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Snape birdwalk by Peter Silk (Spring, 2011 brochure)—image courtesy of Silk Pearce website

I popped up to Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh in Suffolk at the weekend to find two great, if small, exhibitions.

The first celebrates 15 years of Colchester based graphic design agency Silk Pearce‘s work for the annual Aldeburgh Music festival. Their branding of the festival and programme designs have often featured in design magazines such as Creative Review, and a large display of all of their programme covers collected together features as you enter the show. This is followed by many framed prints of artwork they’ve created over the years, featuring techniques including collage, photomontage, screenprints and digital illustration that reference many aspects of Snape and Aldeburgh. Often fun and full of wit, the work vibrantly shows a diverse approach to image making, and visually dispels any notion of Aldeburgh Music being po-faced as many similar ‘serious’ music festivals might come across. Whoever commissioned Silk Pearce 15 years ago made a wise decision, and the brief must be an annual joy for the studio to anticipate.

Max Gill exhibition—image courtesy of LCAT website

Max Gill exhibition—image courtesy LCAT website

The second is an exhibition of the work of Max Gill, the younger brother of the more famous Eric Gill, at the Lettering & Commemorative Arts Trust‘s centre, also at Snape. The centre is worth a visit in its own right for the amazing letter craft, stone masonry and calligraphy on display, but Gill’s maps and book work are absolutely stunning in the main exhibition room. I was particularly taken with his Tea Revives The World map, being a big tea fan myself.

It is unusual enough to get exhibitions of Graphic Design anywhere, but the fact these exhibitions are on together is a rare treat. You’ll have to be quick to catch the Silk Pearce show as if finishes at the end of August, coinciding with the Aldeburgh Music Proms. The Gill exhibition is on until 12 November.

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One sunny Sunday afternoon walk around Woodbridge today and all I seemed to see around me were examples of living, moving typography.

ImageThis antique shop’s sign caught my eye with its peeling letterforms. There’s something fittingly accidental in the evolving visual language of an old sign decaying for an antique’s dealer. And the shapes created by this natural ageing process give up unique shapes—a typeface being undesigned, if such a thing were possible—that organically visualise the forward march of time. While the motion may not be obvious in the moment in which I looked at these, motion had happened and was happening none–the–less, albeit at a very, very slow rate.

ImageAnother antique shop had a similar feel but this time caused by peeling paint, rather than lifting vinyl.

ImageI moved from black and white to a dash of colour when walking through a graveyard and I caught sight of moss taking hold to letterforms carved on a gravestone. An interesting thought occurred to me that this type that usually memorialises the dead has turned into a piece of living type, changing with the seasons.

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ImageLater, after returning from Woodbridge and taking the dog for a walk I found this spray painted GUR on a local heath that doubles as a golf course. I have no idea what GUR stands for, and as this is a golf course it is likely to be cut short before anyone will get to see how it develops. But it is still a piece of living typography while it lasts, as the grass grows.

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Claire and I have just returned from a holiday in the very untouristy Lincolnshire. We visited two years ago, knowing nothing about the county, (read a write up here), and decided to pay the delightful county another visit this year after scratching our heads wondering where to go for our summer break.

Interestingly, last time we visited, we commented on it feeling so unspoilt and un-gentrified, that it was probably reminiscent of the north Norfolk coast of 30 years ago. On our return journey back to Suffolk, we drove via the Norfolk coast, from Hunstanton to Cromer, which only served to reinforce this feeling—the difference between the two areas could not have been starker, and not just because of the amount of Volvos on the small country lanes. No, the most telling thing of the gentrification of north Norfolk was the signage. It is almost as if the entire north Norfolk coast has been branded by one design firm working to a single guideline with the area steeped in Farrow & Ball’s muted grey/greens and grey/blues, while upper case Gill Sans seems to have become the official typeface of the coast line. Upmarket eateries, gift shops and watercolour exhibitions all bare these hallmarks of ‘good taste’. I’m inclined to believe the National Trust marketing department has taken over the entire coastal district and marked it out as a middle class haven of national interest. (Sheringham and Cromer seem to have been left out of this gentrification process and there is a very clear visual divide as you pass by these bucket & spade and candifloss lower brow destinations).

In comparison, the visual language of Lincolnshire retains its vernacular, being a complete mixture of professional and amateur attempts at signage. Its historical typographic heritage is unashamedly on display, and as such, comes across as unpretentious, honest and down to earth. There is no typographic cleansing going on here, and long may it stay that way.

Find below a few typographic treats that caught my attention as we explored the Lincolnshire Wolds. More photographs to follow on Flickr—I’ll provide a link here when I’ve fully trawled through my memory cards.

Lincolnshire Co-op

Unfortunately this building is no longer a Co-op, there being a newly built store round the corner: Horncastle

The people of Spilsby are rightly proud of their new Co-op, enough to write graffiti welcoming others to the store.

The people of Spilsby are rightly proud of their new Co-op, enough to write graffiti welcoming others to the store.

To the train station in Market Rasen, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds

To the train station in Market Rasen, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds

Mareham on the Hill directions to a tiny chapel on a hillside behind a farm. We would have missed visiting the beautiful and picturesque church were it not for this sign. (Click on photo for more information).

An old pub and post office: Louth.

An old pub and post office: Louth.

Beautiful old school house in Spilsby.

Building ties as letterforms: Old Bollingbroke

Building ties as letterforms: Old Bollingbroke

Many Lincolnshire churches  had semi-circular graves. this one in Market Rasen had moss growing on the stone carving creating a living, growing  typographic memorial to the dead.

Many Lincolnshire churches had semi-circular tomb-stone graves. This one in Market Rasen had moss growing on the stone carving creating a living, growing typographic memorial to the dead.

Ghost typography on a building in Louth.

This restored building in Louth has had the original signage thoughtfully restored as well.

This restored building in Louth has had the original signage thoughtfully restored as well.

The Anderby Creek Cloud Bar, where no trip to Lincolnshire would be complete without a visit to both the bar, commissioned by the Cloud Appreciation Society, and to the miles of gloriously sandy dog friendly beaches that after 6pm are devoid of people.

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