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25 October 2012

TYPO London lettering bike tour with Erik Spiekermann & Phil Baines

To round off the design conference, Erik Spiekermann and Phil Baines, professor of graphic design at Central Saint Martins, led a guided typographic bike tour through London. Taking off at the British Library, it took the group through Bloomsbury (School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Covent Garden/Trafalgar Square (Coliseum & St Martin’s Schools) and Victoria (New Scotland Yard) to St Bart’s and Smithfield and King’s Cross. Among the participants who braved the pouring rain were: Tony Chambers, editor of Wallpaper, who tweeted his impressions for wallpaper.

Phil has also prepared a leaflet to follow the tour: PublicLettering.pdf

24 October 2012

Paul Barnes: Commercial Type

photo © Jason Wen

Paul Barnes is a seasoned typographer. He runs a modern day type foundry called Commercial Type with Christian Schwarz. Together they have produced a vast array of successful typefaces, each unique and tailored to do a certain job, and always to much acclaim. Paul is typographic consultant at Wallpaper magazine. He is also very much involved with the St Brides printing library, currently digitising all the historical materials there.

Paul and Christian first worked together when asked to improved the typography for The Guardian. They originally suggested an improvement on what was already there as opposed to a redesign. This entailed a study of Helvetica and implementing the original Neue Haas Grotesk of 1957, instead of the Neue Helvetica crafted by the Stempel foundry in 1980’s. When the paper decided to change from a broadsheet to the Berliner format, a new direction was needed, which resulted in the development of a new serif typeface. The outcome of this process was an Egyptian, which contained the elegance and sophistication of a serif, yet had the impact and versatility of a sans like Helvetica.

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24 October 2012

Hjalti Karlssson: 135 Months and Counting

photo © Gerhard Kasnner

Hjalti showed a picture of their small design studio, not unlike any other small design studio, a small white room, with people staring at Mac screens, clicking mouses. “This is what I like, the less I’m disturbed the happier I am.” (slightly paraphrased).

He wasn’t here to talk about that, instead he wanted to talk about what happens when you go out, leave the Mac and studio, what happens then? With karlssonwilker, A LOT.

It started with a call from a new client in Serbia, asking them to produce a calendar for their country. After realising it would be ‘lame’ to sit at their computers and google a country they knew absolutely nothing about, they put forward an idea. They asked if they could visit Serbia for twelve days, and design everything while they were there. Budget approved, they flew over ready to start work. However, their hope of being left alone to gently soak up the culture, was rudely shattered following their arrival at Belgrade airport.

They had billboards with their faces on, a media frenzy of interviews each day, and a whirlwind tour of every aspect of Serbian culture that could be crammed into those days. Ultimately of course, this would be Serbian culture percolated through the minds of an Icelander and German living in New York. I liked the concept behind February’s page: in reaction to  being told that asking a typical Serbian “How are you?” will get the pessimistic response of “Better than tomorrow”, they flipped it to a more optimistic tone of “Better than yesterday”. They hoped with the continual exposure over the month would encourage a little more positive feeling amongst the Serbian people (the results aren’t in yet).

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24 October 2012

Grant McCracken: Breathe in, breathe out – Design as a respiratory event

Photo: © Gerhard Kassner

Grant McCracken is many things: consultant, author, teacher, anthropologist and scholar of consumer patterns. He digs deep to find the roots of culture, identifying shifting forms and investigating their origins.

At TYPO Lndon 2012, McCracken declared that contemporary culture as we know it has seen the rise of a new order, one that is far from orderly but filled with chaos, confusion and commotion.

