Friday, April 26, 2013

Art and Activism

Actions speak louder than words, but what happens when actions and words come together? I recently saw the documentary film Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, and in the film there was a piece of typographic art that really struck a chord with me. So, today I wanted to focus, not on the aesthetics of type, but on the powerful message it can convey.

Ai Wei Wei is a Chinese artist and outspoken activist, whose work often tackles issues of censorship and corruption in the Chinese government. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Ai and a team of volunteers worked relentlessly to gather the names and birthdays of 5,385 school children who were casualties of the quake, because the government refused to release the information. Ai believed that corruption caused money to be taken away from building projects, which caused the poor construction of these schools. His 2009 exhibition So Sorry, featured the piece called Remembering, which is a simple sentence, spelled out with 9000 school bags across a Munich museum. The piece reads, "She lived happily for seven years in this world," a sentiment of one of the grieving mothers.

Another piece by Ai, has him defacing an actual Neolithic vase with the Coca-Cola logo.

Another artist who uses typography to make a stand is Barbara Kruger. Kruger is an American conceptual artist, who created works with activist themes in the 1980's. She used common tropes found in the advertising of the time, such as photography and strong slogans, to create striking protest art. Her work often uses a single black and white image overlaid with a typographic message, usually in Futura Bold. Using this visual language, she explores themes of feminism, consumerism, and social identity. 

"I have no complaints, except for the world." - Barbara Kruger.

Lastly, on a slightly different note, I wanted to introduce SAMO©. SAMO© is a graffiti tag originated by Jean-Michel Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz. SAMO© stood for "same old shit," and the tags started popping up all over New York in the early 80's. According to photographer  Henry Flynt, "The collective graffiti employed anonymity to seem corporate and engulfing. The tone was utterly different from the morose and abject tone of Basquiat's solo work. The implication was that SAMO© was a drug that could solve all problems. SOHO, the art world, and Yuppies were satirized with Olympian wit."

Ai Wei Wei Documentary -
An article on Barbara Kruger -
SAMO photo archive -

Thursday, April 25, 2013

— the Art of —


Classical painting and typography. Two visual titans we seldom think to exist on the same plain. These walls are broken down by the striking art of Wayne White. White graduated from Middle Tennessee State University and is a successful artist, illustrator, and art director. Generally when we see a nice classical American painting of a covered bridge in autumn, or a old barn out on the prairie we think of just that. What Wayne White's art does is disturb that clear image in our minds. This disturbance is through his bold use of typography in which he contrasts with his charmingly dated painting style.

The incredible contrast between White's modern typographic creations and his landscape paintings appear to be done by two separate artist. Ina n age where it is hard to tell what is Photoshopped and what is real, there is something special seeing typography hand painted over and within landscapes of all kinds. His art is especially striking when a beautifully rendered countryside has FAN FUCKINTASTIC in rainbow colors with shadows of trees shielding the phrase on the forest floor. Also, this video I came across this video which reminded me of how this artist uses space, landscape, and Type. Enjoy the boldly contrasting world of Wayne White! 


Friday, April 12, 2013

Swiss-Miss / Friday Type Link Pack

I've been following the blog for a few years now. Tina Roth Eisenberg, (the designer behind the blog) collects information that is interesting, minimal, and sometimes typographic. Often on Fridays, she posts a "Link Pack" which will inspire this post. If you're not familiar with her, (you should be) her latest project Teux Deux ( is simple, user-friendly & entirely typographic "To Do" application.

Another Application: FontBook
>world’s most comprehensive typographic reference tool, documenting the libraries of over 130 international type foundries
>growing online gallery of Swiss Posters.

>super helpful techniques for combining fonts

>museum of wood type online... definitely a must see!

>type designers share & compare their handwriting with type

Happy Friday & enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Art of Lettering

I've been following a lot of design blogs lately and I’ve been trying to think of a way to somehow categorize them all as one topic. If they had anything in common, I would say there seems to be a trend of people going back to the “old way” of doing things, so that’s how I will justify posting all of this cool stuff. First off, these charming, completely hand-painted signs. 

The spacing, embellishments and brushwork are all carefully executed. An excerpt from the book Sign Painters says “Its not science, but it’s beautiful and all artists recognize this”. 

