Waiting for the Bionic Man

April 8th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Flipping through the latest edition of Wired Magazine I discovered this article about artificial limbs. The hand caught my attention first, but then the interaction between the headline and graphic pulled me in and made me want to read the whole article.

Waiting for the Bionic Man - Wired Magazine Article

Wired Magazine is a monthly magazine devoted to technology, business, culture, innovation, and science. This article talks about the lack of advancement in bionic prothesis development—science fiction and many scientists themselves decades ago talked about how they were on the cusp of creating an extraordinary link between the body and the machine. Unfortunately, the problem is bit harder than initially thought and we are still quite a ways from being able to control a prothesis with our mind—and without out body rejecting it.

Call out from article

The serif typeface used for the headline and callouts is Periódico, designed by Eduardo Manso. At first it seemed to be something Jonathan Barnbrook had designed as it had a slight quirkiness to it with the missing pieces, but using MyFonts.com “WhatTheFont” uploader I was able to pinpoint the actual font used. The typeface itself is based off of old Spanish typographic engravings from the second half of the 18th century. Interestingly, the typeface was created for the Spanish daily newspaper ABC. It works in this context as it is highly legible in its printed form and is a nod to the historical nature of prosthetic design—something that hasn’t seen much improvement over time.

The type is missing pieces of itself here and there—something the artist did intentionally to connect the type to the story. I think using a more modern sans-serif would not have worked with this idea. The serif face feels modern, but still has that historical feel to it—much like science-fiction movies where the machines are modern, but are welded steel with old-school gauges (as in the movie Metropolis.) The photograph used for the cover of the article has that feeling to it—slightly futuristic, but made of older materials.

Dropcap from article

To further the metaphor with the type, the designer has added colored ribbons streaming from the ends. A tie to the prosthesis having to be wired to the wearer, but perhaps also a nod to a section in the story about monkeys who have electrodes wired directly to their brains and the colored lines that appear on a screen when they are trying to move objects. The type’s tracking is set really wide as if it should be read slowly—another nod to the fact that the bionic prothesis is slow to use (compared to how our quickly our regular limbs can react) and hasn’t made any real progress in a long time.

The article itself was very interesting. I think we take it for granted all of the advancements we have made in science, but the basic underlying problem is that we just still don’t understand fully the human body, and without that knowledge, we’re still just guessing.


Wired Magazine


Emtype Foundry (website of type designer Eduardo Manso)