running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Dare To Spend

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Despite the imminent funding crisis in Higher Education, some Universities still see the power of branding as the best way to recruit quality students. And you know that when Saachi & Saachi get involved that things are serious, and probably expensive.

The payoff is that the results will generally be worth it. The Brussels-based arm of Saachi have produced the 'Dare to Think' campaign for Belgium's University of Gent, and their latest visual manages to blend inventive typography with one of the biggest symbols of education - the library bookshelf.

Dare To Think
Source: Ads of the World.

Glasgow Film : Post-Portal Design

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

One of the top buzzwords of the original dot com era was 'portal' - an umbrella website providing hyperlinks to and aggregated content from a number of related organisations or sites.

In the intervening years, portals have become a basic fact of life on the web, and integrated content has become the key paradigm. But the central problem has always remained - how to combine and present so much content in one usable offering.

These days, stripped down integration is the way forward. This is because social networking is acting as the portal mechanisim. Designers are realising that websites can be more effective if they aggregate less, but more focussed, subject matter, and let social networking do the rest.

Here's a brilliant contemporary example from Glasgow agency Tictoc. They have designed the new Glasgow Film website, which promotes the city's cinemas, screenings and events, by merging three organisations - Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow Film Festival and the soon to be launched Cinema City - which promotes Glasgow's movie scene.

Glasgow Film

The site allows cinemaphiles to discuss, review and share ideas about films and events. It encourages users to share listings with friends, and watch trailers and read reviews before booking their tickets on the site. It also looks great with its minimal colour scheme, slanted rules and bold type.

Magazine Spreads

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Excite Cover

Working with photographers can be one of the most satisfying aspects of graphic design, and here are some great spreads from Gill McColl, one of our HND students, who has integrated some great visuals into her magazine spreads.

We called this project 'Excite', created a list of subjects area, and Gill drew 'Cinema' out of the hat. She then had to brief a student in the photography department on the location, style composition of the images required. These were then supplied unedited in RAW format.

These examples illustrate Gill's strengths - attention to detail, great typography (these pages are beautifully set in Gotham Bold), and an ability to organise grid layouts that capture the essence of the publication and the target audience.

excite spread 1

excite spread 2

excite spread 3

excite spread 4

Gill has just had her work placements for 2011 confirmed - a fortnight at both Touch and Eskimo* - two of Edinburgh's most innovative agencies.

Captain Beefheart RIP

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Sad news yesterday that the abstract artist Don Van Vliet, better-known as Captain Beefheart, died in California aged 69.

The Michael Werner Gallery in New York, which often hosted Van Vliet's art exhibitions, confirmed that Van Vlient had passed away from complications due to multiple sclerosis.

As Captain Beefheart, Van Vliet managed to warp blues, jazz, and rock into a unique and memorable sound, and produced a large body of important rock music during the 1960's and 1970's.

For many fans, myself included, the highlight of the Beefheart recordings was the seminal Trour Mask Replica (1969) - a unique double album of 28 experimental rock songs, produced by Frank Zappa, which has influenced just about everyone from Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin to Nick Cave, the Sex Pistols, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and the White Stripes, even if much of it seems to be tuneless, abrasive and practically unlistenable on first hearing.

The recording sessions for this record are the stuff of rock legend - Beefheart forced the band to live communally for nearly a whole year, rehearsing his complex songs for up to 14 hours a day with no money or food (but obviously plenty of mind-altering substances).

Trout Mask Replica also featured brilliant gatefold sleeve coverart. I've dug out my copy from the vinyl shelf -

TMR Outside

TMR Insideside

Trout Mask Replica, Gatefold Sleeve, 2 X 12".
This edition (slightly battered) is the 1975 Reprise reissue.

Beefheart Obituary - The Guardian 18/12/2010
Beefheart Obituary, Rolling Stone 18/12/2010
A life in Photos - Rolling Stone

One Hour Typography

Friday, 17 December 2010

One of my HND 2 students, Rachel Patrick, has won the London Design Festival's one hour typography competition. The LDF asked designers to select a quote from a list of 80 quotes on design, and create a typographical poster in one hour.

