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dazed-burger

By Sarah Hyndman

I chatted to Louis Bradley of Dazed and Confused Magazine about typographic rebellion and how the ultimate way to rebel against the increasing ubiquity of the sans serif might be to use fonts that provoke a reaction like Comic Sans or Papyrus.

“How to start a revolution with Comic Sans. Could something as simple as font have been the catalyst for the spread of punk or behind Donald Trump’s win? We explore the hidden power of typeface”

The idea that something as simple as typeface can be an integral part of a protest movement might sound a bit far-fetched. But the role of fonts is just as important as actual words in communicating a message to the masses. It’s why you don’t ever stray too far away from Arial or Times New Roman on your CV – you don’t want to come across as too much of an avant-garde loose canon by opting for Lucida Handwriting or Bradley Hand. Or why you don’t commonly use curly script-like letters for your uni essays.

Sarah Hyndman creates workshops and events designed to teach the art of typography and deconstruct the power of design. The ‘Never Mind The Typography’ exhibition outlines how the angst and rebellion of punk was expressed in every fibre of the counterculture, even right down to the lettering. “When punk (and its typeface) arrived in the mid-70s, the design at that point in time was very traditional and old-fashioned, kind of nostalgic and backwards looking,” she explains. It was this reaction to the rigid restrictions of modernism that gave birth to a whole new movement in innovative design. Cast your mind back to the creator of the ransom note style and the Sex Pistols logo Jamie Reid, and the slick layered graphics on British Independent album sleeves created by Barney Bubbles, who also designed the logo for NME magazine. “With all of this comes the layering of meanings, layering of images, often lots of references and subtexts that were put in so you had to be in the know to understand the references. You know from that type style that the album is going to be in a certain rebellious underground – it’s going to have swearing in it, basically.”

Read the full article in Dazed…

Punk was the anti-Helvetica Design Week interview
2016 is the new 1976 Sarah Hyndman
How Punk changed Graphic Design Sarah Hyndman

Typography as the voice of change

By Sarah Hyndman

Find out how typography gave the angst and rebellion of Punk a voice, and how you can use fonts to ensure that YOUR message is heard. 

Punk changed graphic design¹. When it first exploded in the 1970s it appeared to be youthful rebellion. However, looking back we now consider it to be an important part of the Postmodernist movement, which began as a reaction to the rigid restrictions of Modernism. Punk’s DIY ethos encapsulated the anti-establishment mood of the mid 1970s: a time of ongoing economic hardship, with social fragmentation, an economy struggling to recover from a stock market crash, housing problems and increasing unemployment. This was a decade facing a clash of expectations as both the economy and society struggled to cope with the pace of change as the rose-tinted nostalgia of the past collided with a seemingly out-of-control vision of the future. Sound familiar?

Punk was an empowering time of do-it-yourself, when the message truly became the medium as everybody took up their scissors and glue to create zines, posters, flyers and record sleeves (this was pre-Mac). These were often mass produced on the photocopier in the local library and stapled together by hand—not designed and typeset by professionals. What made Punk’s voice stand out was its difference; it literally broke all the typesetting rules by cutting up the grid and throwing the words back down on the page in a haphazard chaos of styles.

Do you have a message that you want the World to listen to? It’s not just what you say, it’s also the way you say it that will create maximum impact and ensure that your message is heard. Context is key. In 2008 Obama’s presidential ‘Change’ campaign² looked so different to the political typographic landscape in the US at the time, that it literally embodied the theme of change. It did this while also conveying trust, confidence and experience, not idealistic rhetoric.

Craig Oldham documents the miners’ strikes of the 1980s “a historical movement of the working class people”. He shows how the placards distributed by the LCDTU trade union use distinct geometric forms that are “bold and direct in the sea of visual noise that is a mass demonstration”. These letterforms mirror the immediacy and anger of the miners’ hand-written placards, and they also give the miners a unified voice³.

Roboto, Google typeface Segoe, Microsoft typeface San Francisco, Apple typeface

The typography of social media and apps today is of corporate and minimalist sans serif typefaces* that, to the untrained eye, look very similar to each other (above), all contained within a structured grid. There are few opportunities to use type expressively, hence the rise of the emoji. Snapchat is a platform that enables you to customise your words (in any font you want, provided it’s Avenir), and their fleeting 10-second life span encourages a DIY approach that breaks them out of the homogeneity of the social networks.

A typeface gives your cause or movement a recognisable voice that inspires ideas, ensures your message is heard, and empowers your words to make a difference. Looking at the voices of change and rebellion in the context of history reveals the full impact they had at the time, and demonstrates how you can use a font as a catalyst for change.

Would you like to find out more?

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Design Week, sarah hyndman

Typographer and graphic designer Sarah Hyndman, author of Why Fonts Matter, will be giving a talk this month about the power of typefaces in the punk era, part of the current Graphics of Punk exhibition on at the Museum of Brands.

We speak to her about how punk democratised design, and why Snapchat is the modern-day equivalent.

Design Week: Why did you get involved in the Graphics of Punk exhibition?

Sarah Hyndman: Type charts social and historic change. The Museum of Brands is a place where you can see all these voices speaking through all of its products and packaging, which wouldn’t normally be shown in an exhibition because they’re not considered high design. My area of interest is how type is woven into the social fabric of our lives – it’s something that I’m on a mission to democratise.

DW: What will you be talking about in the Never Mind the Typography talk?

SH: It’s an hour-long, interactive talk. I’m going to start by looking at what Britain was like in the early, post-war 1970s – there were a lot of social conventions, and the graphic design community was still besotted by the formality of modernism and minimalism. The UK was also going through a recession and it was a massive time of change. Then punk appeared and completely broke the rule book. It was shocking compared to everything else that was happening.

I’ll look then at how punk gave people a voice. It wasn’t about the designers, or the establishment. This was before Apple Macs were around, so you couldn’t just print your own posters. You’d have to go to a typesetter, and the method would be expensive. Punks ignored all of that and found this really immediate way of disseminating their voices. Punk graphics and typography have become part of the everyday vernacular today, but it was very empowering at the time.

Read full article in Design Week…

Book a Typographic rebellion ‘Learn, socialise & create’ session
How to start a revolution with Comic Sans Dazed & Confused magazine interview
2016 is the new 1976 Sarah Hyndman
How Punk changed Graphic Design Sarah Hyndman

SexPistols

How Punk changed Graphic Design
Sarah Hyndman on Punk, which first exploded in the 1970s and, at the time, looked like youthful rebellion.

In actuality it was part of the Postmodernist movement which began as a reaction to the rigid restrictions of Modernism. Its DIY ethos encapsulated the anti-establishment mood of the mid 1970s, a time of political and social turbulence. The former British Empire was dissolving and a new era in British music, fashion and design was beginning.

Taking the stage to articulate the feelings of a dissatisfied generation calling for change were the Sex Pistols, who played their first gig in 1975 at St Martins College of Art. Their outrageous behaviour and contempt for established conventions announced the beginning of Punk. The DIY ethos and uncontrolled, home made style was revolutionary at the time and launched a new era in British music, fashion and design.

sex pistols 1 sex pistols 5

(A side-note from the author: Be more Punk, a call to action in 2016.)

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