An experiment about genetic typography


Michael Schmitz, Student of Digital Media Design

Department of Visual Communication, University of Arts Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Developed in the class Digital Media Design with Professor Joachim Sauter.

© University of Arts Berlin 2003/04






What is generativity?

Do letters live?

Which genes discribe a type?

Is it possible to combine typography and genetics?

Are types able to reproduce themselves?


genoTyp tries to find answers.



genoTyp is an experiment regarding fonts under genetic aspects.

Their characteristics are encoded in hereditary factors. Different fonts can be mixed as desired and their genomes can be manipulated. New fonts are generated according to genetic rules.


In order to pair different fonts, their genetic structure must correspondence. In biology only organisms belonging to the same species can pair themselves. However fonts are of different species. One a for example ist defined by 30 points connected to each other to an outline, another by 60 points. Some a´s do have serifs, others don´t. There are fonts with high contrast (difference in the line strength) and some with almost continues line strength (low contrast).

So a special format had to be developed, which applies to all letters: The form of a letter results from the extents, the line strength and the serif form (if available). So these three informations are the genes of a letter.

They are saved in the DNA and describe the coordinates of points building a sceleton with rips and serifs in terms of a genetic code.


The program is divided into three sections:



The introduction explains the idea of genoTyp and the genetic fontformat.



Here original fonts can be loaded into a family tree and paired with each other. In addition options of the hereditary course can be affected.


Gene Laboratory

In the gene laboratory all produced fonts and every single letter can be looked at and compared in genotype and phenotype. Their genetic code can be manipulated what effecs the phenotype. Changes can be saved within the programm.


In addition a help section explains the features of the program and an encyclopedia gives information about technical terms.


Combining different types often results in mutants. Nevertheless new types are being generated which show a completely own, sometimes unexpected, character. Properties of the parents can be suspected but nevertheless something new and unique developed.

Thus genoTyp is a machine, which proposes ideas for new typefaces. How the results are used, or whether they serve as basis for advancements, is left to the designer. 


On you can breed and manipulate. Have fun.


Michael Schmitz