Somewhere, a mad scientist is growing a menagerie of slimy alien creatures by splicing together the genes of squids and insects. But it’s not in some lab below Area 51–it’s on the Mac Pro of Ari Weinkle, who’s been spending his nights and weekends off from Icon Interactive to piece together this shivers-inducing typeface called Feelers.
“I hope that it makes people feel intrigued,” Weinkle says of his work, “and perhaps a bit unsettled.”
The work started innocently enough, as Weinkle toyed around with lights and textures in his 3-D modeling software. A certain combination reminded him of the oozy skin of sea creatures. Inspired, he began modeling a 2-D alphabet in Illustrator, using an old type specimen as his letter rubric, and photos of cephalopods as his organism rubric.
“Finding the balance between creepy and beautiful was certainly one of the tougher parts,” Weinkle says. “It was also challenging working with the simulations and getting everything to feel right.”
He turned the work 3-D, then gave it motion inside Cinema4D. He crafted movement from muscle simulations which he tweaked with hand animation–and indeed, if you look through the entire alphabet in motion, you can see that these letters feel like they have minds of their own, moving less with respect to their individual glyphs, and more out of an organic drive of smooth muscle tissue that your mind can’t begin to deconstruct.
I wouldn’t say it’s the most practical typeface,” Weinkle says. “It’s more of a conceptual experiment.” Not a problem—the best mad scientists’ experiments err towards the conceptual.