Ira

Those of you who know me personally know what a sucker I am for typographic animation, and I've found another great piece to showcase on Sketch today, this time by director and filmmaker David Shiyang Liu. David took pieces of a talk by This American Life host Ira Glass and turned it into a whirlwind ride that, despite its speed, captured my attention for every word and transformed Ira's voice into something more tangible to connect to. Hearing someone speak and also seeing the text on screen combines two distinct actions so that your senses latch onto the message deeper than if you were doing just one of those things.

I want to focus on what Ira is saying too because his monologue of disappointment and disbelief describes what I see in the creative industry often. There is an underlying pressure to assert yourself and produce designs that speak to who you are as an artist, and when this doesn't happen right away, there is a disconnect. After awhile, it gets to the point where it almost doesn't matter anymore because none of it fulfills your personal standards anyway, and we end up doing things just because. The vicious cycle never seems to end.

But it's not like this forever. The key is to never give up, know your strengths, play to them, and let them grow.  Eventually, a breakthrough is reached and things fall into place. It has to, because effort is never a virtue that is ignored.

Hand

Remember back when I wrote that typography these days was starting to become commonplace in its old Renaissance-esque calligraphy? I had mentioned that I was looking for a style that was bold, brazen, and new to today's standards, and I believe that it has been found in Tien-Min Liao. Tien-Min's technique creating both uppercase, lowercase, and italicized letters using only black ink and her finger orientation makes you do a double-take, as you can hardly imagine something that is normally complex and calculated coming out of a substance as flawed and imperfect as the human body.  

It is interesting to note that most disections of typefaces include a rich, mathematical blueprint, and in fact, the more the equations there are, the better and more credible it is. Designers in general pride themselves on the ability to determine the best possible distance between two points because there just has to be an entity that exists which is far better than a straight line. But, and this is a concept I repeat here agan and again, what about the imagination therein that brings ideas like this to the surface? Instead of immediately taking to a pencil and a piece of paper to design her typeface, Tien-Min determined that her best tools were the ones that she was born with - her hands. From there, her process was born so that she could create something remarkable like this:

Diner

Last summer, I spent the almost obligatory (for any New Jersey native, at least) weekend at Atlantic City and stayed at The Chelsea Hotel. While I did partake in boardwalk activities and beaching, I regret that I did not visit Teplitzky's, the diner that resided 7 floors underneath me, especially after seeing their menu design on Mucca. The New York based studio derived the restaurant's brand and identity in a way that instantly reminded me of an ice cream parlor from the 1950s with its eccentric typeface and pastel palette. The eatery was actually named for the hotel that used to be where its current location is now, and is a loving homage to the past.

In a place where glitz and glamour are the main ways of grabbing customers' attention, seeing this vintage, old fashioned look and feel is refreshing and a throwback to the thriving community that A.C. used to be during that period. Next time, I will be sure to stop in for a treat.

Block

Lately, I have been seeing an increasing amount of branding design that specializes in a mix of illustration plus graphic expertise. Typeverything is a site that collects and curates many such examples of typography whose profilic, old-Italian yet contemporary style makes its owner stand out to the masses in every shape or form. Designers Jessica Hische and Dana Tanamachi (the latter whose work I have described here) are two artists who subscribe to this authentic and timeless look in their work.

Despite the rising popularity that this has in our industry today, I sometimes find myself yearning for something that feels a bit more substantial, hefty even - a design that I can grip by the horns, shake, and know that the pressure will render it undamaged. Vietnamese studio Egregius's new identity for local coffee shop M Teafé hits the spot right on the head and brings forth memories of the Bauhaus era with its industrial appeal and heavy block lettering. My favorite piece of the project is the menu, which has been printed on thick cardstock with the type clearly displayed in equivalent width and stroke for each letter of every word. 

Utilizing the stark color(less) backgrounds of black and white, the design is a unique identifier for a place that is stereotypically supposed to exude a folksy charisma, and its bridge-like logo of "M" is an appropriate call to action for connecting the gap between the two. Egregius has assigned the same importance to everything on the page, and the deliberate nature of these elements is not one that should be missed.

Magnetic

My experience in working with designers who specialize in type has been bound to those who commit themselves to physically rearranging the different typefaces, kearning, leading, etc in order to create readable language. I used to think that this was only done via Illustrator or even the good old pen to paper approach, but today I discovered just how limiting this judgment was due to graphic designer Dominic Le-Hair and his magnetic and iron filing type.

Dominic's process included tracing and cutting rubber pieces into the desired alphabet letters using an X-Acto knife and adhering them to a sheet of paper, after which a second sheet was placed on top as a platform. Shake iron filings on top and voilà! Lyrics from your favorite Bonnie Prince Billy song suddenly appear like magic. It is the best kind of typographic "it's a wrap" there ever was. 

Click here to see this poster come alive in real time.

Just Say Hi

Type foundry Village has found a simple, easy, and impactful way to get its typeface stock to the masses via an aesthetically pleasing method that also makes customers want to hang the gazette on their walls. Dubbed, "Mini Catalogue 2009", one would at first glance hardly separate this from those supermarket coupon bulletins that come in the mail in alarming droves. But once you unfold this one to its fullest, you'll see that it isn't any ordinary prospectus. This is an invitation to say, "Hi".

Most advertisements meet their death when they are discarded carelessly into the trash without a second glance, but Village bypasses this by providing more than the typical product listing. By proposing a straightforward dialogue with the viewer and encouraging them to read each typeface's pangram on the other side in an unobtrusive and graphical manner, they have already gotten to the place where no other catalogue has gone before. I am living proof that this approach works, as I have this proudly adorning the wall in my room.

The Type Go Round

Organization and absolute diligence in maintaining clarity and efficacy in my life has, I realize, somewhat influenced the kind of projects I am drawn to, and the typography work done by Spanish studio, Studio Aparte, is no exception. Collaborating with Pablo Martin, Studio Aparte designed the award-winning identity and typeface for the University of Vigo in Spain, and created an entire field of letters using multitudinous, mathematical lines as a tribute to the university's technical expertise.

The intricate details of the lines and curlicues, which intersect to establish the almost dizzying effect of grids, make it seem impossible at first to discern what exactly is going on here. But upon a closer glance, and with growing conviction, the lines begin to make sense. The precision in which Studio Aparte has taken to ensure that every angle and corner meet at their proper station on the map requires great care and calculation. Proportions must be taken into consideration so that each letter, with its own set of rules, is covered under the typeface's law. One step in the wrong direction, or an extra line misplaced here or there, and the entire balance is lost.

This is another example that proves to the world that design is not some magical thing that appears with a "poof". There is thought, process, and a story that goes along with each production so that the end result may best reflect the artist behind the mouse.  

Typographic Animation

My last post got me really thinking about my love for typographic animation, so I searched online to bring you two of my favorite examples. The first is a fun take on the end credits for the video game Portal (not to mention the very cute song that comes with it), and the second is masterfully done by French graphic designer Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet. I am so glad that I found Pierre-Emmanuel's Le Droit de Suite animation because it led me to more of his work, and I will definitely be featuring his other projects on Sketch in the near future.

Our industry can sometimes be filled with people who take themselves too seriously, or humor that is in fact, humorless. Sometimes it's nice to just relax, have fun, and remember why we entered this field in the first place: to create and share the wonderful art that we make. I hope you enjoyed these films as much as I did.