Functional typography

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Functional typography series, 2006. Silkscreen on paper; Functional typography on a Christian Dior Fahrenheit perfume package: 788 x 1,091 mm; Functional typography on a Hegaon PurePlus Organic Orange Juice 245 ml bottle: 788 x 1,091 mm; Functional typography on a Crabtree & Evelyin Summer Hill Hydrating Body Mist Spray 100 ml bottle: 1,091 x 788 mm; Functional typography on a power supply adapter for Macintosh G3 PowerBook: 788 x 1,091 mm; Functional typography on a Bic Mini gas lighter: 788 x 1,091 mm. First shown in Sulki & Min: Factory 060421–060513, our exhibition at the Gallery Factory, Seoul, 2006.

Functional typography shows a series of blown-up – and typographically interpreted – details of products and packages, such as orange juice bottle or a Bic Lighter. The tiny, codified letters and numbers must be important for manufacturers and suppliers, but we as consumers would never know what they actually mean. What is interesting for us about these codes is not just they are completely incomprehensible. It is the fact that they seem very meaningful, yet there’s no way for us to know their meaning. They look very confident and determined, making sure they are not arbitrary signs. But their incomprehensibility provokes what some literary theorists call “cryptographic imagination,” which is an attitude towards language that acknowledges its opaqueness and slipperiness, endlessly inquiring what actually is behind visible surfaces.