After a huge response in entries, the LDF's William Shaw and Richard Wolfströme, designer and Board member of the International Society of Typographic Designers, chose five winners.

Rachel's entry took American designer Joe Sparano's quote 'Good design is obvious, great design is transparent', and came up with this -

RJP Type Poster

You can see the other winning entries and the judges' comments at www.londondesignfestival.com, and you can check out Rachel's portfolio at her website www.bypatch.co.uk

Showing Racism the Red Card, with Type

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Yet another typography post, but definitely merited. A very cool type-based piece for the SQA's annual 'Show Racism the Red Card' competition, which one of our students won last year.

This time around we re-wrote the brief to include video as well as a print-based solution, and this submission really stood out.

Sarah Tucker's typographical work was inspired by Stefan Sagmeister, and with some help from her friends, she produced this remarkable video and its accompanying poster work -

SRRC Posters

Funding Linotype The Film

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Kickstarter is an innovative funding platform for creative projects all over the world. Every month, thousands of people pledge a donation to projects in music, film, art, technology, design, publishing and other creative fields. The project creators keep full ownership and control over their work, and Kickstarter draws a 5% profit from the funding, if the project reaches the required total.

A great example is the current funding campaign for a feature-length film about the Linotype typecasting machine. The Linotype, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886, completely transformed print communication, but eventually became obsolete, and today, very few of these amazing machines are still in existence.

The film is about a machine of the past, its skilled operators, and its impact on communication. A worthy cause for which to pledge a small amount. The deadline for pledges is December 17th.

Linotype the Film Trailer:

Linotype the Movie

I Leica This

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Here's an enjoyable promotional video for the amazing new Leica D-Lux 5.

Photographers are raving about this fully-manual compact digital camera which features a 1/1.63in 10-million-pixel CCD sensor, and a 24-90mm f/2-3.3 lens. It also boasts HD video recording, multi-aspect shooting, and dozens of other pieces of spec heaven.

But equally importantly, it has Leica's amazing retro looks.

The D-Lux 5 will probably get more photos taken of it than it will actually take itself, and seems destined to become a design classic.

Most cameras seem built around the lens, but with a Leica it's as if everything emerges organically from their iconic red logo, as this promo demonstrates. Just a pity the 'inspiration demands..' strapline is so clumsy.

Manhattan Clearview

Friday, 3 December 2010

The first time I visited New York, I spent a fair portion of my time just photographing the street signs - surely the most iconic of their kind in the world.

As well as the famous names and their various literary, musical and cinema references, like MacDougal, Broadway, the Bowery and so on, the signs are great pieces of urban design - rectangles in green or black, often set at right angles to each other, echoing the city's grid layout - and the lettering is a bold, white, uppercase sans serif typeface.

They are definitive, clear and timeless, just like this set at a famous corner in Greenwich Village -

McDougal Bleecker

So it's sad to read that the Federal Highways Commission recently announced that all 250,000 of the city's street signs are to be replaced, at a cost of some $27million. The project won't be finished until 2018 and will see the uppercase lettering replaced by mixed upper and lowercase set in Clearview - a new sans serif font designed specifically for the task.

The bureaucrats argue that the switch will improve legibility. This will mean better safety for drivers, who identify the words more quickly in lowercase, and easier orientation for pedestrians, who'll be able to see the wording from farther away.

By their reckoning, it's a miracle anyone has managed to find their way around New York before, given that the uppercase signage has been in use since the early twentieth century. And if you have ever driven in Manhattan, you'll have spent enough time stuck in traffic to read any sign, even if it was set back-to-front in comic sans (assuming your first language is english).

Here's a comparison example -

Uppercase v lowercase

Judge for yourself, but Clearview definitely spoils the balance and gravitas of the original signs in all sorts of obvious ways.

This is a situation where a design classic is being tampered with for a valid reason, but in the wrong way. Visual communication is about problem solving, and in this case the solution would be to tweak the existing font into a more legible format by widening the kerning (the space between the letters). Or perhaps the Feds should just spend the $27m on improving traffic flow and tightening up the drivers test.

