Living Typography: Robotically Printing a Living Typeface

Artists and designers have been exploring how robotics can be used to interact with our environment in new ways. Robots connect computational design processes with the physical environment, making digital interaction with nature possible.

Robots in Nature is a robotic process for planting that enables the computational design of landscapes. We demonstrate how robotic planting can be used for generative art and design by creating a living typeface grown from seed.

This project is support by LSU faculty grant, LSU CCK grant, and LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio.

PROCESS

In Robots in Nature designs are drawn with robotically seeded plants. In this demonstration a message is written in seed by a robot and grows into a unique living form of typography until it is harvested and eaten. The design is 3D printed by a collaborative robotic arm mounted with an extruder.

The extruder prints a blend of clay, planting media, and seeds, creating 3D forms – here, letterforms.

As the seeds germinate, seedlings sprout out of the planting media, their roots growing into the ground below. The design transforms from a clay body into a profusion of green plants. The topographic typeface becomes community of living organisms, competing for light, water, and nutrients. Its shape and color change as the plants grow.

From day 1 to day 8

From day 1 to day 8

As the shoots grow and spread, the letterforms become bolder and more vibrant, with leaves adding weight. The minute detail of the leaves jostling for space and light creates a complex form with an irregular, convoluted edge.

Eventually the letterforms become obscured as the plants spread into the negative space between the strokes, filling the counters.

When the letters disappear in a field of green, the plants are ready for harvesting and serving as microgreens.