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There has been a surge of typography publications dropping through my letterbox recently. They are all very different in their own ways, but one thing unites them all over and above the excellent content, and that is the very high production values. Unfortunately my poor photographic skills won’t do any of them justice, but hopefully will give some indication that these are objects of desire.

Circular 18
The first that hit my door mat recently was Circular 18, the bi-annual publication of the Typographic Circle. Designed by Pentagram’s Domenic Lippa and Jeremy Kunze, and printed by Leycol in the UK, its oversized A4 proportions and clean pages are a thing of beauty.

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Interviews with a wide range of typographers and designers, from Ruan Hughes and Harry Pearce to Angus Hyland and Andy Altmann fill the majority of Circular 18 with images of the designers’ work relegated to a few pages at the back of the publication. This allows the focus of the issue to concentrate on the words of the designers through confident typography as conversations about graphic design function and working processes take the lead. There is a real sense that this publication was a labour of love for Lippa and Kunze.

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Circular 18 is available free to members of The Typographic Circle, or for £15 to non-members. Email info@typocircle.com for information.

The Recorder
The second magazine I received recently is issue one of the new look The Recorder. Previously published for over 70 years by Monotype, in 2014 it has been relaunched to continue its tradition of looking at the history of typography and contemporary applications.

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In its own words: “Making its first appearance in 1902 … it covered everything from technology and typeface releases to historic features; offering readers an in-depth look at the type industry”. It goes on to say of its relaunch issue: “…features both the heritage of typography, and its contemporary application, focussing on how designers have used and responded to type, and how its influence has played a role in our culture and daily lives over the years”. Like Circular 18, its production quality is second to none, with a gold foiled front cover that wraps around the back, and a range of different articles all treated to individual layouts depending on the topics covered. Sized more like a traditional magazine, this is the least conventional thing about this publication. It must have been a daunting publication to revisit, given its revered history, but designer Luke Tonge has managed to give it a contemporary face that respects The Recorder’s legacy and sense of heritage while making it accessable to a new audience.

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The content consists of articles, essays, reviews and even a photo essay of the great poster artist / printmaker Alan Kitching.

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The Recorder proves to be a critical read, with an excellent article by Sam Roberts on ghostsigns and the ethics of restoration, while Harry Leeson looks at how typography manipulates our relationship with the urban environment and applies theories of class to the field of graphic design. Such depth of discussion in one publication is rare outside of Eye magazine, and The Recorder is a welcome, and beautifully produced, addition to critical design writing.

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(As an aside, I came across an original copy of The Monotype Recorder last year, and I was lucky enough for it to be a version dedicated to the life of Stanley Morison. Unfortunately, due to leaving Tumblr and deleting my The Small Letter blog, my digital archive of this is no longer online, but I am planning to resurrect it sometime soon on a different platform.)

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The Recorder is available for $17 USD from this dedicated website: click here. 

Typograph.journal
Last but by no means least, I stumbled across the new Typograph.journal via various postings from designers I follow on Instagram. Published by Nicole Arnett Phillips, aka Typography.Her, it focusses on design process through her personal reflcetions, case studies of different designer’s approaches to their work, interviews and commissioned exercises. Volume.01, published earlier this year, is titled on its spine: Can A Text Be Both Readerly And Experimental; while the recently published Volume.02 asks: Where Do We Find, And How Do We Feed, Our Creative Energy?

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Smaller in scale than the previous publications mentioned here, it has a pocketable quality that belies its depth of discussion and questioning. Like The Recorder and Circular 18, it is inward looking and aimed squarely at graphic designers, typographers and those interested in print processes, but that doesn’t mean that those outside of these fields will not find anything of interest.

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Phillips is an Australian designer who certainly understands how to create a visually rich and consuming document. In her own words she states: “I believe rigour and critical design thinking is important. As is a great outcome. But no more so than the design discovery and creative play that happens in the middle”. As an outcome, Typography.journal is both thoughtful and inspirational in its content and production, but equally impressive due to the proud authorship Phillips demonstrates—she is a doer and has made this happen, she self-promotes it through social media and is getting people interested in what is essentially a personal project.

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It is also very rewarding to receive Typography.journal through the post as Phillips envelopes the book in its own bespoke wrapping paper and includes print ephemera associated with the release and a hand-written note. This personal approach is a nice touch that reinforces the nature of the publication’s content as well as creating a connection with someone producing such an item half-way around the world.

Typograph.journal 01 & 02 are available to buy either individually or together for $30 AUD from Phillips’ website: click here.

 

What is really encouraging about these recent publications is that critical design writing is alive and well. Longstanding titles such as Eye, Creative Review, Baseline and the Journal of Design History have their specific areas carved out. And with design blogs being in rude health, it is possible to have questioned whether there was ever going to be any more room, let alone demand, for design writing. Well, these bespoke publications prove that there is a market for well produced high-quality material, both in terms of a physical entity itself, and in terms of content.

