"Co-position" was the name of one of the research domains started by the Libre Graphics Research Unit. The project tried to rethink lay-out software from scratch. It is carried out by a team of designers, developers and artists in the context of the Libre Graphics Research Unit.
These images are instances of situations. This catalog works as a cultural bug tracker. “Replicate the problem to understand it” would be its motto. ‘The catalog is a bug-report on the limitations of Gutenberg to address writing, or drawing.’ A Russian dolls model, extending out of dimensions one by one. Trying to avoid to talk about Artificial intelligence; finding a way to make programs and designers collaborate.
I joined the Co-position group as I was finishing an internship period with Open Source Publishing in the summer of 2012. By then, lots of ground was covered already in the research, and I was asked to help shape the catalog that would output the research. This was to be distributed around LGRU and also to be sent to various developers and creators of the toolkit that helped push the research along.
It was a really interesting time for me to be looking through all of these new ideas for software, or more specifically their behaviour. At the time I was still only working out the specifics of lay-out, and as I was learning I felt like I was the one that needed to adjust to the software I was being thought told to use.
The blog post called 100 Idees was the most revealing. A shift really happened here for me, realising that the tools I was told to use (big and small) were part of my production, they were worth considering in the equation, they were built to serve a specific use, and were very linear in many senses. I had never imagined challenging tools as I knew them then. Pieces of kit to help me accomplish visual goals.
While this brain wave was happening inside my head, we pushed forwards with the output of the catalog. One of the ways the team had been rethinking lay-out was with the idea that this practice was maybe too path-oriented. Staying too close to the history of typesetting for example, ignoring –in parts at least– all types of new development and abilities that software would enable. With this in mind, the team explored all sorts of tools that had left these boundaries and pushed placing elements in co-position. One of these tools that helped remind us of how things were was an old pen plotter. A Roland DXY-1100 A3 flatbed plotter. We decided to consider this machine as a possible output method for the catalog, while imagining ways to dodge the obvious issues that were going to come up regarding issues for example, and multiplication.
One of the most interesting issues we had was type. While I was still getting to grips with the plotter, sending it data, and understanding the lovely HPGL format it read, I did some pretty naive things at first when trying to get the machine to plot the layouts. Like simply converting the fonts to paths, which of course, only drew outlines of said fonts, which was to no great use, legibility wise. So we ended up finding this lovely inkscape plugin that repurposed engraving fonts known as Hershey fonts. The story varies as to the wether Dr. A. V. Hershey had drawn them for the Naval Weapons Laboratory or for the National Bureau of Standards. I tell the Bureau of Standards story.
You can view the actual booklet by downloading the pdf facsimile or read the content on the active archive platform.
As for the rest of the Colophon:
This booklet has been written using Active Archive and Etherpad, laid-out with Libreoffice, Inkscape, Gimp and the Hershey fonts, turned on-the-spot by Gijs de Heij, plotted on a Roland DXY1100 at the OSP studio in Variable Schaerbeek. Source files on lgru.net and http://git.constantvzw.org/?p=lgru.co-position.catalog.git
Duplicated with a risograph by PPTL, Axel and Thomas in September 2012 at the Plantin Street print shop in Brussels. This catalog is published under the Free Art License http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en