I’m endlessly fascinated by seeing how people work. Everyone who perseveres and creates something will find their own way of doing it, but seeing how other people work is extraordinarily helpful for getting started, overcoming creative block or frustration at the amount of grunt work something takes, or just for gaining the confidence to just get the job done. Sharing techniques doesn’t mean you lose your ‘edge’ or some kind of competitive advantage — if your success relies on something like that it’ll be a short-lived kind of thing anyway, as no matter how good the technique someone, somewhere, will find a better way of doing it. What you actually create is unique to you. If someone wanted to rip you off they wouldn’t copy your technique, they’d use something far easier to master, like a photocopier.
So yes, sermon over. I was thinking of this while reading this post by Alan Ariail on his site The Art of Hand Lettering. In it he describes the results of a discussion with Yves Leterme during one of his workshops, namely the idea that, “The end result is what matters not so much the process”, and goes on to show some of his own processes. I was surprised to see how he goes from sketches to digital monoline ‘skeletons’ of letters, building them up to a calligraphic result. I’ve done a fair bit of stuff like that and always had a niggling doubt, the idea that of course, real letterers wouldn’t do this. Well it turns out that they do. Marvellous!
I would make one personal comment on the whole result/process thing though. I do think that process matters — not in any professional or even moral sense (I use the term loosely) — but in a personal, artistic one. The process is what you spend your time doing so it matters in that it should be enjoyable, satisfying and inspiring. It’s a shame that with many of the digital tools available there’s a distinct lack of joy in using them. But if you do find something that’s good, let the developer know you like it, and just as importantly, tell everyone else. But that’s my original point again.
What would Das Kapital, The Iliad or Faust look like if they were printed on a single page? What about Macbeth? This set of four posters by All The World’s A Page can show you exactly that. Oddly, they’re simultaneously both compelling and repellent — the concept, the flow of text, the exposed structure (especially in Macbeth) and the beautifully consistent and even colour give you a sense of wow, look at that, while the sheer scale of them, the obvious difficulty in reading them feels intimidating, even slightly upsetting. Not too upsetting, I might add; I bought two as soon as I saw them. I can’t wait for them to actually print Ulysses too…
Found via Under Consideration’s For Print Only.
There are many examples of ‘animated typography’ out there, some of them are good, most of them are crap, and some just take you by surprise and are utterly brilliant. This one on Newgrounds, sent to me by a friend, fits the ‘utterly brilliant’ category, but for slightly different reasons than you might expect.
It’s an animation of a review of a game on the site, written by someone who, if we’re being charitable, isn’t a very careful typist. The animation itself (by Mick Lauer) is well done, with some nice touches — the pause to define ‘contrail’ and the ‘explain to me’ parts are particularly good — and Impact is a perfect choice for the subject matter, but what really makes it brilliant is the voice track. It was done by voice artist Deven Mack who I imagine has quite the career ahead of him. Well I hope he does.
Simon Goode just linked to this on Twitter — a book by Xavier Antin, made by printing each of the four colours on different eras of desktop printing technology in succession. It’s just fun. The results are pretty much what you expect, but still rather attractive and made more interesting by knowing how they were printed, using technology spanning nearly a hundred years. More images here.
Friday 31st Dec 2010
This caught my eye on the Lovely Ligatures Flickr group — it’s a piece of client work by the talented bunch at Like Minded Studio. So much of their work is just the kind of thing that has me looking closer, perhaps with a touch of chagrin that it wasn’t me that did it, there’s so much incredibly detailed work going on there. Go and take a look at their site to see more of their work.
