Virtureal by Jelte van Abbema



Dutch Design Week: here's a second project by Jelte van Abbema, winner of the Rado Prize at the Dutch Design Awards in Eindhoven last week, which explores how to express emotion through the digital word.


Called Virtureal, the research project involved creating fonts that deteriorate over time like a shrivelling leaf (above) or dissolving sugar.


Below: Alfablad font.


Below: Oplossen font


Van Abbema also attached sensors to an old-fashioned mechanical typewriter (below) so that words appearing on a computer screen varied in intensity according to how hard the keys had been struck.


See our earlier story on Symbiosis by Jelte van Abbema - a project that involved printing with bacteria.


Here's some text from the designer:



Computers lack senses and a method for expression to transfer emotions from the writer to the reader.


The digital word is not capable of recognizing these emotions, much less the nuances or intonation of real life.


Virtureal, a combination of the virtual world and reality, explores the boundaries between man and machine by listening to the pressure of touch.


By incorporating modern sensors in an old Remington typewriter, emotional communication through a computer is recorded with each keystroke.


A light touch now becomes a whisper of small characters, and a shout can be seen to fill the screen.


Moreover, van Abbema's fonts change with the passage of time as leaves shrivel with age or sugar cubes dissolve in water. The typography now reflects the thoughts and emotions of its creator.

  • Joost and Kiki

    so happy and proud that Jelte did our websites and corporate id!!

  • Zaedrus

    Now THAT’S a fun and really cool exploration!
    Well done Jelte!

  • miguel

    nice try!

    keep it going…

  • Francois Beydoun

    Wonderful ideas, BRAVO!

    François Beydoun

  • Prof Z

    Great job, emotional design
    P.S. ( Post Scriptum not Philippe STArck):
    Prof Z is looking for An Assistant As good As Abbema!!!

  • kristopher adams

    Really nice ideas and a great project. Interesting to see a more humanistic view on typeface/graphics which is always overly influenced by architypal computer forms.

  • chris

    leaf a – wouldn’t be cool if they produced food for babies in letter shapes – eat & learn at the same time!

  • evilgenius

    i absolutely disagree.

    like a hammer, the computer and its means of communication, ie type, are tools. it’s up to the individual to insert emotion and manipulate it to create expressive forms.

    since the days of DOS and before, inspired computer nerds have found ways to make computer type more interesting, more human. while the idea of a device that inputs varied type according to the pressure of the keys being pressed is certainly novel, i think the end result will be about as annoying as alternating lower and uppercase reminiscent of internet leetspeak.

  • Terri

    Does anyone know Jelte's contact info? Want to inquire about a project…