NYC to spend $27m - NY Post
Feds Change Signs - Transportation Nation
NY Signage Change - the Telegraph

Inspirational Problem Solver

Edinburgh is under two feet of snow and college is closed all week - not ideal for me and a bit of a disaster for our students who were building up to their end-of-year review. So I have been looking for some inspiration to take into next week when classes will hopefully get back on schedule.

This five minute interview with Paula Scher does just fine. Scher, a partner at the Pentagram Agency in New York, is to the design world what Patti Smith is to rock music - a groundbreaking maverick who's been there and done it all, and who tells it like it is without losing sight of what is it should be.

Scher is most famous for her hand-written typography and unusual cartography, but during the 1970's she designed hundreds of record covers for CBS, most of which, she claims here, taught her 'what bad is, and how it got that way'.

Reverting To Type

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

An interesting exhibition, showcasing the magic of letterpress, kicks off next week in London. 'Reverting to Type' is an exhibition of contemporary letterpress practitioners, showcasing how a disappearing craft is being reinvented for contemporary design.

The exhibition, being held at the Standpoint Gallery, is riding a wave of resurgent interest in letterpress.

Photoshop an Illustrator reproduce the effect with ease, but digital design has really woken up to letterpress in web design, where CSS3 now allows the text-shadow property to be employed in the new generation of web browsers. Just search on 'letterpress effect css3' in google, and the results will list dozens of showcases, galleries, tutorials, code snippets and samples.

To get a feel for the effect, if you are viewing this page on a Mac and in a CSS3-ready browser, you'll see the it here, in 36pt Courier -

Reverting To Type.

As traditional practitioners will tell you, there is something arcane about letterpress - the process itself, the tactile paper, the beauty of the results, and of course, handling real pieces of type. The poster for the event is a nice example -

Reverting To Type Letterpress Poster

This would be a great event for design students to get along to, second only to visiting a working letterpress studio. Creative Review has an excellent short film of Designer Kelvyn Smith in his letterpress workshop, preparing for the Reverting To Type exhibition.

Reverting To Type is at the Standpoint Gallery from 10th–24th Dec 2010 and 4th–22nd Jan 2011.

Less Independent Is More

At the end of October, the Independent launched a new national newspaper - a spin-off title of the Independent - entitled 'i', costing a mere 20p, and designed to appeal to readers who might have swapped newspapers for the web.

i is a slimmed-down, faster-paced version of the main paper and is a fascinating example of how designers approach the problem of reducing content.

The basic premise - show readers how you are going to show them the content, and then show them it - is borrowed from magazines, textbooks and of course websites.

In the case of i, the inside first pages - the content section, neatly categorises everything into colour-coded haiku-like chunks, focussing on key headlines in each section. Once you move to a section, that headline is prominent and supported by the other articles in the section.

The sections are all laid out in a comfortably-proportioned grid, breaking out of the normal columned paradigm. Text-wrapped images and short bursts of information add to the magazine effect, and the copy is stripped down too, but carefully toned to retain the broadsheet stance.

And the team behind it have plenty more media-savvy ideas in the tank to establish the concept. As well as a nice strapline in 'i gets to the point', they have a twitterfeed, a facebook page, and of course the 20p selling price.

Todays publication is a good example - a special issue to mark World Aids Day, and is edited by Elton John. Here's the cover -

i Cover 1st December 2011

The i is also launching an iPad App today.

i Paper Front Covers

A Blast of Canons

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

When it comes to gravity, the predictions made by Newton are known to be inaccurate, but they are sufficiently good approximations in most circumstances that classical mechanics is widely used instead of general relativity.

The same goes for certain aspects of graphic design, particularly when it comes to page layout.

Modern page layout techniques, and the software tools used to create them, are based around the ISO 216 sizings and the grid.

The grid was popularised by the Swiss typographers during the 1950's, and is the basis for contemporary print and web layout. So it's no surprise that it is central to the teaching curriculum in design schools.

But in the manner of classical mechanics, we are also obliged to investigate older ideas, and this means introducing students to the Canons of page construction.

These principles describe how (regardless of page size) the proportions, margins and type areas of books can be constructed based on a set of geometric ratios, rather than the exact measurements of vertical and horizontal guides in the grid.

Jan Tschichold popularised the notion of canons, which he termed 'laws of form', and was heavily influenced by the ideas of J. A. van de Graaf.

