Design Links: Alex Fowkes, Gemma O’Brien & Timba Smits


Editor’s Note: This is part 20 in Emily Potts’ inspirational series, Design Links. 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 last part in the series, featuring Raw Color, The Bouroullecs, and Sabine Marcelis.

I’m enamored with hand-lettering lately, especially when it’s done at a large scale on walls and murals, so I want to feature the work of …

Alex Fowkes

Alex does these amazingly cool mural projects for clients like Sony and Urban Outfitters. He can fill walls with letters and art, and make it look so easy. I had the pleasure to work as his editor for Drawing Type, a book that features not only his work, but the work of 73 other lettering artists from around the world. He’s generous and kind on top of being incredibly talented.

Alex Fowkes - Urban Outfitters Munich

Alex’s work for Urban Outfitters blows my mind, not only for its sheer scale, but the details he imbues with each letter and illustration. To date, he’s done murals in several outlets in the UK and Europe, but each is distinctly different. The Munich store, in particular, reminds me of walking into a scene in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, with painted lightboxes extruding from the walls providing a dimensional, surreal experience. Watch this time-lapse video that shows Alex creating this amazing atmosphere.


Urban Outfitters Munich from Alex Fowkes on Vimeo.

Alex Fowkes - posters

On a much smaller scale, Alex set the type style and created some hand-drawn slogans for Addlestones Free Range Cider campaign. Each element of the campaign has a different hand-lettered style that perfectly coincides with the statement being made.

Read more about alex

Alex Fowkes in inspired by …

Gemma O’Brien

Gemma’s work and the way she combines illustration and typography has been a real inspiration to me. I love the style and the detail she puts in to every piece. Her mural work always stands out from the crowds. She also holds lettering workshops and speaks at design conferences across the world.

Gemma O’Brien Hand Lettering

As a snowboarder and Volcom clothing lover for a long time, this mural appeals to me on many levels. I love the graphic novel style detail and heavy black shadow techniques—such a gritty style, which suits the brand perfectly.

Gemma O’Brien Hand Lettering

I really appreciate the blackness of the surroundings for this mural—it gives it presence and importance in the space. The illustration and typography combination again is unique and very distinctly Gemma’s work. The whole mural jumps off the wall.

Alex is also inspired by …

Timba Smits

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Timba on a few projects. His drive to make sure his work is as good as it can be is huge and he always gives every project 110%—his range of skills in typography, writing, and illustration prove that. I’m pretty sure Timba could lend his hand to anything and it would be inspiring.

Timba Smits typography

The Wooden Toy music edition poster really shows off those typography skills, pulling in from vintage type influences but with modern twists. The great little pockets of illustration help guide the viewer through all the bits of information. The personality and energy that comes off this piece is what draws me to it so much.

Timba Smits typography

Timba’s eye for detail is second to none. His urban illustrations have always taken my eye for their gritty nature, but also the subtle typography within the architecture, merging the two disciplines to create some really interesting pieces.

Tune in next time to see who inspires Timba Smits.


t4545Serving as inspiration as well as a helpful workbook, Drawing Type by Alex Fowkes is sure to encourage any designer to draw and explore type. Featuring actual projects and sketchbooks of prominent type designers, as well as interviews about their processes, this guide to hand-drawn type helps clarify the process of drawing typefaces for anyone looking to improve their type design skills.