January 2010

No two designs are the same

Hello out there, 2010 is here. Ten years ago another decade, a millenia, announced its arrival, very dramatically under the winds of the Y2K bug, and then the decade and the bug passed and time pressed on being busy. It is interesting to note the energy that corporations pumped into Y2K – a massive effort in dabbling with destiny.

The studio has been in holiday mode recovering from 2009 and as a result we are having a break from writing posts, making work and causing havoc.

During the break one has been watching a little television and the BBC2’s Seven Ages of Rock series is being aired. The second installment of the series, White Light, White Heat, explored the Art Rock period covering the likes of Pink Floyd, Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, and Early Genesis. Set in the late 1960s and 1970s, this episode explored rock as it transcended in an artful and multimedia mode.

Our bias for the Art Rock period can be found in the studio’s I-tunes playlist, and here is where this post’s segue begins.

We are in the process of preparing the studio’s next publication and this process is allowing us to explore the fundamentals of what we do and how we do it. There is a lot of searching in preparing this project and one can’t help to get back to basics and it continually amazed one how individual the creative process is. Call in several designers and set them to the same task, there will be at least several solutions.

This thought is where we get back to Roxy Music and their singer Bryan Ferry. Though out his career Ferry has covered many standard rock hits, in fact his first solo album – These foolish things – is an album of covers. A standout is track number one a cover – of Dylan’s “A hard rain’s gonna fall”.

Please stay tuned while we recharge this summer (January)  and have a break from doing design and writing posts. In the meantime see how the one idea can be two very different interpretations.

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Futura – 5 / Helvetica – 1. Fantastic Mr Fox is a must see…

Note the text on the top right, it aint cussing Futura

Note the text on the top right, it aint cussing Futura

The love of type and typography is a conversation often lost on most of the wider public. The nerdy lengths that type lovers go to sate their hunger for these curious graphic forms is legendary. Just ask Amanda Roach how she got an enormous lower case ‘a’ and ‘m’ in her studio. Amanda will attest that – Andrew (Ashton) graciously offered them to her. The other version involves a bicycle accident, some cold chicken, a bar in North Melbourne, a song by Joy Division and a random text message.

There are few outside the world of type, who understand the beauty of good type, and when a random type lover (from outside the world of type) exhibits their insights to broad audience – type nerds across the world sleep tight, or chung down an extra Red Bull and spend another week tweaking type character forms, or kerning pairs.

Wes Anderson, the acclaimed film director, is one such person who has put type on the big screen for all to love and hate. Anyone familiar with his films will acknowledge that type is one of the acting cast – type’s 26 characters perform for Anderson like the late great John Cazale with verve, stealth, wit and intuition. Films such as ‘Bottle Rocket’, ‘Rushmore’, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, ‘The Life Acquatic…’, ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and most recently ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ all feature fine type usage and typography.

Anderson’s type treatment is one of the markers that denote his film making style. Anderson’s type treatment compliments the broad cinematic experience adding unique detail and curiosity. All type treatments across his productions be it: film titles and credits, film props including location signing, vehicle livery, luggage, book jackets, uniforms, crests, stationery – are designed and finished with a spare, considered and functional type design aesthetic. The look is bold and uncomplicated, American, post World War II, hot metal print – a style of type treatment which dominated printed matter around the world for several decades (from the 1940 to 1970s), as much of the everyday printer matter was developed for clients by printers (with their functional approach to type treatment) rather than by designers or commercial artists.

