Most typefaces are purposefully designed. Not this one. Aerial Bold is a typeface of topography, made up entirely of the accidental letters found in satellite images: buildings, roads, rivers, trees, and lakes that just happen to resemble our ABCs.
Created by MIT alumni Joey Lee and Benedikt Groß, Aerial Bold is designed to be the first typeface of the Earth plucked exclusively from satellite imagery. Most of the world is still unmapped, so Lee and Groß plan to generate Aerial Bold through algorithms that scan the world’s satellite data for features that look like letters. And Aerial Bold won’t be just a single font; it’ll also be a searchable database of all the topography in the world that looks like letters, which can be used by designers any way they can think of.
Groß and Lee say that Aerial Bold is as much about figuring out new algorithms to identify patterns from satellite imagery as it is about making a typeface. Once those algorithms are perfected, finding alphabets hidden in the trees, lakes, rivers, and streets of the world is just one possible use case. In the future, the same algorithm could be used to, say, scan photographs for undiscovered ruins, or any other project that could benefit from technology that can automatically scan satellite imagery for patterns. Today, Aerial Bold; tomorrow, perhaps, a database of all the highways in the world that look like penises.