The Daily Heller: Is the Plural of Platypus Platypi or Platypuses?

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There are some vital type and graphic design archives opening in the United States and elsewhere, and the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography, directed by Gloria Kundrup, is high on my list. However, given that the HMCT is located on the West Coast, it’s difficult to keep tabs on the multitude of its inventive work from here on the East Coast. That will change as we diligently report more about emerging design archives and collections.

One project from HMCT, in particular, on view through Oct. 15, is Do You Have a Platypus? If you miss the show, it’s forever available as posters folded into a broadsheet newsprint format. The endeavor features a selection of found FAQs taken at random from websites for established businesses, institutions, online help desks, cultural centers, etc., that link to a particular subject. Their authors and authenticity remain a mystery, evoking both amusement, confusion and surprise.

Do You Have a Platypus? features a selection of these FAQs typeset as they appeared—with no grammatical corrections—in selected fonts designed by students in Greg Lindy’s Font Design courses at ArtCenter College of Design. “Can twins read each other’s minds?” “Why is it illegal to sell a used mattress in Florida?” “Are giraffes government spies?”

19th- and early 20th-century type foundries often showed off their specimens using out-of-context sentences, lines of poetry or nonsense sayings that give the type-user the opportunity to experience the effects of certain letter juxtapositions.

This exhibition and publication explores a 21st-century version of this “literary” letter tradition: It asks whether typefaces can influence—and be influenced by—the quotes they are set in. The students consider whether the font takes on a different character when expressing a certain quote, or whether the quote itself assumes a new significance when presented in a distinctive font. The folded sheets of the publication add another level to the serendipitous typography.

Participating designers: Carson Chang, Olivia Chao, Hampton Duke Dunlap, Lauren Ebeling, Erron Estrada, Shin G., Nancy Gao, Erin Harpur, Alison Hochi, Carina Huynh, Samuel Kang, Alex Kasper, Faris Khedro, Soo Kim, Lavinia Lascaris, Cid Lee, Lingou Li, Kexin Lin, Peggy Luk, Evelyn Luu, Abigail Meza, Tiffany Ngai, Brian Ostroff, Gabrielle Pulgar, Roberto Rodriguez, Claudio Rodriguez Jr, Glenn Ryan, Fazel Sayeh, Charlie Jincheng Shi, Deb Shieh, Josse Slater, Jen Sorrell, Yuanyuan (Poppy) Su, Suzy Suh, Josiah Tersief, Vincent Than, Anna Thomas, Hsin Pin Tsai, Logan Vandergrift, Ana Carolina Vazquez Lopez, Jacobjohn Vital, Ke Wang, Zeke Wattles, Irene Wiryanto.

Posted inThe Daily Heller Typography