3 Degrees of Inspiration: Masters Type & Lettering

Editor’s Note: This is part 57 in Emily Potts’ inspirational series. Every other week she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the fifty-sixth part in the series, featuring Chad Michael, Curtis Jinkins & Simon Walker.

Type & Lettering by Spencer Charles, Kelly Thorn, Julien Priez & Lotta Nieminen

Simon Walker is inspired by …

Charles & Thorn

Spencer Charles and Kelly Thorn are the designers I have to work hardest not to steal from. I truly want to be them when I grow up. The word that comes to mind whenever I see their work is “exquisite,” which bugs me because it’s a word I don’t really like. It’s fussy and pretentious and old-fashioned, unlike the work of Charles & Thorn, which is none of those things.

One of my favorite works of theirs is an unassuming piece of branding for cinematographer Calvin Brue. With typography, the success of any given logo is often at the mercy of the letters you’ve been given: Some words or names are just inherently prettier than others before you’ve even begun. In that respect, I think C&T were fortunate here. There’s so much grace and restraint in this logo, I can barely stand it—a kind of magical geometry that defies math itself. But what really finishes it off is how they applied it to those marbled-background business cards. If you’ve never heard of Calvin Brue, there’s no telling from the face of his brand who he is or what he does, but you know right away you want a piece of it.

If Charles & Thorn are known for any one thing, it’s probably their series of book covers for Barnes & Noble. They’re all brilliant, and sumptuous to look at (another moderately annoying adjective), but if I had to pick one as a favorite it would have to be The Wind in the Willows. I grew up watching and loving the English stop-motion series as a kid, so my bias to this cover is truly built-in. Still, the composition is so perfect—the balance of colors, the sweep of the lettering, the right-on tone of the illustration—you see it and you want to grab it and just consume it. But that description could honestly apply to any one of their covers. I’m certain Barnes & Noble goes back to C&T again and again for more work, because they manage to hit the exact right note for every detail of every cover without ever repeating a detail—and yet it all hangs together so well on the shelf, there’s no question they belong together as a family.

[Call for Entries: The International Design Awards]

Spencer and Kelly have each chosen someone who inspires them.

Spencer chose …

Julien Priez

Julien is doing some really incredible things with letterforms, and when I first saw his work, it made my head spin (in the best possible way). He posts alphabet exercises regularly to his Instagram (@boogypaper), and they are all delightful in their experimentation, and reference to weirder/older hands.

This video, which was executed was executed by him and a few other really talented people, melted my brain when I first saw it. For someone like myself who spends so much time fussing over static letterforms, to see these letters morph and change over time is really magical. Stop-motion lettering/calligraphy?! Yes please!

Again, any of the alphabets he posts to Instagram are going to be fantastic, and this one jumped out at me. The connecting, spikey italic is lovely, and the back-slanting capitals are equally compelling.

Kelly chose …

Lotta Nieminen

Lotta inspires me because of all of the hats she wears! She’s an insanely talented designer, illustrator, art director, and as of recently, children’s book illustrator. The holistic approach she takes with her work makes me want to get more hats.

Lotta imbued a sense of playfulness and a light heart in the branding of this fancy-pants children’s store. Her sense of color is so on point!

I love how the sparse, restrained nature of the word mark and the design is counteracted by the color palette.

Tune in next time to see who inspires Lotta!

Online Course: Letterform Designhttps://www.howdesignuniversity.com/courses/typography-101-letterform-design-1