August 2007

Type what? Lettering who?

A new generation of designers adept with new technology and tools are blending their skills with the typographic tradition. In the 1980s hand lettering artists collaborated with designers to generate brands and type marks. Not much has changed in twenty or so years, it is just the pencils, rapidographs, French drawing curves have given way to pen tools, anchor points, electronic drawing tablets, hard drives and saving preferences.

We felt that we need to back up our previous post examining the redesign of the Qantas brand with well executed lettering samples. We have sourced two of our favourite type and lettering designers — Jean François Porchez and Ian Brignell. One from Sèvres, France, the other from Toronto, Canada; one is a typeface and custom lettering designer, the other exclusively a custom lettering designer; one designs for brands big and small, the other designs lettering for massive, enormous, big and some small brands.

The lettering samples we have drawn together from the two designers cross the boundaries of custom type forms — fine scripted lettering illustration, flamboyant scripts, rigid gothic forms, eccentric traditional logotypes, cursive brand marks, bold blob like brands, to spare san serif type marks. What brings these designs together is there seems to be not a bump, bulb, curve, corner, counter space, ascender, descender, or swash out of place. It doesn’t matter how expressive or how restrained each sample seems to the eye, each sample simply looks right, appropriate and legible. We look forward to grooming a client or two willing to budget for type design by Jean François or Ian.

If you are a type nerd enjoy! If you are not a type nerd just look at the pictures.

Samples designed by Jean François Porchez follow —
Visit Porchez Typofonderie here

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Samples designed by Ian Brignell Lettering Design follow —
Visit Ian Brignell Lettering Design here

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Don’t look back they say…

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A few weeks ago in Canberra, I spied a small article in the Sydney Morning Herald announcing a change of the Qantas logo by Sydney design and communication firm Hulsbosch, headed by Hans Hulsbosch. The occasion of a major global brand “refresh”, as PR writing often states, is a rare event indeed and of great interest to logo spotters. In this instance the interpretation of the “word“ refresh seems to have many definitions.

Now that major brands are assigned with a market value, a humble piece of graphic design has now become a company asset. However it is curious that the asset designers highly regard, investors seem to disregard — the brand‘s creative and craft values, or assets, built into a brand’s presentation.

It is ironic that while I construct this article, that Clint Eastwood‘s piano blues documentary is airing on the television in the background. Eastwood’s homage is a careful and highly respectful record of of all the major contributors to piano blues. Eastwood allows the musicians and their music tell the stories and the musician’s stories develop the narrative. The viewer is left to construct the story of piano blues and what it is today. Eastwood is a man of history and his curation in this instance is a special experience.

The creative pursuit of graphic design or graphic communication in 2007 is in contrasting times. At one extreme; the arty extreme, (as Hulsbosch states in their colourful website announcement), graphic design is rich in creative innovation and expression. At the other extreme; strategic design extreme, aesthetic lines are drawn, the bottom line adopted and other large design firms are deemed to be pre-occupied.

The brief history of Australian graphic design has witnessed some great thinkers and expression. The Qantas logo is a vital part of this history including the contributions of several revered designers such as Tony Lunn, Ken Cato and Gert Sellheim. Comments across the web regarding the redesign are mixed. Many people question whether the brand required a redesign, while some individuals site technical tail wing changes requiring design modification.

What this redesign brings into question is the lack of debate regarding technical knowledge, design craft merit of graphic design in the community. Many designers would prize that opportunity to leave their design impression in such a far reaching fashion. Few designers would rise to the challenge of this brief and develop a solution that is akin with the proceeding design.

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If one ponders past Qantas brand designs their are common threads that link the previous designs, with exception to the design of 1944 ( Which seems to be a facsimile of the Kangaroo engraving on the Australian penny coin). The Kangaroo shape developed by Sellheim, Lunn and maintained by Cato, is elegant, and finely formed, the shape suggest the animal yet it is rendition is iconic. The type mark developed by Lunn and maintained by Cato, is confident, spare in it’s construction, yet rich in detail with confidently constructed shapes and innovative forms.

