Those Celebrity Types

The main aim of the brief is to design two glyphs based on any chosen celebrity/personality. One of these glyphs is then animated to react in a way that expresses the personality further.

We started with a lecture on how type has power, a personality and back-story  and conveys an influencing message of its own. A type face itself is speaking to us and can convey quality and longevity for items that are cheap and short-lived. Type can feel corporate, friendly, casual, luxurious, exclusive, trustworthy and so much more.

In short, type can influence our experience and the choices we make.

The glyphs I selected out of the bag were “F” and “V”. After some consideration, I chose Alan Turing.



Alan Turing: 1912 – 1954

Turing was a scientist, mathematician and cryptologist of high intellect. He developed the concept of a machine capable of computing anything that is computable. Turing became a leading influence in wartime code-breaking during World War II. Working at Bletchley Park, he became known for his creation of an electromechanical device that was fundamental in deciphering the German Enigma encrypted signals. The “Turing Machine” and his work became the basic concept of modern day computing. It is estimated that breaking the Enigma code shortened the war by as much as two years, saving over 14 million lives. This remained a government held secret for more than 50 years.

Following a break-in at his house, prompting a police investigation, Turing admitted to having a sexual relationship with another man. Homosexuality was illegal in the early 1950’s and he was charged with gross indecency. Given the choice between incarceration and chemical castration (hormone treatment), Turing opted for the later. He committed suicide on June 7th, 1954, aged 41.

More than 37,000 people signed a petition to clear Turing’s name of the conviction. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous Royal pardon, honouring his unprecedented achievements.

The Imitation Game

As part of my research, I chose to watch the “The Imitation Game”. This historical thriller is loosely based on the biography of Alan Turing (acted by Benedict Cumberbatch) and illustrates how he helped solve the Enigma code. This film helped give a clearer insight to Turing’s thinking and his personality.

I followed this with research into binary coding, the enigma machine and the Turing electromechanical computer. I also observed many stylised and characterised typefaces to help inspire me on how imagery can influence a design.

The visual research inspired a concept of using particular elements together to create a typeface.




I focused on one initial concept and began to explore further.


and experimented with shading.


and explored the idea of removing some of the elements.


The original design sketches show the consideration of using parts of letters, peering through the wholes, spelling the name “Christopher”, the name Turing used to refer to his decoding machine. Christopher was a schoolboy friend for whom Turing held affections. He inspired him intellectually in many areas, including cryptology. Christopher Morcom died suddenly at the young age of 18, in 1932, of bovine tuberculosis.

I also considered using the letters binary and hexadecimal equivalents as shading concepts and the use of black and white squares to represent crosswords patterns. Turing used crosswords to evaluate candidates for job positions.

I have felt strongly tempted to fill these designed glyphs with as many layers of coding as possible, including Turing’s dates of birth and death. However because small versions of the letters are to be shown, I have chosen not to use forms of shading but to utilise a simple, bold, black and white design. Detail would be lost in a small font and is likely to look messy.

I have chosen to keep the name ALAN TURING in Morse code around the circumference of the design, as a single coded element.


Turing was a great logical thinker, with poor inter-personal skills. He seemed to lack feeling and many of his responses to people were considered as cold, arrogant and calculated. He was a difficult character to empathise with and relate to and he kept so much to himself. In the film, his superior refers to him as having more secrets than the best of spies. His sexuality, being one of those, is discretely referred to, by turning two of the circles into symbols, denoting male gender.


I expanded the design concept across the entire alphabet to see how each letter could be expressed.


I also experimented in using these designs to spell out the name Alan Turing.

Aaln Turing

Happy with the concept, my given letters “F” and “V” were constructed using Illustrator:


Animating the letter “V” (Character Reactions)

The next part of the project is to animate one of these letters in response to typing that letter on a keyboard. The animation is to reflect the way the celebrity might react or expression themselves, if pressed in real life. This is to help give an increased sense of personality.

As described earlier, Turing’s response would be cold, calculated, un-emotional and considered.


The idea behind the animation is as follows:

  • The outer element, representing the bomb rotor, is pulled back anti-clockwise, signifying the cocking of a gun (making ready to fire). This is a reminder of wartime weapons. Note: the thumbnail rotor remains independently fixed (stationary).
  • On its release, the bomb rotor abruptly springs back to its original position.
  • This sudden return force sends the thumbnail rotor spinning clockwise.
  • This rotation triggers the glyph to flash “V” in Morse code:morse1
  • Once computed, the thumbnail rotor opens and a “V” is coughed out.
  • This dissolves into a Morse coded “V” smoke signal and disperses.

