Can you make sense of this abstract 3D font?

Compared to the soft yet modern beauty of ThreeSix (opens in new tab), Panopticon (opens in new tab) – a recent typeface by MuirMcNeil – looks modern and brutal. It's a 3D typeface that comes in four versions – the camera position shifting for each one.

"There is no inter-character spacing in Panopticon. The letterforms are designed to fit edge-to-edge in both horizontal and vertical dimensions," says Hamish Muir. "The layers in each Panopticon projection are designed to interact with one another."

The typeface is actually named after a type of prison designed in the 18th century by Jeremy Bentham. From one position, it's possible to observe all the prisoners in their cells. Viewed flat, its forms are very abstract, perhaps even a bit alien. However, by changing the colour of certain planes within the letter forms, more sense can be made of them, and the effect can be a lot more pleasant.

MuirMcNeil has designed a poster to promote it. Muir explains: "The screen-printed poster explores one such interaction by overlaying and offsetting the word 'panopticon' – split onto four lines – using overprinting to emphasise the abstract nature of the letterforms, which are constructed from a set of core common elements.

"In this poster we're trying to locate the edge between reading and pure form, and depending on lighting conditions and viewing distance, the poster reveals the word 'panopticon' or fragments to a pattern of abstract geometrical shapes."

Visit the MuirMcNeil (opens in new tab) site, where £60 gets you a five-user licence to use Panopticon and a silk-screened poster.

Words: Garrick Webster

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts (opens in new tab) issue 229.

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