Type Directors Club Shares Winning Designs: Bruce Willen’s Judge’s Choice Pick

This year the Type Directors Club is celebrating its 65th anniversary. The TDC typography competition was established 57 years ago and is still the world’s premier showcase for beautiful typography. Last year this unique design competition attracted over 1,500 entries from 32 countries. Every month, the Type Directors Club will be sending us one of the judge’s picks to share on the HOW blog. So check back often to see the best examples of great typography. Designing with type is one of the most cost-effective design solutions, but it takes a real master to craft amazing typography. Here’s this month’s judges’ pick:

Bruce Willen’s Type Directors Club Judge’s Pick

I almost overlooked this piece at first; it was a quiet moment between some of the bold and confrontational typography of other posters in the competition. But Justus Oehler’s design with its camouflaged lettering snuck up on me and burrowed its message into my brain.

The poster hits the trifecta for being subtle, smart, and visually striking, all while employing inventive lettering. It’s a perfect example of text and image joining forces to deliver a larger narrative. With minimalist elegance, the lettering conveys both the suggestion of violent, seismic upheaval and the massive interruption of the life of an entire country. The poster’s concept and execution are great, and the disrupted handwriting vividly references the physical output of a seismograph machine. The designer was wise to keep the overall design spare and minimal, allowing the lettering-cum-illustration to speak for itself and give the viewer enough room to take in and digest the poster’s concept.

Oehler’s Haiti poster stood out to me, not just for its simplicity, but also for its thoughtful marriage of text and with concept. While many other pieces in the competition showcased stylish typography or used lettering to tell a more complex story, few managed to do both as well as Oehler did in this poster. We will definitely be making it an example for our students next semester.

DESIGN: Justus Oehler, Berlin, Germany; LETTERING: Justus Oehler; DESIGN OFFICE: Pentagram Design Berlin; CLIENT: The Haiti Poster Project; PRINCIPAL TYPE: hand lettering; DIMENSIONS: 17.7 × 23.6 in.

TDC Design Competition Winner Statement

This poster for “The Haiti Poster Project” is part of a goodwill benefit campaign for Haiti after its devastating earthquake. The poster motif created by Justus Oehler is based on the impressive visualization of unexpected brutal earth tremors. Just like Haiti was suddenly and surprisingly shaken and destroyed by the earthquake, the word “Haiti” in the poster is suddenly subject to strong jolting and vibrations; handwritten with a fountain pen, it shows strong seismographic deflections in the middle. Oehler: “I wanted the design to be as merciless and naturally forceful as earthquakes are. I had to try several times . . . my fountain pen just about survived it.

Learn more about the Type Directors Club and see more amazing typography in the TDC book Typography32.

For more resources about typography, visit My Design Shop.Type Idea Index by Jim KrauseType Idea Index by Jim KrauseThe basic principle behind Type Idea Index is simple: ideas breed ideas. If you are looking for new ways of employing type in your works of art and design (or new twists to apply to your current typographic techniques), open Type Idea Index. You’ll find yourself face-to-face with 650+ custom-created, idea-sparking examples of typography and type-intensive design. For maximum user-friendliness, these samples are organized according to the theme they express (Energy, Elegance, Order, Rebellion) and the sort of real-world application they relate to (initials, monograms, logos, headlines, paragraphs).