On Modularity, Dirk Wachowiak

Since the beginning of our research into a typographic practice, it would seem that I had chosen a field of typography that every designer has tried at least once. Hell, everyone junior in the design department dabbled in it because they had to. All designers, I would guess, have a modular typeface in their closet, whether it means something to them or not. I was having a hard time finding someone who cared about what modularity means, until I found Dirk.

Dirk Wachowiak (wok-o-why-ak?), is a graphic designer from Germany, who attended Yale for his masters and while doing so was employed as a teaching assistant for the class of Tobias Frere-Jones in type design. He's won a lot of awards and has a number of fonts licensed to the font label Acme Fonts out of London, blah-blah-blah. Post Yale, he came out with a book concerning modularity, cleverly named "On Modularity". Here are some things he has to say.

"Today, reflecting back on architectural and urban failures of the 20th century, modularity is one candidate for critical scrutiny. And for the obvious reason that it neglects humanity in favor of an overly rational sense of order. Yet, there is still great value in this kind of work, which, as a contemporary design approach, could be framed around questions emerging from previous mistakes. For example, if modular design systems were to follow more closely certain processes found in the natural world, could they then achieve better human living conditions and forms of communication?"

I say: good question Dirk. He goes on to give a number of examples of how modularity has been applied in science and art, and all from very different "experiments". His main interest lies in the idea of producing variety by modular design, how similar components or mathematical processes can produce randomness (Venesky?) or employ chaotic and random order, "much closer to nature's structure of growth". This is one application he mentions that I find interesting:

"When the new soccer stadium in Bilbao was introduced, [Eduardo Arroyos] surprised spectators with a new color system for ordering the chars. The system of the chair positions was calculated from a secret algorithm - with the result that no chair shares the same color as the next."

If you're prone to panic attacks when bombarded with multiple pop-ups, do not visit his site. I'm more interested in Dirk's writings on modularity than most of his work (you'll find it all on his site) -it feeds my need for philosophical explanations in design. I feel he poses a question that is similar to my first post in which I soul searched my typographic practice interest. And in this way, I hope he -someone from Yale- can help me make sense of what I'm looking for when experimenting.