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The Rules of the Game: Modular Scripts and Generative Design

This presentation explores the design principles of modular scripts and their relevance to contemporary parametric and generative design projects. Using specimen images, diagrams, Python code, and animations, Maurice Meilleur will reconstruct and illustrate the design spaces and logic behind scripts created by Josef Albers, André Gürtler, Wim Crouwel, and Jurriaan Schrofer.

These examples demonstrate, sometimes in ways even their designers didn’t fully appreciate, how generative design reveals new formal relationships between letters and suggests new ways for scripts to represent and convey meaning. They also show how important imagination, playfulness, and judgment are in the design of even the most rigorous formal systems.

Modular scripts are among the most popular—but in some ways, the least understood—legacies of modernist typography. The structures of their letterforms and the processes by which they’re generated express themselves independently of the writing systems, technologies, cultural contexts, and applications that scripts conventionally represent. Making sense of them relies less on memory and experience and more on discovery and extension. Put another way, a modular script plays a formal game, and invites us to learn and apply its rules.


Maurice Meilleur

Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Iowa State University

Maurice Meilleur is a graphic designer, design researcher, and writer. Meilleur is an assistant professor of graphic design at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, and teaches typography, generative design, semiotics, and design ethics. Currently, Meilleur is writing a book on the methodology and history of constructed scripts. Meilleur has presented his research at ATypI, TypeCon, and the Cooper Union. Meilleur’s experimental and modular typeface, kast, was a jury finalist in the Society of Typographic Aficionados’s 2016 protoType competition. Meilleur explores digital animation as part of a larger investigation into typographic representation and algorithmically-defined formal systems.