Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lettering Research

The Ones that Catch my Eye:

At first glance this is a disarmingly simple activity: simply collect examples of lettering.  Instead I see it as a conversation with myself about what catches my eye, and pleases it, and why.  So often the text is in combination with an illustration or photograph.  How is it that they complement each other, or maybe they don’t?  Is it just a matter of personal taste?

“Just my Type: a book about fonts” was drawn to my attention when it was serialised on Radio 4.  It’s by Simon Garfield and tells the story behind many of the fonts our computers make available to us.  Here are a few of the stories of the more than 100.000 fonts in the world: the debate about serifs, the notion that Optima is a perfect perfume font, the idea that a font can convey the identity of a nation.

You only have to walk along a high street, preferably an unfamiliar one, to understand the flexibility of lettering.  It can convey playfulness and warmth, exoticism, solidity, desirability, a chain’s identity, individualism and so much more.



Short words lend themselves to visual playfulness.  I particularly like the reversal of  the L in salt.



 Above are coffee shop signs -- contrast Costa, the chain with its predictable offering, with Minkies, unfamiliar, quirky, tempting the customer to make a change.  Gail's too is different, suggesting warmth and quality, predictable but of a continental kind.


Then there's the suggestion of the exotic, the "definitely from another place".  Even the Dutch, so close to us geographically, have their own look.



Of course London is the place to be and who better to convey it than estate agents selling that dream.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Items of Stationery

Searching around the house for items of stationery to photograph and draw I realise what a stash of them I have.  Mostly they have been birthday and Christmas presents from family or friends, chosen for their beauty more than their usefulness, though surely that overstates the case – maybe I will finally use up the hundred Vogue postcards charting the evolution of fashion since the magazine’s inception.  Many of the images are irresistible and can’t possibly be used, rather like their containers, which it hurts to throw away and wait to be reused.

I also came across two rag paper folders made to showcase a collection of photographs taken for a course I took some years ago.  I like the simplicity of the designs and the way the button and ribbon fastening echoes the tones within the photographs. (see 4:1:6)  I remember and can still see the challenge of folding the rag paper.  Here it is again, the difficulty of balancing aesthetics and practicalities to achieve the best result.

Also in the same image is a triple folded postcard case which gives the opportunity for the artist to write a biographical note and to explain how the designs came about: in this case they were made for her young son.

 Below in image 4:1:7 are two stationery boxes, both hinged, one with a well for cards and stamps and a drawer for the envelope.

In the construction of all the stationery holders the bulk of the items enclosed is accommodated through folds.  The two boxes illustrated are made of much more substantial card and this is made a design feature and also influences the dimensions of the finished item.

Module 4: Loosely Lettering

Media Research:

The mention of Media and Lettering and Writing really makes my heart sing.  Living abroad for quite a number of years as we did, letters and parcels had a significance that others may find difficult to imagine.  In the early days of this phase we had no telephone, so the letters we received and wrote assumed a very special place in our world.  They were never delivered, appearing through the letterbox and lying to be discovered on the hall floor, but instead came home in a briefcase or had to be collected from the post office whose opening hours,then, seemed a mystery.

Scanning the outside of each letter, recognising the handwriting, seeing the imprint of family and friends, knowing before opening much of the content: the week's routine, a recipe requested and reading between the lines how everyone was.  Such care opening an airmail letter, best to slit it with a knife; the more robust Basildon Bond could be opened with a thumb, the contents unaffected by the rough tears.

The handwriting was as clear as a photograph -- the round upright script of my mother, the quirky tails that spoke of the other side of her personality; my father's sloping and overly compressed hand a residue of childhood illness.  Personality was there too in the brown paper packaging, the individualism of a knot, the thrift of string reused, or the extravagance of layers of sellotape.

In combination with no telephone and a heavy reliance on the post, we also had no, or until the early 1980s, access to British television.  Instead newspapers and magazines occupied a more important place.  A very different life. Now with the internet I can always be informed.  And now, though my children are in far flung places, I can email, even text, write a letter. We need never be out of touch.

Recognising the handwriting, I take care and slit the envelope open with a knife preserving any letter or photographs inside.  Note the lovely irregular torn edge when the cheap envelopes of junk mail are opened with my thumb, in so doing a skyline of mountains, icebergs or sails comes into view, revealing the lining in places pushed and pleated.



A range of envelope linings arranged Wild Geese style.  Their designs compliment and enhance the envelope's use, whether it's a birthday card or utilities bill.  They also advertise or promote a brand.

Corrugated card ridged and rippled, brown paper layers and bubble pack trap air to wrap and cushion a parcel's contents.  The image above also shows a range of sealing structures, tapes and string. Folds enable extra bulk to be enfolded; perforations allow those contents to be released undamaged.  How is it such mundane things exude beauty?


What's on the surface?  Celebratory borders in gold and silver; a moorland scene evoking Yorkshire and all it stands for; transparent windows reveal an address or other information.  Then there are stamps, franks, logos, barcodes, lines and numbers.  All encode information: the where from, where to and time of year -- some strange notation to locate the mail. Advertising, celebrating, it's all there.