Van De Graaf Canon
The Van de Graaf canon is used to divide a page into pleasing proportions, and was used in medieval manuscripts and incunabula.

The canon works for any page width:height ratio, and enables the book designer to position the text body in a specific area of the page. The page proportions vary, but the most commonly used is the 2:3 proportion - a close approximation to the 'golden ratio'. The result is that the height of the text area equals the page width.

You can test this by grabbing a novel off the bookshelf and measuring the height of the text box and comparing it with the width of the page. For certain formats (specifically symmetrical page layouts), the rule holds, and these books are often the most pleasing to open and look at (typeface and content not withstanding).

A 'Van De Graaf diagram' is used to show the canon works:

Van De Graaf Diagram

The red rectangular text area is the same proportion as the page itself. The left and right margins are 2/9 and 1/9 respectively for the rectro (left) page, and are mirrored in the verso (right) page. Together, the inner margins form a centre margin of 1/9 + 1/9 = 2/9, equal to the outside edges. The actual text area is 6/9 of the page - a ratio of 2:3.

This diagram shows Tschichold's revision of the van de Graaf canon (on the left) and the later contribution of the Swiss designers, who converted the diagram into a 9X9 grid -


In Practice
Given a notion of the smallest pointsize of type to be used on the page, a designer can build a layout around the Van de Graaf canon, positioning headings, titles and body text. The overall result is a visual pattern which we see as balanced and meaningful.

The quickest way to do this is on a page in InDesign is to overlay the 9X9 grid, and draw your textbox one unit in and down from the top left edge, and two units in and up from the lower right corner. You can then drop in a baseline grid, setting the leading size of your choice from the top of the textbox.

Here's a doublepage spread based on the canon -

And here are the diagrams to confirm the proportions -

With the 9X9 grid in place, it's also easy to create a symmetrical layout, with both left margins of a spread double the size of the right ones. Just shunt the recto textbox across the grid to the same position as the verso.

And for those designers out there who prefer the more standard 6% margin rule and a 5, 6 or 12-column grid, go ahead and draw up a layout using that rule, and then overlay a Van De Graaf diagram, and you'll find that the diagonals still (approximately) run flush through the margin corners.

Van De Graaf Canon@wiki

007 Gun

Sunday, 28 November 2010

It's not often that an object featured in a poster becomes a sought-after piece of memorabilia in its own right, but that's what has just happened at Christie's in London.

A pistol held by Sean Connery in posters to promote the 1963 film 'From Russia With Love' has sold at auction for £277,250. The Walther PPK fetched more than 10 times its estimate of £15,000-£20,000.

So it's worth looking at what all the fuss is about - and here are three good examples for the aforementioned second James Bond film.

From Russia With Love 1

The original poster came in what is now an obsolete format, quad size (760 X 1040mm), and was designed by Eric Pulford. The style is typical of the period, a mix of traditional and modernist elements with some bad colour clashes, and features the classic Bond pose. The nod to modernism - angled sans serif type in red and black - is set in Helvetica Bold Condensed, which was a fairly new typeface at the time.

From Russia With Love - Red Panels

The second poster is a Saul Bass imitation, with a messy mix of typefaces (the straplines are in Cooper Black) and some poorly treated monochrome photography in four panels (the Walther features in two of them). I found a couple of other panel posters from the same series, including a quad layout, but this one was the most interesting.

The third poster here, a reprint for Film Review 1964, abandons both previous visual approaches and is by far the best.

This design has all the ingredients of contemporary cinema promotion. The text occupies the top and bottom thirds of the layout, and the black background has a cropped photo of the star positioned in the visual centre - set above and right of the middle of the poster.

The main typeface is a condensed elegant serif, and both the film title and the star's name are the most prominent pieces of information, organised into a classically arranged typographical hierarchy, moving downwards to the less important details.

This poster was way ahead of its time. It helps too that the gun looks great in it.

From Russia With Love 3

Christie's also plans to hold an auction on Dec 1st of Vintage Film Posters, with the Eric Pulford design featured amongst them.

Get Closer with News +

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Swedish pub­lish­ers Bon­nier have released a promotional video for their tablet news service 'News +', which looks like one possible future for the newspaper.

