Typo San francisco starts tomorrow (10-11th April). Numerous names from the type world will be speaking including our own Elliot Jay Stocks. He’ll be joined by; Dan Rhatigan of Monotype, Gemma O’Brien from Sydney and Sibylle Hagmann. The facilitators include Erik Spiekermann, and Stephen Coles.
This year’s theme, “Rhythm,” explores the cadence of the creative process, the underlying tempo of inspiration, and the beats of the design experience. - See more.
Rob Clarke’s letters and logos
I can’t think of a more prolific letterer and typographer in the UK right now than Rob Clarke. Although his name may not be as familiar as some of his American contemporaries, it would be hard to live in Britain and not be familiar with his logos. His lettering adorns basketfuls of supermarket products and numerous high-street shop fronts.
I met up with Rob Clarke on a wet and windy morning in Clerkenwell, London. Despite his success you couldn’t meet a more modest and self-critical designer. After a degree in graphic design, Rob found work in a type and lettering studio and spent time scanning and vectorising hand-lettered type. He studied the construction of the letters closely and after a few years found the he could make iterations directly on screen. “I guess I’m partly self-taught, it was a pretty slow process and took around 5 years before I built up any confidence—obviously there were no social networks or ways of getting feedback as there is today.”
Rob now designs directly on screen, seeing the mouse just like a pencil. He creates such polished roughs he often has to remind clients not to use them in final artwork. “I need to get a feeling/style/direction at speed I feel the mouse works perfectly— I guess I sketch on the screen. I see many people nowadays spending ages refining a perfect sketch but this will, on most occasions need redrawing as a vector anyway. I also think the more experienced one gets you have an instinct as to what people are looking for and therefore less initial sketching is needed.”
I asked what advice he would give to budding letterists:
“Don’t think you have to be the best at drawing or have the best handwriting to become a typographer. As long as you are passionate and willing to work hard I believe you can make a go of it.
Discipline—You need discipline especially when working on your own. Practice and fill your time constantly being inspired or educated.
Remember the brief—it’s not all about creating a beautiful configuration that will look cool on a T-shirt or poster. Don’t get too precious and grow a slighter thicker skin…
Be nice—I have to liaise with literally hundreds of people… account handlers, juniors, seniors, directors etc. I’m sure if you were a pain in the arse you wouldn’t get much repeat work or my favourite marketing vehicle—word of mouth.”
Having worked with so many clients worldwide, I wondered what was next for Rob. He would love to do more arty pieces and maybe an exhibition. “I’ve also given myself personal goals throughout my career one of which was to work for certain clients that I admire—there are still a couple out there that remain elusive.”
Click above logos for notes. Agency Credits: Tetley - Ziggurat, Tiger - Design Bridge, Dulux - Design Bridge, Eurostar - The Clearing, Nature Bake - Cubic, Saga - 1HQ.
These Daft Punk merchandise ads do a great job of mimicking ads from the ’70s. The layouts, colours and type all evoke the decades’ graphic style.
Above, you can see one of their latest ads alongside a Coke ad from 1970. (The very same ad that Michael Bierut describes in the Helvetica film: “It’s the real thing. Period! Coke. Period! In Helvetica. Period! Any questions? Of course not. Drink Coke. Period! Simple.”)
The typeface chosen for the 2014 ad appears to be Kabel Black or Geometric 231 Heavy and while it’s no Helvetica, I think it does a much better job in this instance.
Glossary of Design Terms
I love these little design booklets by Turkish designer, Volkan Olmez. They were created for presentation at the Turkish Society of Graphic Designers. Each colourful pocket size book describes a common design term such as Amorphous, Contour, Transform or Vector.
To achieve a perfectly packaged book, Finnish authors, Christoffer & Kaisa Leka, wanted to take their presentation to a new level by having the stamps designed as well.
Thier latest book, Time After Time comes enveloped in its own wrapping paper, custom printed to match the book’s colorful end papers and is meticulously wrapped and lettered by Christoffer himself.
The beautiful set of characters above have been designed by a host of typographers from all over the world, many well-known in the industry: Erik van Blokland, Maria Doreuli, Dave Foster, Kimya Gandhi, Cyrus Highsmith, Robert Keller, Ben Kiel, Indra Kupferschmidt, David Ross, Nick Sherman, Florian Schick, Nina Stöessinger, Lauri Toikka, Wout Trippas, Teo Tuominen & Bernd Volmer.
I love this obsession to perfect every last detail; Ensuring that the book, which has obviously been lovingly crafted, is placed in the hands of the reader so carefully.
Each letters has been reproduced with gouache paint by designer Markku Mujunen on 6 millimeter thick plywood and each piece measures approximately 180 x 180 millimeters. To cover the costs, the originals paintings are being sold for €50. First come first served.
Make a note: Work Hard and Be Nice to People
I saw these colourful notebooks were released yesterday. Printed in with Anthony Burrill’s now famous slogans, in collaboration with Rubberband.
In a recent conversation with Anthony we discussed the differences between his work and the clichéd derivative ‘quote posters’ that you see so many of—though not on this blog [Keep Calm and Don’t Design One].
His original Work Hard and Be Nice to People poster (see the bottom image) developed from an overheard statement from an elderly lady in a supermarket, passing on some wisdom she’d learnt in her life.
Quite taken with the words, he then composed the statement with visual reference to the powerful civil rights poster, I am a man (1968), and the subsequent War is over John Lennon poster (1971).
