Talk Tree to Me
February 19, 2020 5:57 AM   Subscribe

New York City parks are using a designer's "tree font" to plant secret messages with real trees. Katie Holten, a visual artist, has created a New York City tree font. Each letter of the Latin alphabet is assigned a drawing of a tree from the NYC Parks Department’s existing native and non-native trees, as well as species that are to be planted as a result of the changing climate. For example, A = Ash. Now, the NYC Parks Department plans to actually plant some of the messages as real trees in parks and other public spaces. Everyone is invited to download the free font, NYC Trees, and to write words, poems, messages, or love letters, in Trees.
posted by wicked_sassy (24 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love everything about this.
posted by gwint at 6:11 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


That is so freakin' smart!
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:26 AM on February 19


Bewre the Emerld Sh Borer!
posted by HeroZero at 6:27 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


Or Dutch Lm Disas.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:34 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]


One would think that planting more than one species would help prevent the spread of nasty diseases endemic to one variety of tree.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:49 AM on February 19


Unless the whole font is an art statement on deforestation, I can't get the OTF to display anything on Windows 10 or Linux. The tree glyphs appear in the Windows font settings preview, but don't render anywhere at all. Fontforge is complaining about an SVG layer that it's ignoring.

I just want happy little trees …
posted by scruss at 7:01 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


This is not quite new. In ancient times the Celtic peoples had a ‘tree alphabet’ it was called ‘ogham’ and was used mainly for monumental inscriptions. It was composed of lines and dots. The lines could be straight or slanted. Up to five lines or dots formed a letter to which a tree name was assigned.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:20 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


Very cool! While I know this question risks turning this into a politics megathread, could a New Yorker explain the Bloomberg T-shirts the kids are wearing?
posted by St. Oops at 7:37 AM on February 19


A B See Tree!
posted by carter at 7:48 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


P really should be Plane tree because those are way more present than Persimmons (and since L deserves to stay Linden, we can't go with the full name, London Plane)
posted by kokaku at 7:58 AM on February 19


I'm also having some trouble getting the font to display anything.

Does anybody know more about fonts than I do? (Spoiler: everybody knows more about fonts than I do.) My hopes of having a little Juniper-Oak-Elm sign on my office door are resting on this!
posted by box at 7:58 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


This is an alphabet relevant to my interests (New Yorker, budding graphic designer, tree fan in general, and possibly of Entish descent) & now some part of my brain is going to be trying to think of secret tree puns for months. And also wondering if this will turn out to be the fruiting body of some long-dormant treasure map planted by Kit Williams in the ’80s.

Mostly though I want to state my intense relief that the callery pear isn’t part of this alphabet—not under c, or p, or b for bradford (a common cultivar), or w for wwwwworrrrst fucking tree. Good riddance, pear, may you end up some smudgy odorous footnote for lexicographers and city planners alike.
posted by miles per flower at 8:00 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


St. Oops: Interns at Bloomberg (the corporation) volunteer for days of community service as part of the corporate philanthropy program.
posted by theory at 8:05 AM on February 19


budding graphic designer

... saw what yew did there.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:16 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


Who called it "tree font" when it could have been treemoji?
posted by rouftop at 8:20 AM on February 19


I'm also having some trouble getting the font to display anything.

Ditto. I installed the OTF file, but when I try to format text in Word using the font, the text doesn't appear.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:14 AM on February 19


This is not quite new. In ancient times the Celtic peoples had a ‘tree alphabet’ it was called ‘ogham’ and was used mainly for monumental inscriptions. It was composed of lines and dots. The lines could be straight or slanted. Up to five lines or dots formed a letter to which a tree name was assigned.

Katie is from Ireland so this connection is likely intentional.
posted by jilloftrades at 1:25 PM on February 19


Sadly we have a bit of a metafile-inside-a-metafile problem with this file: OTF font files are metafiles, so can include all sorts of font formats including Colour SVG which may or may not render on anyone's system. The embedded SVG glyphs — themselves metafiles — seem to contain small PNG images aligned to the top of the character box. So most systems think this is a vector font when it's actually a bitmap with the bitmaps in the wrong place. Chances of loading: slim to none.

I've extracted all the bitmaps: http://scruss.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/nyctrees_png.zip
The digits and punctuation aren't trees, but tree-related forms. The digits are rather well done indeed.
posted by scruss at 2:24 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


Mostly though I want to state my intense relief that the callery pear isn’t part of this alphabet—not under c, or p, or b for bradford (a common cultivar), or w for wwwwworrrrst fucking tree.

Did you check under j for... well you know
posted by babelfish at 4:55 PM on February 19


Ash is another historically very fitting choice. Oak too. [abusing the edit window] ... and birch!
posted by finka at 3:09 AM on February 20


scruss, how does one use the png file to make the font display? I'm still not seeing the joy, or am I misunderstanding the point of the png file?
posted by mightshould at 9:46 AM on February 20


I'm also having some trouble getting the font to display anything.

>>Ditto. I installed the OTF file, but when I try to format text in Word using the font, the text doesn't appear.


The font is *just* the trees - not the green letters you see on the original link above. If you have the font installed, go to Word, type some text in the default font. Then highlight the text and change the font to New York City Trees. You should now have some trees on your screen instead of letters.
posted by hydra77 at 12:29 PM on February 20


G is for gingko and its godawful scent. Fallen berries we dodge and dearth of shade we lament.
posted by theory at 1:01 PM on February 20


The site nyctrees.org allows you to type with trees in the browser.

 scruss, how does one use the png file to make the font display?

You don't. The PNG files are embedded in the font in a way that's not obvious how to display. I just extracted them so you could see how pretty they were. As a font, though, it's useless as is.

I know nothing of web fonts or Mac embedded. Maybe it works there. Who knows?

 If you have the font installed, go to Word, type some text in the default font. Then highlight the text and change the font to New York City Trees. You should now have some trees on your screen instead of letters.

In theory, yes. In practice, no: on Windows 10 + Word, I get blanks. The font name shows up as “        ”, which is hardly useful.

Fontforge, a program I know reasonably well, says there's no visible layers in the font.
posted by scruss at 12:10 PM on February 21


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