There's no doubt that the user-experience captured here on the iPad is a real triumph of interactive technology and design.

But it's interesting how the narration describes the limited attractions of viewing updated news offline as 'filtering out the noise of the web'. What's also apparent is that the target audience for News + is a very small portion of the newspaper-reading public, which raises a few questions about the content, accessibility and usefulness of being able to 'get closer'.

The shape of things to come? The iPad certainly, but News +? Perhaps.

Everything Is Made

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Everything is Made A nice surprise in the post today - three copies of the world's most prestigious annual for creative professionals - 'Everything is Made', the 2010 D&AD Annual.

These limited edition members' versions are hardcover, 23.9 x 25.6 cm (9.4 x 10.1 in.), with a whopping 592 pages.

This year the annual was designed by Bob & Roberta Smith, whose trademark style is multi-coloured signs and unusual typography, painted onto a diverse range of materials.

The annual features an audio recording from D&AD President Paul Brazier when you open up the front page, and a cover that folds out into a double-sided typographical poster, in a matte plastic finish.

As well as some nice messy collage effects, the layout is beautifully constructed, with the chapter spreads all featuring a chapter title in handwritten type, then an anagram of the title in a rather large weight of Helvetica. The award-winning works are tastefully presented in a grid layout with text set in Univers.

And of course the work featured is the best advertising and design in the world.



Book Design


Corporate Non-Identity

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Every brief is based around a problem of visual communication, and designers are the problem solvers. So what if the problem is that the visual communication itself must be removed, effectively making all brands indistinguishable?

This is exactly what may be about to happen to the tobacco industry.

Australia plans to have plain-packaged cigarettes on shop shelves by July 2012, and earlier this week the UK government announced that they are considering forcing all cigarette packaging to be plain brown or grey, with no logos or visual branding allowed.

Unpalatable as it sounds, cigarette packaging represents an important source of social, cultural and marketing history, and has produced some of the most memorable logos and branding campaigns of the twentieth century. It's also just about the only form of visual communication left to the tobacco companies.

The evolution of cigarette packet design shows both changes in marketing technique and period graphic style. The packet itself has always had a definite form, shape and size – probably to some extent because the point-of-sale displays have a definite dimension and capacity and cigarette dispensing machines are designed for packets of a specific dimension. This has stifled design change and created a reliance on colour, typography and finish.

But the results have been hugely effective - cigarette packaging promotes the highest degree of brand loyalty in any modern product.

Agencies are already familiar with the heavily-regulated brand guidelines. The law may take away the logos, the colours, the visual devices, the packet shape, the copy style. But the material, texture and shape will be the brand - designers will customise the card, the foil, the cellophane, even the seaming. Marlboro, the biggest brand, have already tested the waters with the F1 Ferrari barcode design -

Marlboro Barcoding

Government Ministers and pressure groups can be quoted, statistics can be highlighted, but the tobacco industry will survive.

The tobacco lawyers will be at the ready, and somewhere, a designer is sitting down with their sketchbook trying to figure out how many ways they can make a brown paper bag say exactly what the client wants it to say.

Lighting Up The Turner Prize

Friday, 19 November 2010

Here's an ambitious typographical project from one of my NC Graphics students, Jonathan Walton.

The brief was to produce a single A3 poster advertising the Turner Prize 2010 Exhibition (currently showing at Tate Britain), but once Jonathan had settled on a concept, he produced a set of three linked posters echoing Martin Creed's notorious 2001 winning piece 'The Lights Go On and Off'.

Jonathan has two further years of study in which to gain his HND, and then take a final year at University, or move straight into the industry. The latter looks like a distinct possibility based on his current work.

The posters:

TurnerLight 1

TurnerLight 2


The final layout:


Turner Prize 2010 @ Tate Britain

4 X Sans Serif

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Despite an abundance of modern options, there remains a very select group of sans serif typefaces that designers prefer to work with. There are more than a handful of contenders, but many designers would probably name just four.

Three of these - Akzidenz, Helvetica and Univers, are closely related and have been with us for many years. All have undergone refinements and facelifts during that time and are still widely used. The fourth, Avenir, is a relative newcomer which has a different provence to the grotesks and has established itself as a classic.

