Questions - We feel that lay-outing operations are maybe path dependent in their way of mimicking the past processes of 600 years of moveable type practices (and maybe even beyond). We want to grab the freedom opens by the relative void of good layouting tools, mainly in typography, to re-dreaming our practice from scratch.

Territory - The screen and the network redefine continuously information as support of its the flow, thus layout, being understood as the spatial arrangement of texts and graphical elements. Ebooks and every new digital reading habits on electronics devices are massively studied through a top down point of view embracing channel of distribution, social impact and mutation on how to enter in contact with knowledge. We’ll try to follow a smaller side path, from the microtypography point of view and close-read how layout shape content, and how tools can help, orient or obscure possible spatial options.

Startingpoint - This will imply notation, observation, writing, cases and to ask repetitively ‘What are we talking about?’. Because the problem with existing tools, is that they have developed without reflecting, thinking about the work itself. Limits, borders: e-publishing, media, size, film-title, sequence of text in time, non sequencial text, tabulated texts, discipline, profession, workflow, code. What are the discrete elements to work with? Hoew to find other ways of writing about practice, like for exemple the change of tools in architecture that has change more the collaboration process that the buildings themselves actually.


To re-imagine lay-out from scratch, we start with an analysis of the history of lay-out (from moveable type to compositing engines) in order to better understand relations between workflow, material and media. Looking at emerging tools for doing lay-out differently, we sketch ideas for tools that combine elements of canvas editing, dynamic lay-out, networked lay-out, web-to-print and Print on Demand.

Looking at emerging tools for doing lay-out differently, we than will sketch ideas for tools that combine elements of canvas editing, dynamic lay-out, networked lay-out, web-to-print and Print on Demand.

We decided to split the research in two different phases : the vocabulary phase till the research meeting and the development phase between the research meeting and the final meeting.


At this moment, a precise and share-able vocabulary about what would constitute a “spatial arrangement of texts and other graphical elements” is missing. Even if can seems trivial at start, we’ll need that vocabulary before we can even start to imagine the tools that respond to it.

We will publish our findings as two interconnected collections; one taking samples, images as a startingpoint and the other terms, functionalities and applications. This study will progressively draw a landscape of various spatial arrangements of texts and graphical elements and the processes that are inherent to their production. Workshops will help to sort examples, tags, and to describe. Current intuition about criteria involves esthetic, historical, computational, semantic aspects.


An extensive and broad collection of visual elements and samples must/can be addressed. And begin ways of sorting them (elect the best criteria). To be defined : scope, discrete/continuous. What is the practice of a designer, how does composition happen? Isolating a text unit (letter, part, word, sentence/line, label, paragraph), describe it’s position, close-read of existing precise arrangement of it on its space. We will ask many of our colleagues and students to collect border cases and the more various samples as possible.

Words and Code

An extensive and broad collect of the maximum past and existing tools around layout, and a close-reading of them in relation with their specific output. One of the starting points could be to point out datamodels and paradigms.

Tools to study

  • Flow: Tex + family
  • Canvas: Scribus, Xpress, Indesign, pagemaker, CorelDraw
  • Dynamic: CSS3, CMS, database, Xierpa
  • OpenOffice (MS Word), framemaker, xml
  • Docbook
  • Graphviz
  • Sequential: slideware, Flash
  • LiteralDraw, Undertype, Fontmatrix
  • Prince xml formatter
  • Laidout
  • Newspapers layout engines (Ab3?)
  • Window managers

Collective Co-positioning

Documentation of a worksession in the context of the Baltan Laboratories Tools Series, Van Abbe museum (Eindhoven, NL): ”’Co-positioning”’


A Co-position Development session will be held a few days before the Research meeting in Brussels. This session will start the year long experiment that will test out extensively the more relevant and contrasted elements raised by the Vocabulary phase. Prototype based on current tools or developed from scratch will enrich the set of prospective approach in the more broad extend as possible.


Pierre Huyghebaert, John Haltiwanger, Pierre Marchand, Ana Carvalho, Ricardo Lafuente


[ 1998 French research on the Liste Typo] to try to define a future canvas layout tool following announcement of the K2 project by Adobe (has ends up as InDesign) [ Wild layout by Burrough] [ Whole Earth Catalog layout] [ Bauhaus meets Floss?] [ Vim multiples cursors] [ Apollo 11 checklist] Knuth? Hermann Zapf? TeX primitives [] (many interesting vocabulary entries, such as penalty, glue, hbox, vbox etc.) Heavy exchange with the [Reader] team of LGRU and will digg endlessly in its Reader#References and Reader#Bibliographies [ Micro-typographic extensions to the TEX typesetting] TextDraw: A Prototype for Gestural Typesetting (upload PDF soon) Inside the Publishing Revolution: The Adobe Story (upload PDF soon) - Speculative narration * and Troff