Now That's Bringing New Meaning to Sky Writing

A geographer and computational designer are using automation to develop an “aerial” typeface based on satellite images.

Fonts. I’ve never really had experience with design, and I admit that I take them for granted and haven't really wondered where they came from... until now.

Benedikt Groß, a computational designer, and Joey Lee, a geographer, set out to create a font made of letter-shaped buildings from satellite images. (It’s more complicated than it sounds.) The duo launched the project, Aerial Bold, aiming to develop an algorithm that would sort through the images of man-made structures from 400 miles up. But as we all know, developing an algorithm for a new application is not necessarily a simple task.

First they had to come up with sample data. They enlisted friends to view the thousands of images they collected from people using their Letter Finder App. These images were then put into a machine learning algorithm. Now Groß and Lee have developed a website with three fonts and an online typewriter.

It may seem like a frivolous pursuit, but the developers would like to make the data set open source, and use this project as a fun way to introduce mapping to a wider audience. Lee said, “It was really clear that this process of mapping was still super abstract for a lot of people. We just thought: Wouldn’t it be cool if we could show this process of mapping in a really accessible way?”


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