4 X Sans Serif, all set at 50pt Bold with optical kerning.

Each typeface has a unique personality, based on its inherent characteristics, but it can be problematic telling them apart and, more crucially, difficult to figure out which one suits what job.

Akzidenz, created way back in 1896 by the Berthold AG type foundry, is the progenitor of all modern sans serifs. During the 1950's and 1960's, many of the Swiss designers worked almost exclusively with Akzidenz, establishing its reputation.

Akzidenz Std Medium
Akzidenz Standard Medium (65)

A modest x-height provides rounded counters and bowls, and the lowercase 'e' has an angled cutoff at the end. Akzidenz can look powerful, but it has a slightly clumsy, anachronistic feel to it, and its use in commercial advertising has diminished. It remains popular with purists, and still looks awesome in its traditional visual environment - flush left, ragged right and tightly kerned.

The definitive sans serif, Helvetica was developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger at the Haas Foundry in Switzerland and was designed to compete with the ageing Akzidenz-Grotesk.

Helvetica Std Medium
Helvetica Standard Medium (65)

Originally called 'Neue Haas Grotesk', this is a neutral design that has a universal, objective clarity, making it ideal to deliver all sorts of clear messages.

In antiquity, the Romans referred to the tribes in what is now Switzerland as 'Helvetii', and in 1960 the name was changed to 'Helvetica', which helped commercialise its use in the burgeoning American market.

Helvetica is the most famous typeface in the world, and we see it on everything from government forms to toilet instructions, exhibition posters, street signage, web pages, and luxury car adverts.

Helvetica's meaty x-height gives it a more imposing appearance than Akzidenz, and its trademark horizontal cutoff ends on the 'c' and 'e' give the typeface a solidity and gravitas that is difficult to beat across a range of weights. Helvetica retains the arrowed end to the uppercase 'G' from Akzidenz, but the regular proportions have given Helvetica a reputation for blandness. Helvetica is in fact vociferously avoided by many important designers.

Univers, (pronounced 'univar'), was designed in 1957 by Adrian Frutiger as a direct competitor to Neue Haas Grotesk.

Univers Std Medium
Univers Standard Medium (65)

Univers comes in uniquely numbered weight, width, position combinations. It retains some aspects of Akzidenz, and shares many of Helvetica's attributes, for example, a flourished end on the uppercase 'R'. Some basic differences include a distinct angled chink in the lowercase 't' and the loss of the arrowed end on the uppercase 'G'.

Univers has more stroke modulation than Helvetica, and this gives it a slick classy feel which is particularly good for headings and body text. It also pairs up well with a wide range of serif typefaces providing a great mix.

Some aspects of Univers were lifted by Microsoft when they commissioned the web's most legible typeface, Arial. Arial is normally considered a poor copy of Helvetica, but if you look closely, it actually bears all sorts of similarities with Univers, as the image below shows (Arial in the grey box)-

Arial v Univers

Avenir, also designed by Adrian Frutiger, is related to an earlier geometric sans-serif typeface, Futura (1927), and is an altogether more symmetrical typeface than the other three. It features the circular shapes of Akzidenz, the consistency of Helvetica and the refinement of Univers, which is why it is considered by many to be the most complete sans serif typeface currently in use.

Avenir Std Medium
Avenir Standard Medium (65)

Avenir sports neat angled ends on the 'e'. 'c' and 's', a round period dot, and great symmetry in the counters and bowls, providing a really contemporary and fluid feel to the reading experience.

Avenir is the house font for Reuters, Chanel, Japan Airlines, Wired Magazine and Empire Magazine, to name just a few. It is the official typeface used in all promotional material for the city of Amsterdam in Holland, and BBC Two has also begun to use Avenir as its main font, in a radical break from the Corporation's long-term use of Gill Sans.

Avenir manages to retain the idealism of the modernist typefaces whilst at the same time looking fresh, unforced and fantastically legible. Its dead give-away is the pair of angled cutoffs to a very geometric and beautifully balanced 'C'. As a headline font in bold weights it is legible, focussed and clean.

