“A Font Made Entirely of Satellite Imagery of Buildings”

A new font makes use of depictions of buildings from above:

Benedikt Gross, a data visualization designer, and Joey Lee, a geographer, spend a lot of time looking at satellite imagery. The duo met at MIT’s Senseable City Lab a few years ago and after realizing their mutual enthusiasm for maps—or, more exactly, strange patterns in the Earth’s surface—decided to collaborate on a dataset called The Big Atlas of LA Pools, inspired by the many shapes of pools in Los Angeles.

Gross and Lee are now onto their new project, Aerial Bold. Once completed, it will be the first typeface created from shapes and patterns from the planet’s topology. Whereas The Big Atlas of LA Pools began as a mission to compare pools per capita with other datasets (like neighborhood crime), Aerial Bold was born from a few errant observations. “Basically we spend so much time looking at satellite images, that we realized there are some letters in them,” Gross says. As is often the case with noticing an oddity for the first time, once they saw a few letters, “suddenly letters were all over the place.”…

First, they synthesize satellite imagery and prep it so an algorithm can read it. This involves cranking up the contrast and blocking out distinct shapes in red. Their software can read those blocks of color and extract letters. So far Gross and Lee have scanned images of Germany, Turkey, Paris, Denmark, Switzerland, California, and New York. Gross says that letters made mostly of right angles, like I and H, have shown up most frequently…

Besides creating the promised font out of satellite images, Gross says Aerial Bold could have any number of creative uses for artists. He and Lee have been approached by publishers interested in flipping the typology into a children’s book on the ABCs—something that Gross mentions could live in a digital format. They also want to share their image-detection methods with the public.

As someone who enjoys cities as well as overhead satellite views, this is quite clever. Such a project also produces a font for the covers of all the new books about cities as well as college campus posters about classes and lectures having to do with urban areas or buildings.

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