Co.Design

This Font Was Designed By A Robot Practicing Calligraphy

Robosans is a new font that was created by a disembodied robot arm.

We've seen robots that can walk, talk, sing, write music, and more. Thanks to graphic designer Mostafa El Abasiry, we now have Robosans, a font you can download to your computer that was made using a disembodied robot arm. It's a very different typography than the kind you'd think a robot might make though: instead of the digital type you would expect, Robosans is more of a calligraphy-style font, with a fascinatingly raw design aesthetic.

Robosans' human creator, Mostafa El Abasiry, is no roboticist. Instead, he's a graphic designer with a lifelong affection for typography. "Since I was young, I have always loved both typography and calligraphy," El Abasiry tells Co.Design. "I remember writing short novels in small notebooks and then decorating the text just to make it more appealing. That was when I realized that I had interest in the art of typography." It has been his life's passion ever since.

The Robosans font was born when El Abasiry was struggling to develop a font that was evocative of the thick, ornate brush strokes used in calligraphy. Searching for inspiration on how to do something different and experiment with his technique, El Abasiry was convinced by a friend to go to a local electronics store. There, the inspiration he was looking for struck, although luckily not literally: The robot arm that El Abasiry saw on the store shelf would have taken his head off.

As El Abasiry is quick to point out, this robot was nothing really special. "It was just an off-the-shelf, educational robot kit that came in small pieces along with an assembly guide," he tells me. Just simple enough for a graphic designer without any formal education in robotics to connect to his computer and get to work.

The design process was time consuming, but not complicated. Gripping a calligraphy brush, the robot arm would dip the tip in black ink, then draw letters on paper sheets. El Abasiry controlled the arm via computer. "It took me hours of practicing, and made a huge mess on my desk," he laughs. Although El Abasiry is Egyptian by birth, he decided to make a font based on the Latin alphabet because it was simpler for a robot to draw: Arabic is cursive, whereas the Latin alphabet has separate lines, easier for a robot to draw. When the entire alphabet was completed, El Abasiry vectored the drawings and turned them into a computer font, which can be downloaded here.

If science fiction has taught us anything, it's that robots will continue to advance until they encroach upon our very idea of what it is to be human by writing a novel or a symphony as well as a computer can play chess. Maybe it all starts here, with a robot picking up a pen and making a font. And hey, who wouldn't be happy to give up yet another glimmering shard of their impermeable humanity if it meant another cool font to play around with?

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