November 30, 2010
I majored in fine arts and concentrated in printmaking for my undergraduate. I am always interested in different ways of printing and I am also very interested in typography, especially Chinese and East Asian typography. For my MFADT thesis at Parsons, I am designing new typefaces for the Chinese Alphabet. The way we design a Chinese character or a Chinese alphabet letter is trying to reach a balance within a 9-square box. Somehow it reminds me of the Rubik’s Cube. I am always fascinated by the mechanics of the Rubik’s Cube as how it can be moved without falling apart. The “moving” part links me to the traditional movable type. And the idea of the “Movable Type Cube” is born.
Building my own cube from scratch would be interesting, but with the time I had, I decided to base my cube on an existing cube. Choosing the right materials was a challenge. Most Rubik’s Cubes on the market were made of plastics. I really wanted something that corresponded to the traditional movable type, so I wanted it to be either metal or wood. Fortunately, the Rubik’s Cube has a wood edition for its 30th Anniversary, which is perfect for the project.
Chinese has a long history with the printing. In 105 AD, Cai Lun invented the paper. In 200 AD, the Chinese invention of Woodblock printing produced the world’s first print culture. In 1040, Bi Sheng invented the first known movable type technology. Therefore, I want to use a Chinese text for my cube. The text I used for my cube is called “Three Character Classic.” It is a traditional Chinese text that teaches young children to be a good person in the society. The text is written in triplets of characters for easy memorization, which is perfect for the cube since the cube is 3 by 3 on every side. The text is written by Wang Yinglin during the Song Dynasty, so I used a font called “Song,” which is correspond to the Song Dynasty when a distinctive printed style of regular script was developed.
The English translation (by Herbert Giles):
Men at their birth…
are naturally good.
Their natures are much the same.
Their habits become widely different.
If foolishly there is no teaching,
the nature will deteriorate.
The right way in teaching…
is to attach the utmost importance in thoroughness.
Of old, the mother of Mencius…
chose a neighbourhood.
And when her child would not learn,
she broke the shuttle from the loom.
Dou of the Swallow Hills…
had the right method.
He taught five sons.
Each of whom raised the family reputation.
To feed without teaching…
is the father’s fault.
I used the laser cutter to do the type part. I tried three times because the first two times failed. The etching was not deep enough for the first two times. I even tried a back up plan, which is to order rubber stamp online. Fortunately, third time’s a charm and it came out all right.
Once the type part is cut, I placed them on to the cube with Elmer’s glue. The “Movable Type Cube” is done!
By inking the cube with the ink pad, I printed the text on to the paper.
I had fun making this project. Even though it is much easier to print something from computer nowadays, going back to the old technology can still be fun.
Here are some other interesting Rubik’s Cube projects that inspired me:
Astor “Rubik’s Cube” Prank by All Too Flat
Rubitone by Ignacio Pilotto (Rubik’s Cube + Pantone Mashup)
Sudoku Cube by Jay Horowitz
Bronze Rubik’s Cube by Marshall Astor
Rubik’s Magnetic Cube by Gary Fixler
Blind Man’s Cube by Greg Hewitt
DIY Rubik’s Wood Cube by BrittLiv
The project got a lot of postive feedbacks. Thank you so much the Internet people~!
Thanks to Prof. Becky, the Project got posted on Make Magazine blog.
The project even got reblogged by some Chinese language sites. The power of the Internet… hehe
Some people expressed that they would like to buy this cube. Maybe someday I will make more editions.
(Too busy with my thesis now…lol)