AI Isn't Going to Reinvent the Alphabet Anytime Soon
AI doesn't understand how humans read well enough to design type on its own
Viewing typography developed by artificial intelligence is like looking at lettering submerged in deep water, warped and fuzzy. It looks like a copy of a copy of a copy. The words are recognizable, barely, but the original form has been lost. AI typography is, charitably, bad.
A recent example of this phenomenon is Word-As-Image for Semantic Typography, a paper in which anonymous authors propose a tool that morphs text into an image of what that text represents. Type in “yoga,” for example, and the word will appear garlanded with wobbly vectors of stretching women. The resulting jagged, blurry text is emblematic of the shortcomings of AI type. This experiment sacrifices readability and accessibility, two of the pillars of good type design, in a misguided attempt to innovate. We could hardly expect much more from AI, however, when it has only a surface-level understanding of how humans read.
As a designer and typographer of more than 10 years, I’ve watched the progress of AI-powered design with a mixture of amused curiosity and subtle dread. Where typography is concerned, it’s becoming clear that AI innovations are focusing on the wrong ideas. Right now, some are playing with using this technology to try to redefine visual language—in the case of our Latin letterset, one that’s existed for over 2,000 years—but ultimately this is an unworkable course. The key to setting AI typography on a better, more accessible path is to think of it as assistive rather than generative.
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