He cites a meeting at furniture company Herman Miller as an epiphanic moment in which he saw the manifestations of this new order at large. During the meeting he spotted a take-away coffee cup, it’s surface filled with feverish notes and sketches. Herman Miller employee Greg Parsons had used this medium to record his ideas and thoughts. McCracken quickly deduced that this is what the world looks like now. In the old order of culture, a designers process would be confined to a note book, considered and clarified before unleashing it to the world. But now this has changed. Order is slowly becoming a repellent to consumers. Culture demands the anti-industrial, the hand-made and unbranded. Order systems are no longer hierarchical with labour roles clearly defined under a clear mission statement. They have become more dynamic with complex adaptive systems. He likens it to a quote by technologist David Wynberger’s where he defines the Internet as ‘small pieces loosely joined’. McCracken believes that consumers now favour items that are bespoke, almost nook and crannyish to industrial perfection. This can be seen in the reincarnation of Rube Goldberg’s cartoons that have once again become popular and influential to contemporary culture. His depictions of complex gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways are echoed in the infamous Honda advert and the viral video ‘The Page Turner’ by Joseph Herscher.

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22 October 2012

Joshua Davis: The Social Grid

Joshua Davis, photos @ Gerhard Kassner

7pm on day 2 of the conference, a few people might be flagging. The caffeine is wearing off, and eyes on the clock for the last speaker – which is exactly why it was the perfect time for Joshua Davis to make an appearance. An energetic, loud, sweary, tattooed ball of energy crashed onto the stage like a train tearing through a wall. Behind the bluster (and energetic wedding dancing) it was apparent this was someone who clearly worked incredibly hard at everything he does. Even with his talk on the day (which some speakers may seem as a distraction from their day jobs) he treated like any other project – tweaking, playing around with ideas and refining over a year, trying to get the right balance.

Davis sees work and play as synonyms, in contrast to his peers who see them as direct opposites. He’s managed to maintain that child-like enthusiasm for just creating, without those hangups we acquire with jobs and deadlines. You could pick up his visible excitement at the things that inspire him, from old stain glass windows to a friend’s mismatched floors in his basement. Each of these sparked off into a whole cluster of new ideas.

Davis uses programming as a tool to create rich, graphic, complicated patterns, that he admits would take forever to draw by hand, by tweaking the programming he could produce countless variations in patterns, colours and density. However, this isn’t a mindless pressing of buttons, he clearly has strong ideas before he even sits in front of the computer inspired by real life. He encouraged us to just try things, without a client in mind, just to go with an idea and see where it goes.

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20 October 2012

Rick Banks: My Social Network


© Jason Wen

Rick Banks
a freelance designer typographer, aged 26.  The question he raised was pretty straightforward: how did I build my social network?

Rick started his presentation with an anecdote, which already takes us toward a creative journey. When he was eight years old, his mother gave him the football shirt of legendary goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel as a present. Alas, the typography was not to Rick’s taste. This event set up his future career.

He graduated in 2006 and started networking through friends and designers that he interviewed. Living in an expensive flat he couldn’t really afford, he initiated a typographic car cards project, called Type Trump, met with Marc Vialli from Magma Books and got published. Rick is all about being creative and pro-active to build a flourishing network, and he seems to do it very well.

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20 October 2012

Rian Hughes: Device Fonts

Rian Hughes, photo © Jason Wen

Rian Hughes is a man of many sides. Comic book artist of 2000AD fame, accomplished illustrator, graphic designer, type designer, “prolific rummager” and most recently author of a book entitled “Cult-ure: Ideas Can Be Dangerous”. Hughes’ talk today at TYPO focused on the later, offering a thought-provoking 45 minutes on the concept of culture, and how (for better or worse) it shapes our perception of the world.

Interestingly, the motivation to produce of the book was born out of a close brush with fate aboard a flight on route from Moscow. After the hydraulics on the plane failed, Hughes, contemplating his own mortality, thought “… what was that project I never got around to?”. An hour and a half later when safely on the ground, the seed for ‘Cult-ure’ was born. Drawing from a vast collection of scribbles and notes in his box of Moleskines, Hughes started work on the book.

Visually, Hughes described the book’s design as a reference to a manifesto, bible or other “source of authority”; using gilded edges and an authoritative typographic style. Beginning with the quote, “culture is roughly anything we do and monkeys don’t”, Hughes took the audience through a selection of topics from the book. Ranging from the simplification of symbols, to the theme of resonant objects (the idea of an object having it’s own meaning, plus it’s cultural baggage), to the human skill / need for pattern recognition (Hughes provided the example of the famous ‘face on Mars’), the talk was fantastically thought-provoking. Perhaps the best snippet from the talk, was Hughes concluding response to the question “How do you kill an idea?”. The answer? “Have a better one”.

