Cn yu rd ths? How about if only part of the letters were visible? And what if they moved around on the screen? Think you might be able to read faster and pick up on more subtext? Yeah, we were doubtful, too, but those are some of the questions designer Masato Nakada explores in the clever web app, Type Snap. Using just HTML5, CSS, and jQuery, Type Snap allows viewers to move partial letterforms around to make dynamically shifting words. The bits and pieces of letterforms cycle, mixing and matching various fonts—both serif and sans serif—and the results are surprisingly readable.
Type Snap began as a response to the problem we all experience, that of being inundated with too much to read online and too little time to take it all in. So we skim, and as a result we retain only a fraction of the actual content. Nakada’s typographic solution allows for maximum quantity without compromising quality. The dynamic Type Snap font is made up of partial letterform pair sets that join into a single character, much like traditional ligatures. That means 280 Type Snap characters would fit in a 140-character tweet.
According to Nakado’s theory, we should be able to type the word “the” with just one and half letters, not three. By means of an explanation, Nakada points to a quote by Ladislav Sutnar that he believes is more relevant than ever now.
“Without efficient typography, the jet plane pilot cannot read his instrument panel fast enough to survive. [So] new means had to come to meet the quickening tempo of industry. Graphic design was forced to develop higher standards of performance to speed up the transmission of information. [And] the watchword of today is ‘faster, faster;’ produce faster, distribute faster, communicate faster.”
If it’s not making sense, Nakada says to think of Type Snap like emojis in motion, a comparison that’s raised more than a few eyebrows. “I believe that emojis are still typography. The direct translation of emoji is ‘picture letters.’ Originally, they were composed purely of letters. So I don’t want to disregard emojis as low-class, internet-pictionary language. They are as practical and sophisticated as Helvetica. Now it’s Helvetica’s turn to be influenced by the internet.”
Nakada’s playful experiment with digital typography is as much an homage to early ’90s Emigre fonts Keedy Sans and Dead History as it is about his own views on our evolving relationship with the internet. “The attitude and the way we use the internet as a whole is quite postmodern. Compared to the days of the movie You’ve Got Mail, today’s internet is quite complex. It was once a place where the purposes were very clear—this site was for work, that site was for play, another site to download music. Now the internet is challenged with leaks, hacks, and neutrality, so what typeface is more appropriate than Dead History to represent this period of confusion and defiance?”
Right now, Type Snap can be used to send screenshot messages. Nakada is working on a function that will allow an easy screenshot/share UI for users. “My ideal scenario is this: somebody plays around with Type Snap and arranges the phrase ‘Broken Bone!,’ snaps a screenshot, and then shares it with a friend. The friend reads it, gets the urgency, and pays a visit to the hospital.”