Wednesday, 20 April 2011


A few weeks ago, my tutor John invited me to attend a lecture that was being given to another of the university's courses about Typography. I wasn't told who was speaking, or the purpose of the lecture, but was intrigued to discover more especially as my current project was type-based.

(Images courtesy of Creative Review)

I soon discovered that the session was being given by Jim Williams, a lecturer from Staffordshire University, who is an advocate of good type design. He is also a member of the prestigious New York Type directors club, and has been awarded with many notable design awards. Recently, Jim has completed a small booklet titled "Type Matters!" (a more detailed book format is due to be released next year), which highlights the importance of correct type usage and the common mistakes people, particularly designers, can make when designing with type. It's a lovely little publication, really nicely designed, however not widely available (you have to contact Jim and pay a small fee of £5 to purchase a copy).

Jim's talk was really helpful and interesting. He ran through the main elements of type usage that are often used incorrectly or misunderstood, including sizing, column width, hyphenation and widows and orphans. I've discovered personally, that these elements can be so easily overlooked so it was great to have this refreshed in my mind for when I came back to my projects. 

Jim also talked us through some of his favourite and most influential type designers. These included some of my favourites also, such as Herb Lubalin, El Lissitzky, Jan Tschichold and Fabien Baron as well as many I wasn't as familar with. These included John McConnell, Gene Frederico and Otto Storch, who have all produced some really beautiful type-based design and definitely work that I will refer back to again further on in my studies.

John McConnell

Otto Storch

Gene Frederico

Jim explained that, although his book focuses mainly on type from printed formats, it doesn't have to just be a 2D representation on screen. Designers such as Sagmeister have used more crafted techniques to produce their type pieces. This was really significant for me, as I'd really been struggling to produce more experimental type work; I was too focussed and concerned with producing it digitally, which as I soon discovered is not my strong point. 

I really enjoyed Jim's talk, he was clearly passionate about everything that he did, including teaching the students at Staffordshire Uni. He showed us some of the work they had produced in response to an experimental format brief. The pieces varied from large-scale A0 sized books to books encased in perspex and moulded into shapes. They were really beautiful and incredibly imaginative, and I was highly impressed with the amount of creative skill his students presented. A fascinating session.


Anonymous said...

Please tell us the techniques you learnt.

Gemma said...

Unfortunately I attended this lecture 2 years ago now so I can't remember the full extent of what I learnt - but there was lots! The printed 'Type Matters' book is now available in bookstores and online, so I'd recommend you purchasing it as I have heard very good reviews!