By Paul Woods

20 October 2012

Vaughan Oliver: Visceral Pleasures

photo © Gerhard Kassner

Vaughan Oliver, designer and art director spoke yesterday at TYPO London of a career spanning 30 years in 30 minutes. Oliver is perhaps best known for (but certainly not limited to) his record cover work with various photographers under the names 23 Envelope and v23, producing iconic artwork for artists such as Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Lush, UVS, Pixies, The Breeders, Bush, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, Zomby and more recently David Lynch.

Oliver’s speech was filled with hilarious (and highly-Tweetable) quotes, including my favourites: “I was never caught with Michael Jackson under my arm”, “it ain’t art, don’t marginalise it” and the much re-tweeted “You know that feeling when you love a girl so much the only thing you want to do is to shave her hair off”.

Perhaps the quote that resonated most with me was this one: “(my work) isn’t art. It’s graphic design. Words and pictures. Visual communication”. This was a sentiment echoed through many of the speakers talks over the course of the day – the conversational and social power of design, as opposed to the one way broadcast of art or ‘traditional’ branding. And given the ‘Social’ theme of this year’s TYPO London, this statement feels very appropriate.

By Paul Woods

20 October 2012

Kate Moross: Business Grrrl

Kate Moross isn’t ashamed to be a child of the MySpace generation. After all, the 26-year-old designer owes much of her success and many of her clients to aptly using the early social networking site. As a “post post punk punk,” the internet helped define Moross’ business focus of “Art + Music + Grrrl.”

© Jason Wen

Equally influenced by the Riot Grrrl movement, despite not living it, (“I wasn’t in America at this time, not I was listening to progress music, because I was…10″) and the pre-packaged British Pop capitalist “Girl Power”, Moross describes herself as hybrid, “Kathleen Hanna and Geri Haliwell squished together.”

“I’m not about being underground,” Moross told TYPO attendees in her Friday evening presentation. “I’m about making money.”

How she goes about making money lends itself heavily to the DIY aesthetic. Since her late-teens, Moross pounded both the actual pavement (creating concert posters/fanzines and selling them at shows or warehouse parties) and the virtual pavement (messaging clients on MySpace and offering to code their pages). Soon she found herself landing projects that were huge opportunities, despite not necessarily having the skills or knowledge. Rather than turn them down, she took them full on.

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20 October 2012

Paula Scher: Breakthroughs, Successes and Failures

Paula Scher © Gerhard Kassner

‘We don’t want to save the world. We want to raise the expectations of what design can be.’

Paula Scher is a an artist pretending to be a designer. With an upbringing that incorporated a rejection of modernist uniformity and embracing a revolutionist counter-culture of peace, she began her career working at CBS as an art director. Her work now covers all facets of design, yet is always anchored in a strong & consistent visual language.

Her typographic identity for The Public Theatre in New York City was based on American wood-type. This is a radical early example of a developed visual language as opposed to a logo, which enabled the theatre to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately it worked so well, it was quickly imitated, repeated and usurped by the surrounding environs.

She states the success you get from doing something you are good at, is actually detrimental and stresses that design in a different field enables growth as a designer. Her desire is not merely to craft identities, but to make them carry on afterwards and be consistent, regardless of how many marketing directors handle them. This, she claims is not design in the traditional sense, but another social skill of people organisation.

Her identity for Type Directors Club was based on concentric patterns. Her desire to push the envelope resulted in another aspect of social design in which 12 designers developed their own ideas over 3 months, resulting in variations of the same core principal. Her new logo for Windows 8, designed around a concept of perspective, was leaked onto the blogosphere to much furore from the design industry. This was terrifying yet consecutively by her own definition: social.

From projects encompassing urban planning to environmental graphics to map painting, Paula Scher’s work contains one overarching theme — ALL design is social.

By: Graphic Birdwatching

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