Artists of the Handcrafted Type Movement

Once limited to body-altering AIGA posters, non-font typography has moved from the back alley of design to the center stage. In the March issue of HOW, we introduce four creatives who embrace the revolution. Here are three more you can’t miss.

David Peacock and Britta Johnson

To create compelling interstitials (short clips that introduce conference speakers) for the Into the Woods conference hosted by AIGA Seattle, David Peacock and Britta Johnson combined their typographic, interactive and stop-motion expertise. Peacock, art director at LiveAreaLabs in Seattle, asked the Seattle-based stop motion animator Britta Johnson to lend a hand with the art direction and to create the final animations of the energetic piece. While Peacock primarily designs in the digital world, this pair aimed to follow the conference’s branding, which included typography created from grass, rocks and other organic material. Using pinecones, vines and other “woodsy” items, Peacock and Johnson breathed life into the custom type while also appealing to the designers attending the conference – and announcing the speaker’s names in an energetic, unique way.

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“We wanted each name to have its own look and personality, but we also wanted the set to tie together as a whole,” Peacock says. “The pacing and the variety of materials we used helped make each clip distinctly different, while the consistent camera angle, combined with the unique look of stop motion, gave the set a sense of cohesiveness.”

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The handmade, custom typography fit with the animation style, too. Johnson found the project to be fun, in part, because the look and flow of the type were so connected. “When I was animating, I had to be really specific with my movements to make them serve the shapes of the names,” she says. “I wanted the materials and shape and movements of each name to reflect something about that person and their work or outlook.” She also aimed to incorporate a bit of humor. “It was great to work with David, because the look he determined for the campaign was natural elements deployed in this kind of deadpan way; I love [project creative director] Wong Doody’s sense of humor, and it was tricky but also entertaining to try to retain that,” she says.

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Beyond their collaboration, both Johnson and Peacock share a love of typography. For Johnson, who studied printmaking, her interest in typography was fostered from hands-on work. “I worked as an industrial screen printer and would volunteer at a letterpress shop in exchange for press time to make posters for bands, etc.,” she says. “Squishing ink around and sorting hunks of lead are definitely good ways to start thinking about the physical dimension of typography.” And she continues to find inspiration for her work by referring to old font catalogues, her printmaker friends who are also great handletterers, municipal signage and flea-market signs made with vinyl letters. Typography has played an integral part in Peacock’s career, and he’s currently tackling the creation of experimental display faces while also diving into learning more about web typography and experimenting with generative typographic systems.

 

Masayo Anton-Ozawa

Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Masayo Anton-Ozawa got her first taste of New York City in 2001 when she relocated to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was during her studies there that two typography professors influenced her. “Martin Solomon and Eli Kince taught me the essentials of typography as well as its importance in successful graphic design,” she says. Today, Anton-Ozawa looks to Jessica Hische and Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich for inspiration: “Their work perfectly demonstrates how handlettering and illustration can coexist beautifully.”

 

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In addition to looking to other artists to spark creative stimulation, Anton-Ozawa looks to the web for ideas. Two of her favorite sites are Designspiration (www.designspiration.net) and Friends of Type (www.friendsoftype.com). And when she isn’t surfing the web, Anton-Ozawa hunts for creativity elsewhere. “I also find inspiration while grocery shopping,” she says. “Not only because I love to eat, but also there are many nice typography on food packaging, especially organic and natural food. I think the hand-lettered type works well on food because of the free flow and rusty, earthy texture. Somehow it makes the product look so much more delicious.”

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Similarly, Anton-Ozawa looks to handlettering to add uniqueness and personality to her designs. “I think the most unique thing about non-font typography is that it has a quality of illustration while still being graphic design. It looks wonderful because it has dynamic movement and fanciful embellishments and details,” she says. “I use handlettering to add organic and fun elements in design. I enjoy the hand-lettering process because it allows me to really focus and draw, and the result is always satisfying. As long as I have enough time to work, and it’s the right direction for the project, I will always love handlettered design.”

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Anton-Ozawa used hand-rendered typography in two of her favorite projects. The first was a custom, laser-cut New Year greeting card she sent to her family in Japan. “Unlike my regular work, I had no budget or deadline constraints, so I was free to focus on whatever I wished to make this card look its best,” Anton-Ozawa says. In 2011, the card went on to win a Type Directors Club Annual Type Design Competition honor. The second project was a book cover design for The Angel’s Daughter. Anton-Ozawa worked directly with the author, Jody Sharpe. “I thought a hand-lettered title would go beautifully with the angel wings she wanted,” Anton-Ozawa says. “It came out well, and I was so happy to receive a kind voice mail from the author, letting me how much she loved the cover design.”

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If you missed the March issue of HOW, you missed a lot. Now you’re able to get your magazine, your way—whether that means cuddling with a paper copy on a chilly winter night or taking your iPad with you on the plane. Start your subscription with the International Issue.

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