Co-position starts from the urge to rethink page lay-out software from scratch. We felt that lay-out is maybe too path dependent in its way of mimicking 600 years of moveable type practices (and maybe even beyond). How can we use the relative void of inspiring tools to our advantage, and re-dream our practice from scratch? How can contemporary web-technologies, collaborative practice and embodied experience inform a new perspective on how lay-out is done?

Lay-out, being understood as the spatial arrangement of texts and graphical elements, is a constant game of co-position. Lay-out knits together aesthetic, historical, computational and semantic aspects, where the screen and the network redefine how information flows. We tried to follow a small side path, and took a microtypographic point of view. From close-up we observed how lay-out shapes content, and how tools are helping, orienting or obscuring possible spatial options.

We felt that a precise and shareable vocabulary about what constitutes a “spatial arrangement of texts and other graphical elements” was missing. Even though it seemed trivial at first, we needed to work on thát vocabulary, parallel to imagining the kind of tools that could respond to it.

Our frog-view implied working through notation, observation, and to ask repetitively ‘What are we talking about?’. Because the problem with existing tools is that they have been developed without much reflection on the changing nature of the practice of lay-out (design?) itself. Tabulated texts, e-publishing, cross-media publications, flexible sizes, sequences of text in time, collaborative workflows, access to code. What are the discrete elements we work with? What limits, and what borders?

Through a continuous exchange with the team working on the LGRU-Reader, through workshops and numerous conversations we have expanded our semantic range considerably. The Catalog (16 case-stories from the practice of lay-out) that we collectively edited and produced is a testimony of and to this approach.

Besides finding other ways of speaking and writing about practice, this study meant to draw a landscape of practices related to lay-out. We organised sprints to brainstorm with practitioners from different backgrounds in a more intimate setting, and organised workshops to work on specific aspects of co-position with local and international guests. The Graphical Shell prototype focused on potential bridges between the language of programming and the language of design.

Texts, documents and pictures are published under License Art Libre.


Publication: 16 case-stories (re-imagining the practice of lay-out)

This publication is an inventory of case-stories from the practice of lay-out, even if this practice is sometimes imaginary.

The Catalog was type-set in Inkscape, laid-out by hand, printed on a Roland-plotter and reproduced on a risograph.

Read the Catalog on-line or as a facsimile pdf.

Sample collection

We progressively collected a samples and reference images. Many of them have not been analysed yet, and do not hesitate to send us additional ones to send yours.

Software development: Graphical Shell prototype

The idea behind the Graphical Shell prototype (GSp) is that you can access and manipulate digital objects in their computing-oriented representation from the canvas. You can write what you do, as part of your design practice and canvas manipulation and scripting become part of the same experience.

Read more about GSp

Code repository published under the Affero GPL.



February 2012, Brussels

If we consider typographic and cartographic objects as “spatial arrangement of texts and other graphical elements”, than their design is essentially the work of organising collisions. In a conventional design practice, many systems are at work to prevent accidents from happening. Tension is deflated through erasure, simplification and filtering. What would be ways to articulate collisions, instead of avoiding them? The first workshop in this series was inspired by particular practices of ‘conflict’ and ‘badness’. We invited participants and international guests with backgrounds in typography, architecture, cartography, art, collaborative writing, software development and activism. Through a mix of games, exercises, prototyping and project presentations, combining computational and physical actions, we explored the potential of collision.


Research meeting: Co-position

Brussels, February 2012

Developers, designers and theoreticians from all over Europe gathered to imagine future Libre Graphics tools together. The theme for this particular edition was Co-position, and speculated about software for arranging texts and graphical elements. What tools do we need to support decentralized collaboration? How can we bring together canvas editing, dynamic lay-outs, web-to-print and Print On Demand in more interesting ways? What kind of messages do we propagate and how does this change the tools we need?


Worksession: Co-positioning

Eindhoven, October 2011

For this first public activity in the Co-position project, we asked participants to bring a ‘spatial arrangement of texts and other graphical elements’. We used the analysis of these concrete cases as a way to think from practice about the missing vocabulary of lay-out. This worksession took place in the context of the Baltan Laboratories Tools Series at the Van Abbe museum.



Sprints and presentations

Code Tasting: Graphical Shell prototype

Brussels, November 2012

At this autumn Code Tasting, we tried out Graphical Shell, the prototype developed by Pierre Marchand.

Research meeting: Abstracting Craft

Rotterdam, October 2012

First presentation of the Graphical Shell prototype and catalog. In the presence of Roland, our faithful portable plotter.

Development sprint

Brussels, September 11


  • John Haltiwanger
  • Pierre Huyghebaert
  • Colm O’Neill
  • Pierre Marchand
  • Gijs de Heij

& with support from:

Ludi Loiseau, Alex Leray, Stéphanie Vilayphiou




  • Flow: Tex + family
  • Canvas: Scribus, Xpress, Indesign, pagemaker, CorelDraw, FrameMaker
  • Dynamic: CSS3, CMS, database, Xierpa
  • OpenOffice (MS Word), framemaker, xml
  • Docbook
  • Graphviz, d3js
  • Sequential: slideware, Flash
  • LiteralDraw, Undertype, Fontmatrix
  • Prince xml formatter, Pediapress
  • Laidout
  • Newspapers layout engines (Ab3?)
  • Window managers
  • Scriptographer
  • Metafont, metapost, metagraph