Zach Lieberman and Molmol Kuo's AR app Weird Type lets you paint with type in space

19 March 2018

For the fifth consecutive year, It’s Nice That media partnered with Design Indaba delivering news, interviews and insight from the three-day conference in Cape Town. Although Design Indaba is over for another year, we are continuing our conversations with the exciting individuals who presented their work there.

Zach Lieberman is an American artist and computer programmer whose daily sketches with code have earned him an impressive following on social media. During this year’s Design Indaba, Zach gave a glimpse into, among other things, his project Weird Type which he made specifically for Design Indaba. We caught up with Zach to find out more about Weird Type, his interactive installations and how he developed a love for working with such an exciting medium.

“I had always loved animation but never knew how to do it. The moment I discovered that you could that you could write a line of code to make something move, I was hooked,” American artist and programmer, Zach Lieberman, tells It’s Nice That. Having studied fine art, Zach discovered the world of code after graduating and now splits his time between teaching at The School for Poetic Computation, commercial work for clients such as Nike, Google and Facebook, daily sketches with code and art installations and public art commissions.

Working with painting and printmaking during his studies, it was only when the reality of getting a job hit him that Zach turned to the computer. “At that time, everyone I knew was getting into web design – this was Web 1.0 era,” he recalls. Zach “bluffed” his way into a design job and learned “all kinds of things”, namely Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark and HTML. “Then two things happened, the economy crashed, which meant a lot of free time at work and I discovered Flash and Actionscript,” Zach explains. From here, he developed his coding skills, always retaining an artistic approach towards the medium.

These skills now form the basis of Zach’s everyday practice. A large part of his career involves large-scale installations, including Más Que la Cara which he developed with his partner, Molmol Kuo. Situated in Houston, Texas, the “living poster” augmented the faces of passers-by. By using technology that tracked and recognised elements of human faces, such as lips and eyebrows, Zach and Molmol were able to explore the graphical qualities of facial features. The installation augmented various illustrations and graphic elements, live onto anyone who looked into the camera. The project is the perfect example of Zach’s love of “projects that turn participants into performers.”

In their latest collaborative venture, Zach and Molmol have released Weird Type – an iOS AR app that lets you draw with typography in 3D space. The pair had been exploring AR for artistic use for over a year, creating experiments with recording sound in space and building drawing tools, many of which can be seen on Zach’s Instagram. As a result, Zach and Molmol were often asked how other people could try out what they were working with.

“I was asked to speak at the Design Indaba Festival [this year] and they suggested not only doing a talk but making a project together,” Zach explains. During this conversation, Design Indaba asked: “What have you not made this year that we can help you make?” It was this prompt that pushed the duo to “consider launching an app and we got started on it some weeks before the festival.”

Available here, the application enables users to input type and choose from a variety of scenes that manipulate that type in different ways. With typefaces supplied by Abc Dinamo, Zach and Molmol also worked with Richard The who designed the app, as well as a number of iOS developers who “helped connect all the pieces.” As AR and moving, interactive typography continues to explode across both coding and design communities, Zach and Molmol have developed a tool that introduces its possibilities to a much broader audience. Zach explains how, since Weird Type’s launch, “it’s really heartwarming to see people experimenting with the app and having the same kind of fun we’ve had working with AR this year.”

Love ribbon #openframeworks

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Hello world explode mode test #openframeworks

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Weird type photo mode #weirdtype #openframeworks (link in bio)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.

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