Pixel Land

Letterforms are typically flat, silhouetted shapes outlined with bezier curves. Subverting this construct, Pixel Land uses variable font technology, which enables many different iterations of a typeface to be incorporated into a single file. This project therefore explores the possibility of conveying depth through letterforms.

Click here for the full Pixel Land type specimen. 

Or, keep reading the project page for documentation on my research and process. 

Variable typeface and website specimen
Advisor: Kelsey Elder

01 Background

I started this project by creating code scripts that use mathematical functions to draw a set of ovals, each with a gradually changing radius and centerpoint values. The drawings investigate how repeated layering of a flat, slightly adjusted shape can result in three – dimensional patterns.

To further explore creating three-dimensional patterns, I animated the above drawings.

02 Letter Construction

In this phase, I explored various forms and animation methods using primitive geometries like squares, circles, and hexagons, making slight adjustments to their shapes. I referenced the work of geometry-minded thinkers like the architect Buckminster Fuller and mathematician Anthony Pugh.

I then drew three master versions of each letter (east, standard, and west) to achieve the illusion of rotation. The standard version, shown below, depicts a fully frontal view of each form.

Many glyphs overlay components, or drawing parts, as a way of hiding one aspect of the form while the other is exposed. This technique enables forms to conceal and reveal their qualities throughout the various points along their axis of transformation.  

03 Glyphs

The variable slider is accessible in design programs like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and in web environments through CSS text properties.

The examples below show how the characters behave as individuals, in the context of patterns, and as small parts of a larger whole.



Layering glyphs through tight letter spacing and line height creates unique optical effects. This treatment gives the typeface characteristics of a dimensional textile and introduces narrative world-building.


Pixel Land Specimen

Pixel Land’s typeface specimen uses the animated letterforms to retell the 19th century story “Flatland,” by Edwin A. Abbott, which famously describes a square from a two-dimensional universe dreaming about a sphere and discovering a third dimension.

Click here for the full Pixel Land type specimen.

Los Angeles, Calif.