It does have weaknesses however. It tends to have an intrinsic high-brow feel to it, and at smaller point sizes the roundness can reduce legibility. These drawbacks make it unsuitable for some jobs, notably body text.

Frutiger and Linotype’s Type Director Akira Kobayashi have recently completed Avenir Next, which addresses these issues, and expands and refines the original by offering a re-balanced set of 6 weights, in addition to condensed companions for each weight and style.

So where does this leave designers when it comes to choosing from the 4 X sans serifs? A general rule of thumb does emerge, which can produce very good results -

Akzidenz: organic, retro, solid, traditional modernist
Helvetica : broad appeal, clarity, corporate authenticity, reliability.
Univers : rationality, technical print, formal, serious, clean.
Avenir : elegant, contemporary communication with a hint of sophistication.


Food For Thought

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Some interesting self-promotional material arrived on my desk from one of my ex-students, Carolann Alexander, who graduated HND Graphic Design earlier this year.

Carolann is now working freelance in Edinburgh, and has been promoting her talents with these beautifully packaged edible business cards -

The Midas Touch

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Are you feeling lucky, punk? If the answer is yes, then top of the Christmas gift this list year must be 'Bill Gold: PosterWorks', published by reelartpress.

In a career spanning some sixty years, Gold was responsible for some of the most iconic movie posters of all time, starting with Casablanca, and including the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, Bullitt, The Wild Bunch, Get Carter, Dirty Harry, The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Unforgiven and his swansong, Mystic River.

The press release describe the book as -

' a unique 450 page collector's opus detailing the artist’s creative process, his army days, early career, posters for Elia Kazan, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut through to his final work in 2003 on Eastwood’s Mystic River. Archivist of his own work, with a personal collection of unseen designs, alternative versions, sketches, drafts, notes and photographs, Bill Gold’s incredible history has never been accessible to the public until now.'


We have a couple of Bill Golds on the Inspiration wall in the Studio - a 1980's reprint of Casablanca (a UK version, with different typesetting for the credits), and an original for Dirty Harry (1971).

Gold's early work featured a lot of illustration, but he really hit his stride between the mid 60's and early 70's, when he specialised in action movies and dynamic cropped photos. He developed a stripped down style that went beyond Saul Bass, borrowed from the classic Swiss style, and had an added messy element of brooding pathos.

My personal favourites are a series of posters for the 1971 film 'Klute', which starred Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. The posters feature great stills, an image of a telephone receiver, and the film credits set in Bauhaus font. The compositions look really off-kilter, but they mirror the quick cut film editing that was popular at the time, and if you've seen the movie, you'll recognise the sleazy, complex mood they create.

Klute Poster Series:

The problem now? Convincing Santa that it's worthwhile forking out £300 to buy the book - a limited edition of 1500, signed by Clint Eastwood, who also authors the foreword.

Reel Gallery Exhibition : Bill Gold.
Bill Gold:Posterworks @ reelartpress.com
Book Review - The Telegraph, 8 Nov 2010.

The Norton Experience

Monday, 8 November 2010

Design Agency Carter Wong have announced their reworking of the famous 'Curly N' Norton motorcycle logotype.

According to Norton, the brief was to standardise the logo by taking the best design aspects and features from previous versions to create something contemporary but authentic.

Norton was a key player in the motorcycling world during the pre and post-war periods, and was a great example of British engineering at its zenith. It's best-selling 'Commando' was an influential design that paved the way for the next generation of motorbikes from Japan, the arrival of which ironically signalled Norton's demise during the 1970's and 80's.

Norton Logos:Top - 1913, Middle - 1970's, Bottom - 2010.

The calligraphic flourishes and exaggerated serifs of the earliest logo were reduced during the company's heyday into a more mechanical, European look, but have found their way back in with the new design. You can see it best in the return to a softened ascender on the 't', and the oval offset counterspace inside the 'o'. The overall impression is one of opulent, elegant power.

On Norton's website, there's an interesting case study on how Carter Wong went about this project, as well as a vintage section featuring dozens of Norton posters, including these classic, cheesy 1960's 'Commando' posters, set in variations of the popular sans serifs of the period, Akzidenz Grotesk, Futura and Century Gothic.

More: Carter Wong Norton Project