 

 

Back in May I wrote here about a visit Claire and I paid to the People’s History Museum in Manchester. Today I read in The Observer that due to spending cuts the museum is under threat.

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This museum is a true gem that collects together many important pieces of graphic design that chart the history of people’s movements in this country, from pamphlets to posters, from badges to banners. As a result of the funding cut, which means the museum is due to lose out on £200,000, the PHM has launched a campaign to fill this gap. Help the museum survive by making a donation or becoming a supporter and save these graphic relics that played their part in getting us the many rights that we enjoy today.

Since leaving Facebook a while ago I’ve been meaning to update or remove other online presences of mine. As a result I have now spent some of this morning on a purge. I am only notifying Dubdog readers here in case trawling through previous posts you find some links are now broken.

With my long time project McJunk on hiatus, I’ve updated its website to take account of this and deleted McJunk’s Facebook page and Tumblr submission site. Unfortunately, as McJunk on Tumblr was the first Tumblr I set up it was automatically my ‘primary site’, which meant I couldn’t delete the site with out obliterating all my other Tumblr projects, (it seems crazy Tumblr doesn’t allow you to switch ‘primary sites’). I don’t regret loosing most of these other projects as none were particularly useful to me now, except that is for my type and print publication research archive The Small Letter. That said, I was never overly happy with the format of Tumblr for this archive so I bit the bullet and hit delete. I plan to resurrect The Small Letter, or a variation there of, at another time in another online space in the future when I have a little more time on my hands.

Along with these changes, the McJunk hardback book is now no longer available to buy so if you do own a copy it is now a very rare thing indeed. However, the essay and accompanying presentation are still available to download for free from my Academia.edu profile.

Lastly, I have also removed my ‘archive’ portfolio page from this site. It had moved further and further away from representing what my current interests and activities are.

Scrutinising an Innocent drink carton several weeks ago I noticed that it was recyclable “in certain areas” and that I was to check with my local authority to see if it could be recycled in my area. I didn’t of course, not looking forward to either an elongated phone call being passed through various different departments or trawling through an impenetrable menu system on my local council website. I therefore forgot all about it and sent the package merrily onto landfill. To be fair, I had previously checked several years ago whether I could recycle this sort of packaging in Ipswich and finding out that I couldn’t, I didn’t hold out much hope that this would have changed.

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Then when walking to work one morning last week I found myself confronted with a large graphic on the side of a bin lorry telling me that I could now recycle orange juice cartons in my blue bin. I was astounded for two reasons: firstly I was surprised that my local council was actually quite advanced; and secondly that this information was bought to me and that I didn’t have to hunt it out.

This is a prime example of design that works. Not only has it bought this important bit of information directly to me, but also to all the houses on the route of the bin round. In my neighbourhood the houses are no more than 3 metres from the road, with small front gardens and pavement the only things between window and residential traffic. This means anyone opening their curtains at refuse collection time will be delivered the same information. This is an excellent example of taking the message directly to its audience.

This advert won’t win any awards though because it isn’t necessarily a great piece of design. The non-threatening cheeky bin man sticking his thumb up giving recycling encouragement to locals isn’t exactly ground-breaking or particularly inventive, and for my money I find it a little patronising. It isn’t even particularly well laid-out. But none of that actually matters because this design ultimately works. This evening I cleaned out the first Tetra Pak style carton I’ve finished since seeing the billboard ready to put in my recycling bin tomorrow. For that this advert should win an award because fundamentally it does what all design should do: it works. In my own experience the message has been effectively delivered and I have acted upon it, regardless of personal aesthetic tastes and design criticism. There often isn’t enough research done into the effectiveness of a design after it has been implemented, especially for social design, (where as increased sales figures can justify a piece of design in a commercial setting). But in this case, job done. Give a yellow pencil to whoever created this advert and decided to stick it on the side of a bin lorry.

UCS graduate Graphic Design and Graphic Illustration students are hosting an exhibition at London’s Coningsby Gallery next week.

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The money to put on the show came from the very successful International Design Auction held at UCS that was organised by the students in 2013, their final year. On display will be work created both on the course and since.

Check out the This is… website with links to the exhibitors personal sites.

Check out This is… on Twitter: @this_is_2014

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Image: Kemistry Kickstarter

After 10 years of exhibitions, London’s Kemistry Gallery is being forced from its Shoreditch premises because of redevelopment and rising rents. However, Kemistry Gallery is far from dead and buried as the team behind it launch a Kickstarter campaign to realise a ’10 years of Kemistry’ exhibition in 2015. This exhibition will be the start of the search for a new gallery space in London.

