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Next Time You Fly: Type Behind Closed Cockpit Doors

Whether highly visible in everyday life or more obscure, typography is widespread and often taken for granted; The consequences can be catastrophic, particularly regarding high-risk disciplines, such as the aviation industry. Typography plays a role in everyday flight operations, especially during abnormal situations where the pilots’ ability to quickly decipher information is paramount. Philosophies differ greatly from common legibility principles as typographic considerations are subject to inheritance and display restrictions. My PhD project “V1—A User-Centric Type Design Approach to Facilitate Pilot Information Processing” seeks to bridge the gap between flight safety and typography. This is of particular relevance as contemporary aviation is navigating through dramatic changes that will lead to a total dependence on electronic documentation. Examples of this are checklists, manuals, and charts collated in so-called Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) in the near future. At the same time, typography is experiencing a shift; enabling users to customize text beyond basic settings through the use of variable fonts. Consequently, the outcome of the project will be the creation of a variable font family (V1), designed to provide maximum legibility under various and often stressful circumstances. The research is undertaken in close consultation with pilots to ensure that the typeface meets the requirements of the target audience—designing with the end-user in mind. With this proposal, Pascale Schmid would like to share my research and design progress, and ask the ATypI community to reflect on typography from a cross-disciplinary perspective.


Pascale Schmid