studio catherine griffiths




A note on the D-card


In 2011, Toby Curnow and Arch MacDonnell at Inhouse Design invited me to contribute a ‘D’ for the Designers Institute of New Zealand’s membership card.

The brief was to take a ‘D’ from something I’d done. I looked at recent projects but it turned out they were no help at all, being vowel-based with AEIOU and Sound Tracks.

Because I was building my own studio at the time (this was back in 2011), I searched around the site in the forest for a potential ‘d’ or ‘D’, but only a ‘G’, an ‘O’, a ‘B’, several ‘A’s (always ladders), and an ‘L’ presented themselves. In the end, these problems made the result much more interesting.

While one or two may read my response as a tad provocative, it is so much more than that. It’s about the space created — an imagined space. The missing letter in the known sequence makes us pause for a second: it makes us think.

Set in one of the most vernacular of fonts of all time, OCR-A(an optical character recognition font designed by the U.S. Bureau of Standards in 1966), ‘ABC_E’ plays to the language of democracy, and in turn opens the window for interpretation.

If you read the wonderful Wikipedia definition of ‘optical character recognition’, it is described as “the mechanical or electronic conversion of scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into machine-encoded text ... widely used as a form of data entry from some sort of original paper data source ... a common method of digitizing printed texts so that they can be electronically searched, stored more compactly, displayed on-line, and used in machine processes such as machine translation, text-to-speech and text mining. OCR is a field of research in pattern recognition, artificial intelligence and computer vision.” Wow.

While OCR-A was released by the American Type Founders in 1968, its European counterpart, OCR-B was designed by Adrian Frutiger in collaboration with engineers from the European Computer Manufacturers’ Association. I wonder if without such a font, we would be where we are today?

The intention of the D-card is “to make membership more tangible for people, to attach some real benefits for members.”

Will this work for the Designers Institute? I do hope so. At the very least, ‘ABC_E’ offers up the space to think.


Catherine Griffiths, 2013


04 writing & critique


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A note on the D-card

by Catherine Griffiths

designed for The Designers Institute of New Zealand

related links

Designers Institute of New Zealand


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