Karwath+Todisko pixel fonts

Published Feb 28, 2020. Last updated Apr 17, 2024.

In 2017, the artist Karwath+Todisko was planning an installation for a building façade and she needed a pixel font. She turned to Luc(as) de Groot. Her installation, mounted on the east façade of the building housing the Darmstadt Technical University’s supercomputer, consists of a 12 × 8 grid with 96 individual lighting elements. On this grid, ideas from the eighteenth-century German mathematician Georg Christoph Lichtenberg are displayed in 8-digit binary code.

© Karwath+Todisko, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018, Photo: Moritz Bernoully

Since this code isn’t directly understandable, it alternates with readable text displayed in a pixel font. Text and code each scroll across the grid.

© Karwath+Todisko, Video: Moritz Bernoully

The mechanics of the installation called for non-square pixels. Letterforms are constructed from rectangular shapes. This has beneficial typographic ramifications: vertical strokes become stronger than horizontals.

© Karwath+Todisko, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018, Photo: Moritz Bernoully

Lucas created a series of pixel fonts for Karwath+Todisko to choose from. In the end, she picked a wide design utilizing capital letters that were each six pixels high. Although this might sound rather small, when those six “pixels” are stacked on top of each other, the resulting letters are as tall as one floor of the building.

As a first step. Luc(as) drafted several alphabets showing different directions the text could take. The fourth and fifth lines each show two fonts in combination. These would fit in combination within the vertical 8-pixel size, such as to visualize a dialog, for example.
This was the variant selected for further adaptation. The installation only used capitals. Forms of some letters were changed. The above video includes a different Ä and S, etc.
© Karwath+Todisko, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018, Photo: Claus Völker.

The finished installation is named HLR LICHTENBERG1. The abbreviation “HLR” stands for the German word Hochleistungsrechner, meaning a supercomputer. The piece went up in January 2018 at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Campus Lichtwiese.