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The Letters Of The Alphabet Mapped In 3-D, Like A City

Caspar Lam and YuJune Park of the design studio Synoptic Office developed a topographic typeface that visualizes how often we use the letters of the alphabet.

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Here’s a poetic idea: a typeface that visualizes letter usage as a set of 3-D topographic maps. Caspar Lam and YuJune Park of the design studio Synoptic Office wanted to represent “language and the ebb and flow of spoken English,” as Park tells Co.Design, so using 3-D modeling software and a laser cutter, they converted each letterform into a 6-inch-by-6-inch butter board sculpture, the height of which corresponds to the letter’s frequency (as defined by the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory). The taller the letter, the more we use it. Throw all the letters together, and they form a real, live alphabet city–a skyline of towering “e”s and low-rise “d”s and blind-alley “x”s. And what do you know? If we rendered our language in brick and mortar, it would approximate the Jane Jacobs ideal. There’s something deeply reassuring about that.

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For more stories on topographic visualization, go here and here.

[Images courtesy of Synoptic Office; h/t It’s Nice That]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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