Erik Spiekermann interview

I love listening to other designers talking about design, I find it so inspiring, and this one is no exception.  This is a video of an interview with typographer and design legend Erik Spiekermann. It is actually a couple of years old now, but I’ve only just come across it. If you haven’t already seen this, please do take the time to watch it.

We were pretty much ordered by our typography lecturer to buy a copy of ‘Stop Stealing Sheep’ when I was at university, so I’ve known about him for years, but even I was unaware of just how much classic design he is responsible for.

Also, who knew that George W. Bush only managed to beat Al Gore to power because the ballot forms in Florida were so badly designed. I couldn’t agree more with his view on that.

Erik Spiekermann – Putting Back the Face into Typeface from Gestalten on Vimeo.

I think 10% of a Spiekermann powered brain, is worth about 90% of mine!


Recent work samples

Some more recent cover designs:

978052171653612 9780521716536I designed the cover for the second edition of this textbook (shown on the left) back when I worked in-house at CUP, so it was really nice to have the opportunity to update it to the third edition. The grumpy gorilla on edition 2 was very popular, so it was always going to be a challenge to match up to him, but I think cuteness has won out, and I like the simplicity of this image. He has a mischievous look in his eyes.

Another textbook cover:


And a random selection of some other titles:

Covers July13


My hand drawn type

If I don't know...
I’m slightly obsessed with looking at typography on Pinterest just lately. I have a board of typographic art if you’re interested. I’m a bit of a late comer to Pinterest (I’d previously assumed it was all cute animals and cupcakes), but that’s probably not a bad thing, because I must have saved myself a huge amount of time, in all the time I wasn’t on it. It can suck hours from a day like the most ravenous virtual vampire. I justify looking at type though as I see it as ‘work related research’. Yeah, it’s great being freelance.

Anyway, looking at lots of hand drawn type has inspired me to do some more. I’ve dabbled a bit here and there – I did a Bladerunner quote as a present for my other half (‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe …’) and a few scribbles in a sketchbook, but have never known quite what to write.

the designer says...
Then I bought a copy of The Designer Says by Sara Bader. A little book full of quotes and words of wisdom from designers. So now I have some material to use in order to practice my hand drawn lettering. It will take some practice too I think (this was my second attempt) but hopefully I’ll improve as I do more. I might also use favoured song lyrics or film quotes too, but nothing corny or spiritual – there’s enough life-affirming quotes on Pinterest to send you to the brink of suicide!

Danish designs

There seems to be a Danish theme to my work just lately. Firstly for Cambridge University Press, I have been working on an illustration and jacket design for a book about Maersk Line – the Danish shipping company. The Danish authors (employee and former employee of Maersk) document the history of the company to show how it has grown over the last 40 years to become the global success it is now. Not plugging it or anything!

Maersk image The illustration concept was developed in-house at Maersk, at which point I took it on and recreated it from scratch, trying out different backgrounds and colours for the photos within the map. The idea is obviously the shipping routes between countries, with the focus being on people. The sepia tone of the main images mean they blend together nicely (no obvious division or special emphasis between the countries – that was specified) while having a bit more warmth and depth than black and white pictures (original concept), and they sit back slightly allowing the full colour images of peoples faces in the circles to stand forward.

I also couldn’t resist adding in a few Maersk logo stars, where the whoosh lines hit their intended target. The company corporate colours were used wherever possible, and typographically, I tried to use something similar to the Maersk branding. So it’s about as corporate it could be, without just slapping the logo across the front,  and yet it’s  still quite subtle.


Continuing with the Danish theme, I have been designing some covers for an academic publishing company in Copenhagen – Hans Reitzels Forlag, a part of the larger Gyldendal group.

HRF covers
I’ve done five covers so far, I hope there’ll be more. Each one has been a creative challenge (a nice challenge) to come up with a design concept, as well as the images and designs. I’m so used to being given images, or at least being told what sorts of images are required, it’s good to be pushed a little bit out of my comfort zone to come up with ideas on ethics or critical theory, once I’ve researched what they actually are!

More cover designs to come soon.

Tactile typography

My new favourite discovery are sister duo Maricor and Maricar from Sydney, Australia. If you (like me) have a love of craft as well as typography, you will love their work.

MaricorMaricar_HK_Del13 Source Maricor Maricar

Here is a link to their TACTILE work, which I just absolutely adore. I dabble in a bit of embroidery in my spare time, but nothing as beautiful as this. Their attention to detail is incredible, but at the same time, their work looks like such fun. You can also see lots of other lovely work on their website, from printed typography, to illustration and even animation. They also have a blog which I’ve added to my list.

MaricorMaricar_FT1 MaricorMaricar_FT4 Source Maricor Maricar

Here’s a little video of them talking about their work. They describe themselves at one point as obsessive/compulsive. No, really? I guess that’s what I’m lacking.

Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues – a typographers version

For all typographic loving Bob Dylan fans out there …

Damn. Why didn’t I think of doing that? Very well done. Would love to own some of these pieces as one offs.

For more information on the process and to see some of the stills click here.

Designing the small print

copyrightpageWho says the copyright information on an imprints page should be boring? This is from Louise Fili’s latest book Elegantissima, in reference to that fact that most of the work shown inside is for restaurants and food packaging. This is what I love best about design and typography – simple, elegant treatments that are a break from the norm, yet relevant and just maybe make you smile. It makes you want to read a piece of information that you would normally flick past unnoticed. I feel inspired.

New work examples

Sorry it’s taken so long to post any new work. It’s all cover designs for CUP of late, not that I have any complaints about that. Thankfully, there is such a variety of design work just within this one area.

A while ago I posted about some book cover trends I had seen emerging of late, one of which involved the typography appearing to be stamped or stencilled and slightly distressed. It wasn’t long after that, that I had the chance to do a bit of type and image distressing myself.

9780521152365cvr  The text and image are meant to look as though they are stencilled or graffitied onto a slightly grubby wall. So the images started out as full colour photographs, were changed to black and white, and a few photoshop filters used to give them a Banksky-esque style. The text was just smudged and blotched in photoshop, all in one colour on separate layers, and then colour overlays were added to the layers (as it’s easier to change this later if necessary, as was the case).

And then there’s a whole host of medical titles:Medical titles Feb13

Med titles2 Feb13Understanding Probability – well I understand the probability of me getting any work as a hand model is very slim, unless I decide to do the photograph myself, seeing as the previous version was of such poor quality. I did give my nails a quick scrub and file first.Hand model coverAnd a few more big topic titles:Big titles Feb 13Just a very small selection of work.

Shirley Tucker and some classic book covers

Shirley Tucker is a graphic designer who worked at the publishing company Faber & Faber in the 60’s and 70’s. I hadn’t come across her until reading an article on the Creative Review blog.

This is a little video of her talking about some of the designs she did and a longer piece about her design for Silvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. It’s a beautifully simple graphic illustration, and a classic cover design that I think would still look great on the bookshelves today. I enjoyed watching this, hope you do too:

Also, on the topic of Faber & Faber, here is a link to their Flickr site which is a lovely collection of some of their classic book covers.

Book cover theories

Further to my previous post, this is an interesting article from the Guardian (I’m giving them a bit too much publicity lately aren’t I) called ‘Scent of a kitten: the 20 irrefutable theories of book cover design’. It focuses much more on fiction titles, although there are some similar themes to those I mentioned below.

And a lot of design ‘theories’ I knew nothing of before, including ‘turd theory’. Well I never! I think I could probably use that theory title in a different way mind you. Also, no.19 entitled ‘maximisation’, I personally call that the ‘in your face’ theory.

An interesting read anyway.