For their annual Typography Special, Eye magazine have collaborated with typographers Hamish Muir and Paul McNeil to create a set of 8000 different cover designs, every one created automatically from ‘seed’ material.
Editor John L Walters visited the magCulture Shop earlier to oversee the installation of a window display (above), and explained how for some time art director Simon Esterson had wanted to use the the Mosaic software, developed for the HP Indigo digital printer. This variable data software is generally used for simpler projects like personalising items, or in more commercial environments – to generate thousands of varied Coke bottle label patterns, for instance.
Eye covers always develop from the issue’s content, and the heart of no94 is a series of three features grouped under the title ‘Mightier than the Pen.’ These look at how technology is applied to the creation of typefaces, a practice that more often fetishises the handmade. The lead feature looks at the process-driven designs of Muir and McNeil, and Esterson saw this as the ideal opportunity to experiment with Mosaic.
The software uses a vector-based seed file of the repeated word ‘Eye’ set in Muir-McNeil’s TwoPoint and TwoPlus typefaces (an example seed file is printed on the inside covers of the magazine, above) and applies different attributes to create multiple versions.
Ten seed files were created, and 800 covers created from each by zooming in and out. ‘We also experimented with rotation but the results were too extreme,’ explains Walters, ‘they looked gratuitous.’ They reverted to using the files unrotated, so there’s a common grid and structure to the covers, even if the elements are printed at a different scale. The result is an exciting variety of designs with enough common factors for them to relate to each other.