April 2007

Tailored type



Who owns the right to design and create? Who makes that decision that one designed object is better or more appropriate? What makes one design object better than the other?

Professional designers hanker with these concepts almost daily. One would argue it is a designer‘s ability to meet the expectations of these questions that ultimately justifies the value a designer can bring to a design problem, and subsequent ability to make an income.

Let‘s leave the lofty sentiments for now.

Pictured: hand lettering for a glazer, movable venue lettering in St Kilda, Melbourne and hand painted window signing.

In 2007 hand lettered signing is an endangered commercial expression. The computerised vinyl cutting plotter makes it easy for small business to identify themselves. When properly executed vinyl lettering is a form of signing that is difficult to fault. It is inexpensive, accurate and very flexible.

Like graphic design, sign makers have experienced big changes in the way they execute their work. Pre the vinyl cutter revolution, a typical sign/ticket writer would have mostly developed their craft apprenticed to a senior sign writer, supplemented with tertiary training. Sign writing is a very physical and intuitive creative expression. Imagine having a blank wall in front of you, some brushes, paint and being confident enough to develop clear, legible lettering that dynamically responds to this space.

Deep in Melbourne‘s south eastern suburbs, there is a little dry cleaner and tailor, as there seems to be in every similar precinct. It is situated on a corner site on a little strip of sleepy shops, which affords generous plate glass windows, awnings and over-head displays. Where is the thin san-serif typeface? Where is the vinyl stick-on lettering? Where is the smooth finished light box with its molded graphic? This example of (hand rendered) sign writing by no means has the verve of some of the exceptional hand lettering examples that still litter many of Melbourne‘s streets and suburbs. What attracts one to this piece is that it clearly operates by its own design and aesthetic values.

One can‘t decide whether this piece of lettering is good or simply curious. As one approaches the site the “Tailor” murals appear, at least two metres wide on the shop front glasing, flagging to the passer by the business’s core activity. Above the entry, somewhat out of context, is a playful sample of san serif lettering depicting the business name. Its shapes and form are supremely confident, maybe to match the business. The flourishes, swashes and tones seem to mimic contemporary graffiti, mashed with formal 1950s style signing. Is this piece of lettering an elaborate doodle transposed from notebook or napkin? Or is this piece a response to street art?

This sign writing has a presence about that makes the business seem a permanent fixture, rather than some fly-by-night shop front (a big vacant space, mid grey, cheap office furniture, telephone cable strewn carpets, a few barren dogged eared posters tacked to the wall, and peopleless). It is encouraging to see work this in a commercial context. It is an individual and unique expression that goes against the grain of standardising sign manufacturing. Let’s hope that the next upgrade to this site isn’t a scrape-back-and-vinyl-on project.




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Brands discover Botox

There is a quiet aesthetic taking form in the world of identity design.

As a consequence of improving graphic software and new and wonderful filters, we witnessing a transformation of logo graphics and brand marks. It is not unusual for products and outcomes to be influenced by production techniques. Many styles and trends have been based upon this simple principle.

In the world of identity design logo marks and brand marks are being dressed with the latest software filters. Once flat and graphic logo marks and brand marks have developed chrome finishes and 3D bevels and bubbles.

Is this a brand’s way of trying to become an object, something real, or is it just an nuance of graphic treatment that will define this period? Is this a look that will define the times, or is this a sign of things to come? There are designers that want their world to remain flat and graphic, there are designers at the software fore front turning flat graphics into object like brands, and then there is a vast majority who don’t care, let alone notice the difference.

Happy botoxing.









Saxton guides colour

As part of the recent Saxton Scholar print campaign we developed a handy four colour process guide. One more reason to register for this years competition!

Visit saxtoncentral.com



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Out Numbered Bin

By Andrew Ashton, shot on holiday in Tenby, Wales, October 2005.

“I had a few days with Pip without children, we packed in as much as possible. Things like going for a walk with my camera just before the sun went down and seeing what presented itself. It felt like a desperate scramble to be self indulgent again. I saw this poor bin being bullied by the other green bins, interrupted them, and fled to find the next awaiting image.” AA


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Snail mail is back

Saxton Paper writing kits, May 2007.

Saxton Paper’s brief to the studio is to develop promotional work that inspires the end user to explore the potential of paper, by communicating with paper in a meaningful and memorable fashion. The 2007 Saxton writing kits is the result.

There are two kits. Each kit has three designs, expressed as six greeting cards and matching writing paper, twelve envelopes with Saxton propaganda as a security pattern, and a writing guide all in a neat shipping envelope.

The designs take on a decorative and ambiguous look, allowing the end user to caste whatever meaning they deem appropriate to each design and occasion. Some of the designs are abstract, some are literal, some use raw pixels, others use flat colour, there are gradated and continuous tones, there is rustic collage and hard line work.

The project was in the studio and in production for six months. The concept, imagery, writing and products was developed by Andrew and Shelley, the project was printed and finished by Gunn & Taylor. We hope that the customers of Spicers Paper and Australian Paper enjoy using the kit, as much as we enjoyed bringing the idea to life.

Our client Australia Paper is very special. Their collaborative approach to developing the brief and work allowed us to do what we do best. Thank you again for this opportunity AP.






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