These wine labels, featured on The Dieline, by Marisco Vinyards are beautiful. They’re from “The King’s Series”, a range of wines produced to celebrate the family’s heritage — they’re descended from the tyrannical Marisco family who, during the 12th Century, owned and operated from Lundy Island, just off the coast of Devon. It turns out the family were periodically in and out of (but mostly out of) favour with the monarchy, inspiring the names of the wines, from The King’s Favour to The King’s Wrath. The labels were designed by Hook’s Christopher David Thompson and the beautiful, historically-appropriate calligraphy was done by Peter Gilderdale. I love the finishing on the labels — the textures are reminiscent of lacework and embroidered fabrics, and the strong varnish and deboss on the calligraphy makes it look like bright fresh ink. It’s all really rather lovely.
I’ve seen and admired Francesco Franchi’s editorial work before, but I hadn’t seen his Flickr stream until now. It’s quite an inspiration — I love how clearly and crisply everything is rendered, and there’s real artistry in the fine details and the balance of illustration, diagram and infographic in his work. Sadly I’m not fluent (or even competent) in Italian so I don’t know how well the words and pictures work together — any Italians out there like to enlighten me? It certainly looks like it should be a good read, but then, so does Monocle, and it isn’t. Anyway, go and have a look, and be inspired. I’ve put a few details from some of my favourite spreads below:
Sunday 21st Nov 2010
The last time I posted about a set of maps made of words I was a bit hesitant about it. The map itself was attractive, and I liked a lot of things about it (I wouldn’t have posted it otherwise) but I did wonder how much of it was automatically generated, and how much of it was done by hand.
Not that there’s any problem with generating things automatically, as it takes just as much (if not more, sometimes) craft and creative energy to design, program and build something to do that, but sometimes with the computer generated stuff there’s a question of, “How much of this did you do?” Is it a plugin or script you downloaded? Should we be crediting someone else with the creativity and diligence to program the thing, and you with the idea to use it like this? Does it actually matter? It’s not like effort is ever any measure of quality, but of course we naturally associate a premium with something made in a way that doesn’t scale (through difficulty, moods, inspiration, randomness and so on), so that it becomes a unique object, or at least a rare one — this is the premium of the handmade, the crafted object. So this is what I was wondering about when I saw these maps by Seagull’s Hut, not made of type but hand-lettered, and then printed as limited editions:
It’s not like you can buy the original artwork, but it is in itself is unique, and the prints from it can only be copies of it; you can’t make new originals, which is something you can’t say for anything algorithmically produced. Well, unless you create AIs and they become conscious and develop an artistic sensibility that is. I’ve raised that issue before and had quite the flood of crazy comments from the internet’s vibrant and vocal apocalyptic tendency, including the gloriously and perhaps unwittingly eloquent, “humans will be instinct”.
So yes, don’t get me wrong, I do like the maps from Seagull’s Hut. Shame I can’t link to them directly, but go and take a look at their store. I don’t think I’ll be posting about any more maps made from lettering or type though. The inspiration has become a meme, and is ever more dulled by the transformation.
I’m fascinated and delighted by the idea of word harvesting, a term invented by local Brighton copywriter Ellen de Vries and described on her blog, here. I love the collection of phrases she’s listed, especially Carefully Selected Feathers, which I’ve nabbed as the name of my laptop. Stripped of their original context they remind me of the pangrams we use for type samplers, and they do work rather well:
It’s so good to see Drawn (sort of) back again, I’d sorely missed its regular supply of illustrations and tutorials and feared it would never come back. But no, thankfully it’s back (as a Tumblr blog) with a beautiful new logo lettered by Chris Gardner. The grammar wonk in me is glad they’ve dropped the exclamation mark from their name too — makes referring to it a little easier, no?
So yes, the Ames Lettering Guide — Drawn linked to a nice tutorial on using one by Dustin Harbin, which brought back some memories of school for me. I remember we were shown how to use one and set some exercises, but since then the hand lettering I’ve done hasn’t had quite the constraints (or the volume) to need anything more than a ruler and a bit of patience, so I’d completely forgotten the thing existed. I’m sure there’s one back at my parents’ in a box somewhere. Maybe I’ll dig it out, because now it seems like a useful thing to have around.
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