Why is Kemistry important? Well, it is the only exhibition space in London that is dedicated to Graphic Design, and in its 10 year existence has become the leading graphics gallery in the UK. In its history some of the biggest names in Graphic Design such as Saul Bass, Milton Glaser and Alan Fletcher have graced its walls. Alongside this, there have been exhibitions showcasing over-looked and emerging talent alike.

The Kickstarter campaign hopes to raise £15000 to match the same amount awarded by the Arts Council. This pot will then be used to put on a major exhibition featuring the work of everyone who has shown in the gallery in the past decade, and act as a pilot for the next stage of Kemistry. As stated on the Kemistry Kickstarter webpage: “‘Kemistry Gallery: 10 Years 60 Works’ promises to be a truly unique event, not just a taste of things to come with the new permanent Kemistry Gallery, but in itself one of the most ambitious and exciting explorations the past, present and future of graphic design to take place in London for many years”.

You can donate as little as £1, with rewards starting from a small £5 donation. More details here.

For current, future and past exhibitions at Kemistry, visit their website here.

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Image: Kemistry Kickstarter

 

BvAI-ghIcAE-R4L

I’ve discovered Scarfolk.*

Scarfolk is a story pieced together by Dr Ben Motte, who discovered a package one day stuffed with printed ephemera from a town that never left the 1970s. And as the story unfolds, you discover that Scarfolk is a very dark place indeed.

Never

Imagine Quatermass, Survivors and The League of Gentlemen rolled into one in the minds of Chris Morris and Douglas Adams, with paranormal children, tacit-racism, mind control and mythical folk tales thrown into the mix. If you can’t imagine it, then just think what it would be like.

Sam

Scarfolk is the brilliant invention of Richard Littler, a graphic designer who has a very keen eye for detail in recreating the 1970s and imagining the worst town to move to in the north of England.

Beige

Scarfolk has been a blog for a while, and is now a book. I can’t wait for the soundtrack and the documentary, they are sure to be coming soon.

Scarfolkswimstegosaurus

You should visit Scarfolk and discover it for yourself. *

* For more information please re-read.

 

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I made the decision recently to leave Facebook. I had been mulling it over in my head for a while and the final push came last week when my wife, during one of her sleepless bouts, had checked Facebook and saw a timestamp against my name that suggested I was actively on Facebook despite being sound asleep next to her. While I have little control over my online activity being logged somewhere, I at least want it to be accurate.

I’d been considering leaving for many reasons: the fact I found it conducive to compulsive behaviour; that it wasted my time; the knee-jerk commentry; getting friend requests from work colleagues and ex-students and accepting them because I liked them but then feeling I wasn’t so happy for them to see so much of my personal life; the data trawling and potential privacy breaches; the trolling; reaching for my mobile to ‘check-in'; the armchair politics; the adverts, particularly the adverts … I could go on.

But now I have made the decision I feel liberated. That said, there’s been some work involved in leaving the 21st century. Firstly I have been reacquainted with some long lost friends in my 5 years of using Facebook, so I wanted to notify them I was leaving and make them aware of where they could reach me in the future if they so wished. Secondly, I manage a couple of different professional and personal project Facebook Pages so I needed to set up an admin account to continue doing so—this led to the strange scenario where I had to ‘like’ myself in order to pass on admin rights to myself! And finally I wanted to delete any photos I had there that I didn’t want sitting in virtual space forever, (although I think it highly unlikely I will have truly managed this as there’s always a digital trail out there somewhere).

So from tomorrow I’ll be Facebook free when I deactivate my personal account. I only hope it doesn’t lead to me sounding smug when I say I’m not on Facebook if asked; you know, smug in the same way people sound when you ask someone if they saw a particular television programme only to be told pointedly that they don’t have a TV.

September is a busy month for me in the run-up to the start of a new academic year, hence no new posts here for a month. However, I’ve been far from idle and I’m proud to announce one particular project is about to come to fruition. ‘This is us’ is something I’ve been working on with colleagues at University Campus Suffolk for a few months now, with the launch set for Tuesday 29 September and press ads to hit the news-stands from 1 October.

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3 of the 11 portraits in the UCS Waterfront Building lobby

The campaign was envisaged by UCS Provost Richard Lister who wanted to celebrate the individual stories of both students and staff at the institution as it turns seven years old this September. After initial idea sessions between Richard, Graphic Design Senior Lecturer Russell Walker, UCS Head of Marketing Michelle Wootton, Photography Lecturer Matthew Andrew and myself, we decided large portraits of some of the individuals who have been involved in the UCS story over the last seven years would be appropriately fitting.

BeckyBlunk

UCS Librarian Becky Blunk—Becky is American, before anyone comments on the spelling

After Michelle selected some initial candidates for the project, Matthew set about shooting them in-house at UCS over the summer. Michelle then copy-wrote the text based on interviews with all the sitters while I worked on handwriting samples, scanning them in at ridiculously high resolutions and cutting them about to compliment Matthew’s stunning portraits.