Before we launch into the type related questions, it is a given in our very bias opinion that Wes Anderson’s latest film, an adaption of Roald Dahl children’s novel ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ is a must see. Anderson’s latest output explores different audiences – the general audience (Children to Adults), and new techniques – adapting an acclaimed children’s book to film and using stop-motion animation. Like film director Spike Jonze’s recent adaptation of ‘Where the Wild Things are’ by Maurice Sendak (another must see) these forty something film makers use their spirited, witty, quirky yet humble style of film making and story telling to set a standard in General audience films. The overall effect of the film is a hands-on outcome, not overwhelmed by effects and technology, allowing the story and style of film making to evolve into a unique and captivating experience. Anderson and Jonze  seem to respect the audience’s intelligence and ability to comprehend concepts. As a result their work lacks the dumbing down of the content by research and rampant merchandising often found in films in the General audience genre. The emphasis is therefore about making an inspired film, connecting with the film goer and allowing everything else to fall into place.

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So with the fluffy stuff out of the way, let’s explore up the type questions.

Q / 01

The big question for type nerds :

How do you feel about the outing of Futura Bold and the inning of Helvetica Bold as the main font used in Fantastic Mr Fox?

Goodbye by Paul Renner and hello Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann. Farewell Germany, welcome Switerland. Best wishes quirky geometric, make yourself comfortable functional and flexible.

Marketing materials, this aint cussing Helvetica

Marketing materials, this aint cussing Helvetica

Q / 02

Another type question for the marketers of the film :

Why have the posters and advertising material used Futura, when the film has cast Helvetica as it main font?

Q / 03

Another really nerdy question for the marketers of the film :

Why has the marketing title text, the film’s brand if you will, been set of a curved baseline, when the type in the film is constantly set on a straight baseline?

It doesn’t match Anderson’s signature of being attentive to the minor details. Maybe the sales guys thought that the audience would not notice, nor be able to tell the difference.

See the film at least twice never-the-less, the whole package is a rare delight.

Let us know your type thoughts. There are not many samples of the main type at work in the film displayed on the net, to make our Helvetica point. Be assured we will be back in the cinema to capture a few samples this week for posting and review.


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Vale Rowland

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On most Mondays, Mary comes by our studio and helps us with process of rustling up work and keeps us in order in between.

Mary’s friend Rowland S Howard – a founder of the iconic Australian punk group – Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party, passed away on the 30 December 2009 at 50 years of age. We wanted to send our thoughts to Mary, and Rowland’s family at this time.

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We stole this image of Rowland in full flight from photographer Matt Sutton’s website.

Mr Sutton wrote of his image…

A few weeks back on a Sunday I walked into the city as I noticed around 9.30am the sun coming down king street was rather nice. I arrived there as planned to find the light and took a few photos. I had really wanted to go to Cockatoo Island for the “All Tomorrow’s Parties” music festival. They had one ticket left and I caught a ferry over and stayed 12 hours. It was different. I loved Rowland S Howard’s music above all. The Birthday Party with Nick Cave was where I remembered him from. I came home black and blue with some great memories on film.

Visit Mr Sutton’s website here

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Not that old chestnut and other Christmas clichés …

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It’s Christmas day and one is trying to evolve the ‘Bumble Bee’ Transformer from robot to car form. The living room is a mess of wrapping paper, boxes, packaging materials and a Christmas song by Wham. In a moment of quizical frustration one looked too hard at a piece of stray cardboard and a grumpy dog face thingy winked back at me.

‘Oh crap’, I muttered. ‘Has my design career entered a new phase where one sees faces in anything and everything? Will this insight then be accompanied by a burning desire to publish a little book (that utilises an elegant design palette) to display the face collection?’ I poured myself another Champagne cocktail, adjusted the lilac paper crown on my head, and dug out a Michael Buble Christmas classic.

A few short hours pass…

The photography and retouching complete and the grumpy packing card has found itself published – as a pretty convincing grumpy doggy face, I thought. The process might get the face thing out of my system, before any permanent damage is done to one’s design.

Next Christmas Champagne cocktails are off the gift unwrapping agenda.

What a heart felt song! No one does fluffy nostalgic like Wham.

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Welcome twenty ten

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The new year’s plans are well in place, people were assembling and reveling, yet the weather had other plans. After a hot spell of two to three days, one angry cool change over ran Melbourne from the South West with unrelenting determination.

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