In an era of Photoshop and Illustrator, a handful of these dedicated artists still exist because they believe what they do represents quality and craftsmanship. There’s actually a documentary following these artistians and you can see the trailer here. The book is also available on amazon for a pretty decent price. Below is an example of some of the brushes the painters use. 

This was a recent project done by BMD design that I felt was sort of in the same vein, at least it has the same spirit as the hand-crafted sign paintings. This studio specializes in hand-done lettering and I think their work is beautiful.

They seem to use traditional methods just like those of the sign painters, I love that you can see the water-color like brush strokes. You can see more of their work on their website, unfortunately none of it is in English, but still amazing work none-the-less.

This next project is by graphic designer Carl Relate, who designed a type face based on lettering that he had been studying in the 19th and 20th century (much like the sign painters). The typeface first evolved from some lettering he did for a poster . He believes it captures the mood and has a distinctive personality. I believe all of these examples have that distinctive personality that he is talking about, which I suppose is why I’m so drawn to them. You can see more of Carl’s work here

I know this next piece doesn't really fit  as its not hand-done – but if you haven't seen it yet I felt that you should. This is sort of a vintage piece done using a more modern method, capturing sony music industry type throughout the decades.

See the full project here.

And finally, the very last thing I’ll post is letter-playground. I thought this was a sort of fun site which features hand-done letters created by artists and designers, whether they are amateur or professional. Anyone can create their own letter and submit it to the site, and there’s a great little collection on there. I figured it would be something fun to pay attention or take part in when you want to design on summer break. 

And if you aren't following this blog, its a great resource! This is where I've found most of the above projects. 

Typography and the General Public

" Can you make it less texty ?"

 This is something that my boss said to me at work the other day which has inspired this blog post. As designers we often work with other people who are not designers and I know that I often forget that they are often unfamiliar with the terminology and the concepts that come second hand to us as designers and often don't know the difference between good and bad typography and why its important.

So I found an article on communication arts website that was entitled How to Explain Why Typography Matters and was written by Thomas Phinney. What I found really interesting was how he talked about typography not as a design tool but as a language that could say good or bad things and often there were just subtle differences between the two.

 Typography has become increasingly mainstream especially though out the past ten years. However many people still don't understand it or why someone would even waste their time creating typography and typographical systems. 

I think James Puckett put it best when he discussed the issue on “I always tell people that the difference between good typography and [bad typography] is the difference between work that looks professional and work that looks like someone threw it together in MS Word. One reason Apple’s stores look so good is the careful and consistent application of [the typeface] Myriad. But kmart’s careless mashup of Helvetica, Gill Sans, News Gothic and Gotham looks like, well, kmart.”

This is a great comparison, people often can't identify when they are looking at good and bad typography but they often notice it without realizing it through brand loyalty and just generally thinking something looks nice.

The article also had a very interesting comparison for typography the author said "Typography is like fashion, or furniture. With rare functional exceptions, the world doesn't “need” new clothing or furniture designs, but people want to look different or evoke a particular feeling or fit with a particular “look,” and there are trends and styles."

Nothing is quote on quote new in typography anymore and people are simple using pre-existing things in new and interesting ways. And these new ways of doing things are often trends in typography some of the trends going on right now are....

Wood cut type


Friday, April 5, 2013

3D Type / Type as object

Sam Chirnside

Andreas Neophytou

Rizon Parein

Marcelo Schultz


Marina Rosso

Alphabet with Tools (1977), by Mervyn Kurlansky, takes everyday objects found in homes and workshops and transforms them into the letters of the Western alphabet.

Sometimes as designers we think very flat, very 2 dimensional. There is another plane that we forget to consider when were in the computer look at a flat background. Some consider it slick, or too flashy, but there are times when 3D type can be very exciting and tastefully done. Weather it's mastering shadow and highlight in photoshop and illustrator or learning a 3D program that aids in realistic dimensional qualities, 3D type can become the living content of a piece. There's alot of retro, flat, hand illustrative design floating around, but sometimes it's all too predictable. Adding dimension, when appropriate, can give new feeling and depth to design.
And not just super-slick computer generated looking design occupies this realm. People are drawing and physically making these dimensional type pieces too. The found object and photographed scenarios are nice touches in the dimensional type realm too.