Christian Hertlein and Marcus Paeschke, two young German interaction designers, have just unveiled a new interface that solves a problem that most designers never give a second thought to: Sifting through thousands of fonts, hoping to find the right one.
As Herlein and Paeschke point out, searching for a font involves two sorts of catalogs: Either a printed one, which lets you easily skim through pages and pages of fonts, but doesn’t let you preview any; or an online catalog, which lets you preview the fonts, but is a beast to wade through–you’re constantly clicking, and you’re apt to lose your place.
Fontplore is basically a combination of both approaches. It’s based around an interactive table, and you explore the data by placing one of two objects atop it. One’s round. When placed on the table, you can turn it like a knob, scrolling through the cataloged fonts. Once you’ve found something you’re interested in, you bring out the other object, a flat-topped pyramid. Place it on the table, and you can preview, save, print and reset, simply by changing which side of the pyramid is facing out. Sounds complicated, but watch it in action:
The inventors hope that the device will be a cool way for very rich design agencies to get their clients involved in the design process. But maybe they’re being too modest: After all, design is a collaborative process, and the problem with every design program is that they don’t exactly lend themselves to group use. When’s the last time you and a partner sat down at Illustrator to bang out an idea? Not exactly a smooth process, was it?
Perhaps, with the advent of larger and larger touchscreens with more and more applications, the time will come when designing something feels a bit more like it did in the old, analogue days, with a smart team working around a table filled with sketches, scraps of paper, and ideas–trading, remixing, and debating.