This animation represents a sequence of mechanical and logical processes. An input results in an output, almost as a hybrid of mechanical computing, logical intelligence and coding.     I feel this is very much the way Turing would respond.


The brief allows for only 12 frames per second. This limits the smoothness of the animation. The human visual process is able to perceive 12 frames per second (FPS) as individual images. Most standard animations are around double this amount of FPS. The UK, PAL (Phase Alternate Line) television standard, transmitted at 25 complete FPS, up until the relatively recent digitisation and increase to High Definition TV.

The speed of this animation has been difficult to judge. It appears to me to vary according to the process or programme used. I feel it differs when shown in PS, compared to when it is exported as an MP4 file, or as an animated gif.

With 90 frames in total, at approximately 12 frames per second, when calculated the animation is 7.5 seconds in duration. Each frame is set to 0.08 seconds.


Diary cover composition

The Letter “M”  (the medium is the message)

For the Easter break, we were given the task of creating a letterform out of a material that begins with that letter. I was assigned the letter “M”. After some consideration, I had the idea of using matches. These were inserted into holes that had been drilled into a piece of wooden PLY board and then set a light .The sequence of burning matches were photographed. This exercise demonstrates how the medium can be used to express the message.


The burnt matches also gave an interesting subject to photograph close up.




This leads onto finding a typographic solution for a famous celebrity tweet, which make the messages more expressive than the limits imposed by the simple text on twitter. I scribble down initial concepts on the brief:

There are two tweets that take my interest over the others:

  1. In honour of oil-soaked birds, ‘tweets’ are now gurgles.
  2. Power out? No problem.


Initially I intended to explore “Power out? No problem”. I started by taking over 200 photographs of a plasma dome in the dark, capturing the lightning, with the intention of manipulating the light into letters.

Plasma Dome

Plasma Dome

However, whilst experimenting with the process, I unexpectedly realised that with a little digital adjustment, this would perhaps be better suited for “In honour of oil-soaked birds, ‘tweets’ are now gurgles”. This feels very different from the original concept and one I was unlikely to have thought of prior to starting.


By using Comic Sans as an initial mask, the images of the Plasma Dome are digitally manipulated. By experimenting, I arrive at a set of steps that I feel represent a mix oil and water.

  • Use comic sans mask.. crop 800 x 800. Enlarge to 2000pixel height
  • erase white 100 % to create mask
  • defuse hard edges by using erase brush, size 65
  • with clone set to lighten, overlay element of light from dome photos
  • adjust white levels up
  • Use Liquefy effect to adjust shape and apply a liquid feel
  • invert and adjust white levels levels
  • de-saturate colour
  • colourise hue 240… saturate 70
  • magic erase white at 10 % to eliminate background
  • save as PNG

This set of steps has been applied to all the letters of the alphabet.


The next step was to work on a background. Using similar techniques, with a different hue and saturation level, a pattern is created. I also added feathers and birds into the mix. The letters are then placed over the background, with “multiply” effect selected. This takes away any white outline:


The letters are rearranged for the re-tweet:



Reflective diary cover


Reflective thoughts.

Like the tweet, the re-tweeted Type attempts to expresses an unpalatable subject of oil soaked birds in a subtle way. The seriousness of the message is not immediately apparent and may take a moment to understand. I interpret ‘gurgles‘ as the sound of birds drowning as a result of oil slicks, whilst “gurgles” on its own may sound funny. The light blues of the background may reflect the pleasant colours of water, whilst subtle floating feathers and birds flying give this a deeper meaning that is not immediately apparent. The oily looking text completes the message of pollution and death that oil slicks can cause.


What is learned.

When designing or using type, consider how that type relates to its audience at a level beyond the words. How does it make us feel?  What does the type convey; comfort, trustworthiness, desire, amusement, heritage, youthfulness, health, wealth or fun?  Type may need to express alarm, fear, anxiety or sorrow.  Do we warm to it, trust it, like it or does it unsettle us? Who is the audience, what is the type trying to express, what is the message and does it sit suitably in its environment? Is the type loud or quiet, reserved or flamboyant?  Be creative, explore ideas, be visual and express the type beyond its static form.

Type is not just text, give type power by allowing its personality to do the talking.



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