Tag Archive - Typography

The Tokyo Graffiti Scene

Japanese Street Art
For some time now, I have been on the lookout for examples of Japanese street art. The uncanny means by which Japan adapts Western culture, reprocesses it and then spins it out as something altogether hyperreal, combined with the ever-prevalent superflat movement suggested that there must exist something extraordinary in the darker corners of the Tokyo streets.

So it was great to read PingMag’s recent piece on The Ghetto, a former love hotel in Shin-Okubo that has been converted into a skater shop/graffiti space. The article also provided links to flickr groups on Tokyo Street Art and throughout Japan. But I found what I was truly looking for in the calligraphy of designer/artist USUGROW which is an incredible hybrid of not just Western and Japanese scripts but also Arabic influences. Kakkoii desu yo!

The Whimsical Work of Marian Bantjes

I always tend to venture beyond the local borders when it comes to searching for inspiration, looking to what is big in Japan, or germinating in the New York streets or rising out of Europe. So it was a pleasant surprise to find myself spending a good chunk of my afternoon pouring over the work of local designer Marian Bantjes.

With a whimsical and organic style that suggests that she spends more time with a pen and paper than in front of a computer screen, Marian has been described by Stefan Sagmeister as “one of the most innovative typographers working today” and the legendary typographer Doyald Young told me that he has “only the greatest admiration for her work”.

You can read more about Marian Bantjes on Design Boom and be sure to check out her work on the cover and an 8 page spread of the July/August edition of Print Magazine.

The Art of the Letter

doyald young
You know that you are a true design geek when you are listening to Doyald Young recount the moment in 1950’s Paris when Adrian Frutiger showed him the early drafts of a font called Univers, and you have goosebumps on your arm.

Last night’s talk by Mr. Young, a legend and master of typography and logo design was full of such moments as he showed samples of his utterly perfect hand drawn wordmarks and shared the wisdom of a sixty-year career in graphic design to a packed house at the HR MacMillan Space Centre.

From his book, The Art of the Letter:

I have felt an enormous challenge to justly draw letters with a two-millenia history — the frivolous and the avant garde simply can’t compete. The challenge, as always, is to redraw them with fresh insight, while respecting their tradition.


Of all the stems that make up a sans serif alphabet, none is more critical or troublesome than the diagonals.

This is truly beautiful stuff, almost Zen in its philosophy. I love the topic of typography for the same reason that I love books like Salt or Zero; books that uncover the entire history of humankind by concentrating on one tiny but crucial element. Typography bears this same relationship to design. It is so focussed and minute and yet it is the building block of all communication and ultimately serves as a microcosm for every rule and point of etiquette that exists in the greater design process. More than anything it is a true craft, that which separates a dedicated designer from the hack with a copy of Adobe Suite.

Doyald Young encouraged us tonight to not forget this craft. The computer is a wonderful tool but it did not replace the pad and pen. Both have their rightful place.

“If you improve your drawing skills,” he tells us, “you will become a better designer. Period.” Sound advice from a true master.

Alphabet 26

Alphabet 26
A posting on caught my eye and imagination this afternoon. It was regarding , a simplified English alphabet system designed by American type designer Bradbury Thompson in 1950. The underlying concept is a sound one: “it is misleading for a letter, or for any graphic symbol, to have two different designs.” Of the 26 letters in the English alphabet, 19 use different symbols for uppercase and lowercase while the other 6 use similar ones. Bradley eliminated what he deemed the extraneous symbols and created the system displayed in the image above.

My immediate thought was that this would make a beautiful title font for some yet to be determined future project. But after a fairly extensive search, I could only find one available font called that bears a similarity to Bradley’s design. If anyone out there knows of others, please post the links in Comments.

The History of a Shameless Imposter

The Scourge of Arial
In my attempt to dissuade a client from her preference toward the font Arial, I came across a wonderful account of this homely typeface’s origin and proliferation titled over on site.

In short, Arial is like an invasive species, the English Ivy to the font world’s . We need to rip it out by the roots.