ledgible and used low power and was low cost, that was enough.
3. Electronic devices are brand new compared to the printing press, and paper. We haven't had technology around long enough to think about letters that change themselves materially.
Electronic devices are generalized by nature. For reasons of economy, most people will just use a big pixel screen if they want to do something special with type.
And even then, the tools are limited.
So are there examples of new dynamic letterforms in places where the above three problems have been addressed?
Yes, there are novel instances in media art and onscreen interactive design. My new prototype for a letterform falls into the same category as these works. I am producing the object in order to provoke thought in people.
Here are two other typeface robots I had produced at ITP while thinking about this exact design issue.
The object I am building for my thesis looks like this. It is a bunch of rollers with paper sliding back and forth. The paper has a pattern printed on it, representing different possible pieces of letterform.
Now here is an onscreen interactive demo of the prototyping object. This is the interactive simulation of the object. You type a key on a keyboard, and it changes into the letter. Essentially, the typeface is presented for user testing and human enjoyment in the form of a toy.

[show metal & wood prototypes]

Why rollers?
1. It was different than rotating arms and ribbon.
2. It's a cultural remix of the rollers already in use by the older new york subway trains in changing full lines of text - rolled by hand.
3. It's a visual simplification of all the "linear state scrubbing" that I've seen most notibly in the way a Furby's face animation is done using one motor. I want to apply that technique to a typeface.
4. You can touch it.

I have sent the sketches and applet out by email to many friends, as well as sat down with people at ITP casually and explained what I am doing. There has been a lot of feedback concerning the mechanics of the rollers and the behavior of the interactive demo, itself. No one has comments on the visual properties of the typeface, but I think it is commonly understood that this is the serendipitous part of the project and we all see what happens.
I am experimenting with new sketches on how I might possibly conserve the number of servo motors needed per letterform by possibly positioning them in some rotated tangle, also using different sized rollers. This might lend itself to making something that moves more organically and also becomes a more specialized display, formed only for letterforms and not for general pixel screen usage.

These ideas are not generally meant to go into the production of the object for my thesis - because I want to keep this thoughtspace open and away from my current technical commitments.