On running, fonts, and meditation

By David

With the emergence of web fonts, and grid systems for responsive design, UIs are beginning to look like well designed print designs. I have a copy of Designing Books: Practice and Theory – an out of print hard to read European style book of design theory – flipping its pages inspires me to re-think designing for screen. 1

I’ve been wondering if web designers were making the print design connection, then I came across Mike Kruzeniski – How Print Design is the Future of Interaction. The article is recommended reading if you’re unfamiliar with print design, or its history.

All of this has been rekindling my love of fonts untill I discovered Simon Garfield’s Just My Type: a book about fonts, which has caused my type-love to burst into flame again.

But besides design work, I also use fonts as meditation objects when I run by playing a kind of type trumps game. Let me explain.

I’ll visualise a counter in a particular font, say Akzidenz Grotesk, and have it repeat in cycles of 10 or 20, usually driving the counter with my footsteps, and focusing on the detailed anatomy of the characters.

When my mind wanders I’ll switch fonts to regain focus. This helps me to forget about time and distance.

After a run I usually write down a few notes, which is surprising, because when I run I try to meditate on letters and not thoughts, but somehow meaning persists.

For me, this highlights the importance of fonts as containers of thinking – we should not underestimate the role of fonts in mediating our cognitive processes. And with the arrival of web fonts, typography on the web can finally come of age, allowing the creation of experiences with wider, more subtle, meanings.

  1. As is the work of Jan Tschibold.