3D Modular Type Design


3D modular type design by Emily Rowlands.

3D modular type design by Summer Gay.

3D modular type design by Sean Burgess.

3D modular type design by Brigette Rogers.

3-D printed letters (PLA)

Level: ,
Duration: 2 weeks
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Project Brief

Students revisited their 2D modular type assignment from the previous typography course (Typography I). This project was designed not only to acquire CAD skills but also to expand or even break their rigid views on dimensional space and add additional layers to the system they had already created. To redesign their modular type in 3D space, they were asked to incorporate the third dimension by reconstructing letterforms with modules and reinterpreting shapes. The easiest way to add a third dimension is extruding the letterform to add thickness, but students were encouraged to move further with various forms. For example, a circle in 2-D space could be replaced with a cylinder, a cone sphere, a truncated cone, a half sphere, or a paraboloid in 3-D space. Students were introduced to Tinkercad, an online CAD program, to make digital mock-ups and the final letterforms. Tinkercad is a simple CAD program for beginners. It is free to use, and the interface is relatively simple and provides various premade shapes. Using the software as a stepping-stone, more advanced software like Rhinoceros 3D was introduced later. A few selected letterform designs were 3-D printed with Poly-lactic acid (PLA), commonly used in 3D printing.


Learning Objectives

- Become more fluid between media 
- Expand the views on dimensional space (between 2D and 3D)
- Get familiar with CAD software
- Learn how 3D printing could be a part of typography


Students were asked to submit the design of the letterforms as STL file format.  






Students realized that typographic forms could be materialized and gain physical substance through digital fabrication techniques. Also, the design became more fluid between media. It helped students to design/simulate how their ideas would be produced, look, and behave in dimensional space.

Three-dimensional typography projects can be done by hand using a broad range of materials from natural to human-made objects. It has been a part of typographic education to appreciate keen observation, experiments with form, and even collaborative efforts. Most 3D type projects end as fun lettering projects and cannot go beyond rearranging or transforming the premade objects. One way to bring current typographic education to the next level might be to adopt emerging digital fabrication methods by creating custom designs from scratch. The 3D modular type project in the case study would be an example of how to apply this idea to existing typographic pedagogy.

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