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15 August 2018
Friday, 24th August 2012
Two Typographers
who changed my life
I’ll always remember the time I spent 13 uninterrupted hours painting a detailed rendition of the word ‘MAD’. It was inspired by Pop Art and my interest in letterforms. It was 1967 and I was 13 years old. 

At the age of 16 to my teachers disgust I left school and embarked on a foundation course at my local art college in Bolton. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer and I was excited at the prospect of the journey that lay ahead. And it was there that I discovered through a final year graphics student – the work of Herb Lubalin. The student was Phil Grimshaw who was soon to start at the Royal College of Art and would later become a prolific and respected typographer in his own right. Phil’s work was very much influenced by Herb Lubalin at that time and I too immediately bacame a fan of his work. I marvelled at the way he linked and combined letters, the tightness of his kerning and leading that created a new way of presenting type.

Back then everything was done by hand. I learnt to master the art of hand drawn type with a Rotring Rapidograph on CS10 art board. I learnt how to master ruling pens, compasses and the right consistency of ink and gouache to achieve the perfect line. But I was never going to be a Herb Lubalin or Phil Grimshaw. My journey was a little less disciplined. 

My first degree was in Illustration and inspired by Phil Grimshaw and following in his footsteps I later went on to study at the Royal College of Art. Once there it became all about the ideas and less about the execution. I’ve always loved Herb Lubalin’s work, not just because of the meticulous attention to detail and execution of his work but the integration of wonderful ideas. 

United Editions have just published a numbered, limited edition, deluxe monograph of the legendary designers work. I eagerly await my copy which I ordered this morning.

Sadly neither Herb or Phil are still with us but their work continues to inspire.

Friday, 10th August 2012
Usain Bolt
2012 Icon
The 2012 London logo has come in for a lot of criticism in the run up to the Olympics. I’ve been one of its many critics. I’ve tried to like it and many are trying to post rationalise its ugliness, but I still hate it! No-one can deny though the success of these Olympics, with even the naysayers and cynics reluctantly admitting it has lifted the spirits of the nation. 

Last night Usain Bolt defied his critics and became the first man to successfully defend his Olympic 100 and 200 metre titles. An incredible athlete and personality and a figure and face that will forever be associated with this great sporting event.

Wednesday, 08th August 2012
The Futura of brand signage
A Skinny Hot American and blow-dry please
Walking from Farringdon Tube the other day, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between the signage of three Cowcross Street neighbours. Pizza Express, Starbucks and Toni&Guy, who all use the same typeface (Futura Extra Bold), albeit with ever-so-slight variations in weight and kerning. 

I’ve never really noticed this before because I invariably associate these brands with an Art Nouveau Roundel, a Mermaid and I only ever really come into contact with Toni&Guy when I’m looking for a miracle hair product in Boots, that will make my hair as thick and lustrous as it did in my twenties. But when they’re literally next door to each other it’s hard to ignore the sameness. Come to think of it, Costa Coffee also uses the same typeface (wavy ‘S’ excluded) and there are probably many more. Most of us could think of numerous brands who use Helvetica or subtle variants thereof, and I know branding is more than just Look & Feel, but as a proponent of bespoke fonts – they do differentiate and add personality.