The overwhelmingly public adoption of the 1984 design brings into question the current redesign. It is without doubt the intent is well intended. However the refreshed kangaroo graphic has diminished its classic iconic status. The feet of the animal and tail area can potentially invite wit. The shapes are overtly disproportionate — giving the graphic clown-like feet and fat cumbersome torso and tail. The strong diagonal line from the clipped tail point to the over extented toe gives the impression the the beast is traveling down, instead of traveling across as stated by the previous graphic rendering.

LC of Sydney on the news.com.au blog states — How is a big bum Kangaroo with goofy clown feet a step forward? This comment is an example of how the new graphic has moved from being identified as aspirational to witty.

The type mark is fashionable with its mix of sharp and mixed corners. The word mark itself maintains the exaggerated italic form as instated in previous designs. However the quirks of the busy letter forms seem to lack the polish as achieved in other like examples of rigorous and considered type design — see samples by type designer J.Porchez for typemarks developed for Air France and Peuguot. The letter “Q” in particular seems smaller that other characters and perches uneasily close to the baseline. The subtle bumps on the tops of the letters “A” and the up stroke of the letter “N” are overly prominent.

Without sighting the design brief, it seems that Qantas in this instance has achieved or possibly required a complex overhaul of their brand, rather than a refresh. The design developed by Lunn remains today as contemporary and finely crafted as it did in 1984. As trends in design shift and change, will the new brand remain as timeless as it‘s incumbent? As evidenced in the Qantas logo 1968 redesign, some solutions are more of their era than others.

Take a ticket Australian brands and get in line, your chance to be put through the blob filter is highly probable.

Visit Hulsbosch Design here
Read some commentary on news.com.au blog — The new Qantas logo roo-vealed

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Semi Permament New Zealand with 3 Deep

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In June Melbourne based graphic design studio 3 Deep contacted the studio with a special project — to develop a new presentation of 3 Deep‘s work, people and capabilities. We had several meetings and Andrew decided to loosely curate their work around several themes. From this structure Andrew developed a design conversation on stage with 3 Deep’s principals Brett Phillips and David Roennfeldt. It was a nerve racking experience as this presentation style was an unchartered departure from the typical showing work and telling stories about the work format often undertaken by designers. Andrew wanted the 1500 strong audience to get under the skin of 3 Deep and show a side of the practise that investigates process, influence and history.

Up until last Saturday it is unprecedented that a design studio develop and deliver a presentation around and about the work of a competing studio. We named the presentation 3 Deep verses, Studio Pip and Co. verses the World. Many thanks to David and Brett for taking a leap and getting outside their comfort zones and also funding a lovely weekend in New Zealand.

Visit 3 Deep here
Visit Semi Permanent New Zealand here

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The next chapter

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The closing of July brings with it a couple of big changes for the studio. For over four years we have been located above a dental surgery on Greville Street, Prahran.

In June this year David Band contacted the studio with a proposal, he needed a design studio to help — his design studio, Mahon and Band, execute their work in graphic design terms. Within weeks of making this arrangement Mahon and Band’s exciting projects have upped the volume work for Studio Pip and Co. To meet demand of the new work we employed Monash graphic design graduate Sarah Furzer, and decided it is timely find a bigger work space.

Peoplethings was born. Located off Carlisle Street, Balaclava (just two train stops beyond Prahran Station), the Peoplethings space allows our studio’s room to work, collaborate and play. Please take note of our new contact details and be patient as we fine tune the details — connecting the internet, telephone, building walls and smoothing out the wrinkles.

People things
Offices of Studio Pip and Co., Mahon and Band
Suite 12, 320 Carlisle Street,
Prahran Victoria 3183 Australia
Telephone 61 3 9525 9844

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Not this designer…

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Graphic designers out there, any designers for that matter, do you ever wonder why designers are not taken seriously by the rest of the population? The answer maybe lies within this image. The image making created by Desktop Magazine for that latest Create Awards seems to sums up visually the designer cliché that we are. Only Prince, the pop legend, can get away looking like this guy. Or Perhaps this image making is a challenge to designers out there to get themselves some cheesie sunglasses, dust off that white suite, shine up the purple shoes and matching hat and get on down that designer red carpet. With all due respect to Desktop and their efforts for the local industry, it may pay to invite the winners of previous awards to review, or even develop the main marketing images for this event. Potentially more designers would enter, or roll up to the Create Awards night.

For information about the Desktop Create Awards click here

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