MarkEdwards

Course Leader and Senior Lecturer for Photography, Mark Edwards

After Matthew had finished the post-production, we worked closely with printing and hanging the images, using a low tack and re-positional adhesive paper that was completely new to us. The scale creates a dramatic statement as you enter the UCS Waterfront Building lobby, where the 11 images are currently hung.

EstherFaniyan

Esther Faniyan, current BSc (Hons) Bioscience student

JonCoy

UCS receptionist, Jon Coy

It is hoped that this project will develop into more portraits and stories over the coming years, but in the meantime, the full scale images can be seen in the UCS Waterfront Building until the end of October, and over the coming weeks will be run as press ads, one-a-week, in the East Anglian Daily Times which will expand upon the sitters’ stories. Alongside this, postcard packs will provide further information about the individuals’ accounts of their time at UCS.

HannahMaynard

It has been an honour to work alongside my colleagues on ‘This is us’ and it has been a mark of pride to be able to help showcase the difference UCS is making not just to Ipswich and East Anglia, but to the individuals involved; from students to academic and support staff.

For more information, go to: ucs.ac.uk/thisisus

TomGauld_Marvello

Tom Gauld’s response to reader’s letters about Steven Pinker’s article on grammatical rule breaking. The Guardian Review 23.08.14.

Do we need less or fewer pedants in this world? Well, according to Steven Pinker’s article in last weeks’ Guardian Review, (16.08.14), there are some grammatical ‘rules’ that we can afford to break. If you are convinced by his argument, then we can clearly agree we need less pedants in the world.

Personally I’m with him on this. There are just too many English language rules, many of which I have no knowledge of. And if you don’t know what they are, how can you change your behaviour? One of the problems with language pedants is they adopt a moral high ground that judges the character of the person who doesn’t quite get it right, despite the fact they may be communicating perfectly well.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my pet peeves. My wife and step-daughter will warn anyone in my company they will fuel my wrath if they start a list-based sentence with ‘A’, and then progress to the second part of their list without saying ‘B’ beforehand. This in my mind is less about pedantry though, and more about committment. Worse though, they will tell you about my hatred of the use of the word ‘evocative’ to describe something without stating what it is evocative of! I find this particularly annoying if used to describe music. But again, this is less about pedantry and more about ensuring what you are saying actually makes sense.

Professionally however, when it comes to communicating clearly, use of language is important. My degree design students don’t know it yet, (they will find out in approximately one month, unless any of them read this post), but in one of my second year modules I ban certain words. That’s not quite true; I have a list of words and phrases that they aren’t allowed to use unless they are followed with a qualifying statement. For example, I don’t allow them to use the word bold. In and of itself, bold a meaningless describer for something visual unless it is being used when talking about a typeface, in which case it is entirely appropriate. Otherwise, it is just a subjective descriptor. I want my students to dig deeper than that—for starters, what makes something bold as opposed to not being bold? It is important to acknowledge such distinctions otherwise such phrases are meaningless. Likewise, the phrase ‘eye-catching’ has me thinking of someone playing ‘catch’ with an eyeball. What does eye-catching actually mean if it isn’t qualified; it is not something that can exist in its own vacuum. And while this might mark me out as a pedant to my students, it is an important aspect of design education, because as graphic designers we have to justify our rationale for the design decisions we make. We have to convince clients that we have analysed their communication problems and aim to successfully deliver their messages to their target audience, rather than employing our own artistic tastes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when we are designing we are not artists.

Despite not classing myself as a pedant, there is one area where I will confess to such a trait and that is when teaching typography. Students get sick of me discussing the difference between dashes and hyphens and appropriate usage of an ampersand. I’m not about to go into a typographic lesson here, but I think it is fair to say that there is a certain amount of pedantry at the heart of any typographer.

The contradictions in my views are not lost on me. Where I’m happy for the English language to be adapted over time, and accept this as part of a cultural/societal evolution, I am more resistant to the bastardisation of typographic constructs. But I equally accept that this is all they are, constructs—rules some people have mutually agreed to adopt that then become standards that others follow. Despite this dichotomy I am able to accept both my pedantry and that some of the things I believe in will fall out of usage by the simple fact others don’t accept it as that important as I do. I shudder that the em dash could disappear within my lifetime, but by rights, what should I really care?

Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen in the future of typography, I still believe it is important that graphic designers should understand what they are doing, (or not doing), and why, and to be able to justify their reasoning. The ability to communicate is at the heart of being a designer, and to choose to break ‘rules’ is fine if, A: you can demonstrate this is appropriate for the communication that needs to be delivered; and secondly: errr… if it makes a point.

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