By using whatever large wooden type was available at the printers, Anthony’s design consciously achieves the same sense of typographical freedom and naïvety that the reference posters have.
Now Anthony’s poster has in turn been mimicked many times but it’s unlikely to have been done with the same creativity or reverence to the original inspiration.
A world of options in this alphabet inspired desk design by French, CGI Designer, Benoit Challand. Each offers a space with its own character.
“You can sit in an A-shaped desk, feeling like you’re at the prow of a ship, or in the smooth curve of a D, far more comfortable than being boxed into a traditional cubicle.”
Whispered Garden Alphabet
I spotted this personal lettering project by Thuy Mat tit from Vietnam. The ethereal designs were inspired by the softness and beauty of the various natural forms. I love the little details hidden amongst the linework.
The Rough vs. The Smooth
I met London based letterer,Oli Frape, the other day. We were talking about lettering, illustration and then software, then he hits me with “I try not to do any lettering on the computer these days.” I was taken aback for a moment.
While it’s not unusual for artists and illustrators to favour tactile mediums over computers, much of the modern commercial lettering I’m used to seeing has been painstakingly cleaned, adjusted or totally redrafted digitally before publishing.
We all love the warmth and imperfections that comes from a beautiful piece of hand-made work, be it sign painting, calligraphy, letterpress or screen printing. But with Ol’s recent work you can see there is a specific emphasis on the imperfections and roughness, which is interesting
He said, he’s using less and less digital manipulation.
“This is basically the mission statement of my hand-lettering. I’m keenly focussed on emphasising the rough edges and making sure that the human element is clearly visible.”
The middle postcards ‘None too perfect’, ‘but’, ‘charming’ & ‘honest’ are a self initiated set.
Bringing in the wine
I noticed this on type-lover. I really like the mix of extruded and flat shapes forming the characters. It’s a poem, Bringing in the Wine by Li Bai, visualised by Liam Lee in Beijing.
“Li Bai (ca 705 - 762), also called Li Po, is probably China’s most famous poet.”
Louis John Pouchée alphabets
Described as the most ambitious and most beautiful types created in wood in any period, these alphabets were once presumed lost in a fire in 1940 at Monotype’s London office.
Designed for eye-catching headlines or for highlighting a word in printed posters, some of these fat face and slab serif letters look as if they could have been designed in the 1920s, or even the 1950s, judging from their patterns. They were actually designed in the early 1820s, even earlier than the more familiar Victorian ornamented type.
The astonishingly intricate letter designs feature a variety of ornamental motifs; plant forms, agricultural, musical and even masonic symbols. The level of detail in these, once innovative engravings, is incredible.
The above images are from Ornamented types: twenty-three Alphabets, from the Foundry of Louis John Pouchée. It’s a limited edition boxed set of large, unbound, deckled edged, printed sheets available to view at the St. Bride Library, which also holds the original wood blocks used to print the edition.
Printing from the blocks in the mid-90s was a collaboration between James Mosley, the former Librarian at St. Brides, and Ian Mortimer, of I.M. Imprimit, who designed and printed the limited edition.
When printing started, the provenance of the blocks was still a mystery. James Mosley had shown a few printed examples of individual letters in the ‘60s, suggesting that they might be from Pouchée’s foundry. However it wasn’t until Ian and his team were two-thirds through printing the cryptic alphabets that their identity was confirmed. Mosley matched them to a specimen; Specimens of stereotype casting, from the foundry of L. I. Pouchée 1, which even quotes the prices charged for the types.
The printing of this historic record was an extraordinary feat. The blocks were originally designed to be stereo-typed—used as patterns for casting metal type—and were never intended for printing. Therefore the blocks were never squared-up or made type high. This, together with the fact that their surfaces had warped slightly over time, meant that no automation for inking or printing could be used.
Painstaking techniques were used for making ready and inking the blocks. Each had to be packed and adjusted on the press to achieve a good impression. To ensure that both the engraved detail reproduced crisply and that the solid areas remained fully opaque, different sized rollers were often used on the same block to apply different densities of ink. A large roller with a fine film of ink was used for the detail and a small roller with thicker coverage was used for black areas. The few splits and marks, which eventually helped confirm the identity of the blocks, have been left. The edition took almost four years to complete.
Describing the design and typography of the printed edition, Ian told me that it had been agreed with Mosley that the letters should be allowed to speak for themselves with no clever layout or fancy typography to distract from them. The edition has a self-effacing layout with no secondary colour. The display type, Caslon’s two-line English Egyptian, was especially cast from surviving matrices. Two hundred and ten box sets were printed and it was agreed that the original blocks should not to be printed from again for fifty years.
Four of Pouchée’s printed letters were later used under license for the Pulp album cover, We Love Life, by Peter Saville in 2001.
I’ve chosen just a small section here. I was especially taken with the masonic alphabet. The ‘Z’, shown above, I’m told features authentic symbols that mark Pouchée out as a serious mason. Note the incredible printed detail achieved on the book in the centre and also the ‘G’ referring to God at the top. (Some of the other masonic letters show the eye of God). It was a privilege to be able to browse through it.
1The specimen title, shows founder’s name with an ‘I’.
The original Pouchée alphabets are © St Bride Foundation and I.M. Imprimit and are used with permission and my thanks.
Thanks also to Bob Richardson of the St. Bride Library—who first showed me the alphabets—and Ian Mortimer of I.M. Imprimit for their time in answering questions and reviewing this post.