Typography Experiment: Expressing Rhizome through Variable Font Design

Author: miyoun.park

There are no rules, such as the structure of plant roots, fungi, and blood vessels, and life is felt in these structures where the beginning and the end are unknown. This structure was referred to as “rhizome” in the book Mille Plateaux (1980) by the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and rhizome is commonly used as a philosophical term. A rhizome is a concept in post-structuralism describing a nonlinear network that “connects any point to any other point.”

Even before its formal conceptualization, many artists sought to incorporate the philosophical concept of the rhizome into their works. Jackson Pollock’s action-painting effectively illustrates the abstraction of the Expressionist series described by Deleuze/Guattari. Michael Fried, in a commentary on Pollock’s action-painting work, described this as “refusing to bring one’s attention to a focus anywhere.” When observing Jackson Pollock’s work, your gaze does not fixate on any single point; instead, it is distributed evenly. This aligns with the smooth space that Deleuze/Guattari spoke of—a space that becomes smooth and homogeneous, with the gaze evenly distributed and equalized. Deleuze/Guattari sum it up as “a line that draws no contours, does not constrain any form, constantly changing direction.”

The rhizome concept is in stark contrast to typeface design, which reproduces the shapes of typefaces, and where rules are paramount. In typeface design, the height, thickness, blank space, etc., all adhere to strict rules, and even breaking these rules introduces new ones. This conflicts with the characteristics of amorphous, disordered, and unregulated rhizomes. This study is a typography experiment aiming to express the rhizome, opposed to typeface design, as a typeface. Through this experiment, we aim to expand the abstract expression within typeface design.

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