— Fall through the cracks

A forgotten type tool well worth finding again

Accuspec II Transparent Type Gauge & Specifier Set

The studio is working on a publication for The Humble Vintage and our trusty type gauge came in handy. The type gauge was once common place on the drawing table, along with many other things, like clutch pens with blue lead, along with a tin of thinners and paper towel (for cleaning), a beautiful Greenfield set square, trusty W.G. Printers ruler, .35pt and 1pt Rapidographs, et al.

To design and develop layout requires a sound familiarity of how type works on the page. In the past and today when new books or reference appeared in the studio (a great thing to do on Google Free Thursday), we would often pull out our type gauges and deconstruct the type of the page, column widths, leading, paragraph spaces, indents, type sizes, et al.

Octavo 88.5

Octavo 86.1 and 87.3

Stepping backing in time to 1990 during one’s time as Junior Designer, Andrew Gadsby, my second creative director and boss, at Gallaher + Associates (now Hello Branding) collected the publications Octavo. Octavo was an influencial set of design publications produced by London based studio 8vo, the type setting by 8vo was a favourite, and one of the leading design outputs that contributed to the popularity of bold and light, highly structured precise typography which in turn became intrenched as popular style us in corporate communications and a global communication styles.

I remember deconstructing Octavo with my type gauge and note pad, and wondered at marking up this type for typesetting and then laying it out as mechanical artwork and preparing the overlays – as one was still on the drawing table in 1990.

Over twenty years later, the type gauge is often used to deconstruct type and make sense of its design, we commend it reappearance in the contemporary design space.

Type gauges are available here for $8US plus shipping

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Looking back, looking foward; Australian Character is what?

Cover (probably the most uninspired part)

Flett Henderson Arnold

Neil Turner

Robert Rosetzky

Bruce Weatherhead

Grant Jorgenson

Elda Charous

Darryl Thompson

Ken Done

Mark Hackleton

David Lancashire

Kel Naughton

Denis Veal

Brian Sadgrove

Mimmo Cozzolino

Garry Emery

Australia is not a place known for celebrating it’s creative obscurities. If one is interested in experiencing the past it is often a case raiding public collections, studio archives, second hand dealers and personal records.

The Unique Australian Character is a hard cover publication developed by Spicers Paper, circa 1984. Designers, illustrators, artists of the day were asked to visually define their version of the unique Australian Character.

Thought this publication is a minute slice of work, it is interesting to see how Australian designers respond to cultural identity in a time well before the personal computer and graphic software, the proliferation of design publishing, mobile phone, the internet, and when fax machines became affordable.

It is also interesting to observe the aesthetics, themes and execution of work. It has been enlightening to compare this project with similar projects developed in recent years such as The Australia Project.

Reviewing the work of 1984 reveals a confidence in output which is bold, individual, quirky, sometimes odd, raw, refined. As compared to contemporary work which tends to document, be observant, slick rather than interpret, create versions or variation of local cultural ideas. One may want to blame cultural cringe driving Australian designers away from local cliches to seek influences from distant shores. Yet history has proved, time and time again, that the idea of home can sate the most restless of souls.

One can continue to rant here about the idea of making work and then the idea of making work that is new. A past colleague, Marco, and I used to discuss often new work we came across. Marco said at the time that – new work, is rarely new work. It is an annoyingly simple idea which remains with one all ways.

What one takes from the work above is that it made in a time when people enjoyed the doing, rather than worrying about its history, or the potential of an audience reviewing it. It is, what it is, warts and all, and maybe that’s all that matters.

That said, one can’t help looking at Sadgrove’s wonderful pictures of gum tree trunks dashed with striking colour, and think that the idea of new often comes from the most unexpected places – like a trained accountant, who became a designer, offering the viewer a unique Australian vision, lovely still nearly thirty years on…

Thanks to Bruce Weatherhead for lending us this wonderful time capsule.

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Open signs of the moment



Glenmoore in Elsternwick

While way finding people loose themselves in bent metal and fibre optic lit forms, one is taken by a inspired piece of metal work signing that also doubles as a gate. This rustic sample found in Elsternwick, in Melbourne has inspired one to dig up some other gates that have more to offer other than keeping people in, or out.


Gates by the late designer Alan Fletcher, London


Gates by designer Ahn Sung-Soo, Seoul


The Queen Mother Gates, London


Kensington Gates, London

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The design that surrounds us

In Melbourne there is on average over 200 creative/design/graphic based lectures, events and random occasions a year. After twenty years of racking up a fair share of these events, it is easy to just go home and watch the television, or read a book, go to bed early, do a blog entry…

Johnathan Barnbrook came to Melbourne last week, and one was lucky enough to see his latest work and experience his ideas on life and design. It has been twelve years since one saw Barnbrook speak in Sydney, and his work has continued with being inspired by research, design craft and provocation. He spoke of many things and one idea that stuck was that his inspirations are often found in his neighbourhood, surrounds and environment – Psycho-geography as he put it, read more here via wiki, part of much our work is inspired too, by the design and ideas around us.

Random Barbies drying out

Random Barbies drying out

One is often presented with curious, yet everyday things. A gaggle of well loved dolls in need of a good dose of sunshine.

Sunny side what

Sunny side what

Black, white and yellow – one the great colour combinations.

A sign to help sell more cars

A sign to help sell more cars

Old school brands are a regular source of inspiration, chunky graphic marks symbols along with odd custom lettering.

A sign to help sell more carpet

A sign to help sell more carpet

It is a wonder that in 2010 with all the ideas and technology that business’s keep the clichés around to tempt and call to action

A sign for an Australian hand dryer

A sign for an Australian hand dryer

Australian design outcomes can be odd clichés

 A sign that is about hunger

A sign that is about hunger

Hand lettered sign crossed with a wayfinding device. Odd clunky and not a university design education in sight.

A sign that is about future hunger

A sign that is about future hunger

This lettering was probably done in less than ten minutes and yet one wonders what type this person could have produced if they found type design instead of roasting chicken.

A Melbourne 1950s tv station identity

A Melbourne 1950s tv station identity

In one’s wanders often signs of the past make their presence known

A poster in Glebe

A poster in Glebe

The last time I saw this spot another great poster was in it’s place, see here


Luna Park Melbourne

Luna Park Sydney

Luna Park Sydney

Both Sydney and Melbourne have a Luna Park, an amusement park with heritage roots, and both have an enormous face as a point of entry. Except one seems friendlier.


Speaking in China



Communicating in most instances is something quite unremarkable, yet when a saucer is passed your way, in sobriety, with “U SUX” delicately cast in the middle of a saucer, one can either become highly offended, or amazed at the lengths people will go to make a lasting or meaningful impression.

Sarah in local café takes it upon her self to move beyond conventional talk to get to the core of how she feels about a moment or person in a day.

Is this a case of speaking in china, or a waitress’s idea of having the last word.