Cities’ visual appearances are fascinating: How different are different streets or areas in their graphical look? Letters are ubiquitous in our environments. But the form, color, size and kind of letters are also very different whether one is in a shopping mall, a historical city center or on a highway. Only when being with pre-school children we are aware that not everyone can read these letters. These kids actually see letters as what they are: shapes. As soon as they learned reading just seeing shapes, colors, sizes and materials is impossible. The “Urban Alphabets” project aims to bring these aspects back to our perception.

As the process of postproduction has always been too big to make more urban alphabets I started to develop an iPhone app solving this problem during the “Multitouch Interaction” course at Media Lab Helsinki/Finland in December 2012. The Urban Alphabets app lets you capture elements from the urban environment on the go and transforms them into reusable typographical elements. You can also write your own text, which will be displayed using the letters you added to the alphabet.

The success of the idea has brought me to focus on the Urban Alphabets app and the experiences of public space it enables as my Master’s thesis topic at Media Lab Helsinki.

Urban Alphabets’ travels have proofed one thing: Letters are everywhere.


Urban Alphabets is an open source project. All code is available online in the Urban Alphabets github.

Urban Alphabets uses different Creative Coding Frameworks: