New project: Typographic cufflinks…
Type cufflinks are nothing new, but I wanted to address the typography angle and the ergonomics.
One major problem with type cufflinks (and typographic jewellery in general) is in the mounting of the type on the housing structure. The thing is, type floats in space (on a screen or on a page) it doesn’t link together. That’s great for graphic designers but in the 3D world you’ve got to attach the type somehow. I learned from my initial experiments that you can do this by connecting the letters to each other by extruding the characters, but that means the type changes it’s typographic identity, it works ok with italic, chunky fonts but really spoils the look of traditional serif and san serif characters.
Unfortunately, connected the dot to the ‘i’ is still a necessity. I could have done this with a central bar rather than a full width connector to give it a proper 3D impression, but given the small sizes of such a connector, I’m concerned the little dots would break off to easily. It will need more testing.
A lot of designs avoid joining the individual characters by extruding them out from a back plate, but then you’ve got a back plate, and I think the letters should have a face from all angles rather than only the front perspective. Also the back plate approach affects the light cast on the type and it diminishes the elegance of the letter forms.
These experimental designs have taken the approach of mounting each individual letters on individual supporting arms. That way you minimise the amount of material connected to the letters, making the type appear to float. But this approach has it’s flaws. To get the supports thin enough to leave the letter forms more or less intact, you need multiple supports - otherwise the letters will break off the cufflink structure or bend out of alignment.
I’ve opted for a mix of supports, some based on circular designs (to distribute pressure along the letter evenly, if knocked) and secondary straight supports where a circular 2 pronged approach would be visible outside the edges of the face of the character, for example, on an ‘s’ you can’t attach a circular support at all, because you see it through the curves of the ‘s’. With an uppercase ‘G’ you can only hide a circular support behind the thick curve of the letter, you need a single bar to connect the inner end of the G or you’ll see too much of the support… etc.
Obviously for strength, these supports are connected to a central bar, which is visible from the front of the word - but less so than a back plate, and distance from the characters is increased by the use of the supports, so it recedes into the background nicely.
The second issue I have with cufflinks is the link structure itself. Round bars enable the face of the cufflink to rotate in the buttonhole, so it needs to be flat to keep everything oriented correctly. But I can’t be too wide or it won’t fit the buttonhole properly. Adopting the strut approach, I tried to make a strong form of connected struts which will, as the cuff expands, give the lateral stability to prevent the word rotating in the button hole.
This structure couldn’t be solid because I’ve carved out the Unique Plastique UP logo mark in the button end, and I wanted to keep the letters clear. It also spells ‘up’ as a handy reminder to put the cufflink on straight.
The net result is a clearer, floating typeface of distinct, unadulterated letter forms, and a mounting structure of interconnecting struts that has an architectural vibe to it, functional and designed to be strong without being bigger and weightier than the word it’s supporting.
The font is Helvetica, the cut is bold because the thicker characters are essential to give them visual impact and create a strong enough base for the mounting structure… I’m going to try some other faces and words over the next week and post them.
Next step… do some material tests to see how it prints, plus experiment with the sizes… right now it’s about 50mm deeper than most cufflinks, which might make the links too long, on the other hand, it might make them easier to insert and less likely to break under the stress of repeated use… or fit people with big wrists. I have an idea on how to fix that if it does, more on that as the project develops ;)