I had the privilege of running workshops at the Design Museum last week for the next generation of talented designers. The museum runs an annual competition for schools to design a product to be sold in the Design Museum shop. I had a brilliant day running one-hour workshops for the ten schools shortlisted in this Design Ventura competition.
The students from years 9, 10 and 11 took part in activities including personality name badges, supermarket sweep, what’s the product? and ended with typography karaoke, which they designed and performed. They were all fantastic and I hope a few went away with a newfound love of typography.
An ampersand is an invitation to imagine what will come next. It is a continuation of a conversation or story, but without the context of knowing what went before you can choose where you would like it to go. When the symbol stands alone it is still communicating a huge amount of information from its form and its shapes; is it hand-written, is it old-fashioned and traditional, is it minimalist and modern? Every typeface tells a story independently of the words it spells out.
The ampersand is sometimes considered to be the 27th letter of the Latin alphabet. It comes from the letters ‘et’, Latin for ‘and’. It’s a character that there is wide affection for and it gives a glimpse of the personality of a typeface without committing to be a particular letter. The ampersand takes a wide range of shapes and forms, and it is the skill of the human brain that enables us to recognise that each of these still says ‘and’.
Type Tasting created a large-scale multisensory installation for Adobe Fonts at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles from 2nd to 6th November 2019.
Visitors were immersed in the mood of different typefaces through all of their senses. At each station they were invited to put on headphones, to smell a scent in a jar or by flipping the pages of a book, to eat a small taster and to feel a texture. Each set of stimuli was designed to bring a mood to life in the participant’s imagination. There was curiosity and intrigue as the first visitors arrived and they were soon returning with groups of friends saying “you have to try this”.
Punk emerged as a reaction to the rigid restrictions of Modernism and its style ripped up the rules of Swiss minimalism and neutral sans serif typography. As traditional attitudes came to be considered outdated, society rebelled against the mainstream and demanded change. It feels like we are at a similar turning point today, both culturally and typographically. Can we look to history for parallels in how graphic design and cultural attitudes are changing today?
We absorb information through all of our senses simultaneously. This speeds up our ability to judge situations and react quickly and is fundamental to our ability to recognise signals and communicate. This played a vital role in human survival when our ancestors needed to respond to danger quickly, often relying on sound or smell when it was dark and a large proportion of our genes are still devoted to detecting odours.
Graphic designers and type consumers interact with typography in very different ways. Each is just as much of an expert in their own field of experience, but one interacts consciously and the other subconsciously.
Introducing your children to the fantastical world of fonts will give them a head start towards a future career in the creative industries.
My 11-year-old nephew Eddie was excited to see me last Christmas because he wanted to talk about fonts. He’d started to learn about the topic at school and had lots of brilliant questions like “why are there so many?” The two of us have been hatching plans to create a book together and I’ve also been asking lots of other children what they think. My initial proposal had been rejected by a number of mainstream children’s publishers—the main feedback is that “children aren’t interested in fonts”. I disagree with this because the children I’ve spoken to are very interested in the topic. In response, I’m publishing these books as part of the new Type Tasting Books venture. This is how I published my first book ‘The Type Taster’, which is now published by Penguin/Random House as the bestselling ‘Why Fonts Matter’.