3-Dimensional Type Practice

“Experiment with methods of type practice which engage the viewer in a practical way”

My initial sketch, testing dimensions and a combination of the I, H and A

My first sketch above shows a dimension test, where I worked out what angle to draw the letters and what the width, length and depth it would need to be for all the letters to become a perfect cube. It took a lot of thought and a fair attempts to get it perfect, a lot of sketches don’t give the process justice because of all the times I rubbed out the page and started again.

Layer One:

I call this selection of sketches ‘layer one’ simply because they are the first layer of the three layer cube. It’s difficult to show the chronological process, but the way I worked was by sketching one letter and adding the next one over on tracing paper. Then every now and then, drawing a group of letters together. Starting below with one draft when they’re is a combination of three letters all neatly placed together. Things get more confusing when the tracings are stacked on top of each other.

P, A and I

Above you can see the letters on separate sheets gradually being added to as I scanned each piece of tracing paper.

Almost the full lower layer

And now the full lower layer. Including the O and L. A feeling of minor success

I finished the lower layer but my head felt like scrambled eggs, I still couldn’t really see the shape and form of the layers because at this point I had just traced all the letters on top of each other. This would prove problematic when designing each of them inside 3d software, so I had to break them all down and sketch each of the glyphs from various angles to help latter production.

With these sketches it was really important to capture them from four angles, exposing all the possible blind spots. I think I still need to sketch the ‘B’.

Close up of the ‘U’

It really helped to shade in certain letters. Like here, the ‘U’ which is quite an odd shape and neatly joined up with the ‘P’.

It was essential to try to keep the original shape of these letter forms but it too was super exciting to see jus how much the shape could shift but still be recognisable.


• Before I began the second layer I realised that if I just stack the two on-top of each other then they’ll just slip off one another. So at some point after finishing the designs I’ll have to re-draw them all slightly so that they interlock and stay connected as a cube.

• I also considered for a second, having a single letter that would take up two levels, as appose to just one. (Shown below).

With part of the letter ‘T’ inside I thought it might make the entire cubic shape look more interesting. But at this early stage of development I couldn’t quite get my head around it. So it may be worth trying it out again. I also worried that the typeface might not look so cohesive…


Layer Two:

Finished a while after the first layer. This time before sketching out the various angles of different letter shapes, I’ve just scanned in the overlaying image, to save time.

The finished stack of letters which make up Layer Two, the shapes of these letters are quite complex. For example, the letter ‘F’ and ‘E’ seen on the bottom-left, feature narrow terminals, so I think it might be worth adding some extra width to these, but then the thin shapes might make the puzzle appear more complex.

Layer Three:

Again, scanned in image of the final letters of Layer Three all puzzled together.

This layer features some bizarre shapes, as it’s the layer with the least amount of layers, I was forced to really extend and bulk up some of the shapes. Such as the ‘T’ (below).


• It’s a little bit difficult to tell from this image, but…

“I’ve designed the ‘T’ to take the form of two separate pieces.”

Connected through a split in the middle. I did this because I wanted the ‘T’ to spread across the full width but that would (I think) be too large an object to 3D print). I was thinking how cool it would be if there were long interior sticks joining the two halves inside as well. This method could potentially work when I attempt to join the three different stacks of layers together.

• This ‘Y’ caused me a minor headache also because I wanted to fill the space created by the ‘Z’ (left image) but also felt it necessary not to compromise the thinner lower shape of the ‘Y’. Satisfying to solve quite simply moving the block of 6 squares below to the left a little. This did then mean protruding the ‘T’ behind it some more.


• A first draft is complete, but now I need to make it so the three layers are interlocked. I also want to interlock some of the letters on the same layer; purely for aesthetic reasons and I think it might be satisfying to physically place these shapes inside one another.

• I’ll then sketch all the varying angles of each letter, vectorise them and begin to research how to design them inside 3D software.

• I’d be quite interested in adding punctuation to the typeface too.

• I also need to work out a way to create physical mock ups of the letters to test if they work…

Of all these solutions (above), found in the art shop. The one with the most potential is probably the dark grey foam which comes in large thick sheets. I could saw these and glue separate components together to test the letter shapes. OR I could stack them up and laser cut the shapes.

“This would mean temporarily sacrificing the interior connecting bits I had planned though…”

All the others are a little too expensive. The clay and sculpting block for example are almost £15 for a small section. Though the sculpting block could work if I want to test one letter.

It will of course take some thought. I’ll report back soon.

Update: I used 250gsm white card to create a test letter.