This is a brand new 2019 project, but one that started many years ago but never got to finish to a publishable state until now. It’s a very simple concept of my usual game: making something pretty of something ugly. In this case, ugly fonts, found on most of our computers, that designers love to hate. I’m talking about Papyrus, Comic Sans, Jokerman and the like.
The idea of creating patterns from letters (and thus, creating „letterns”), is not a new one, I did this at school with many other students, and presumably a lot of other designers do it. When I got given this exercise though, it was a time I was studying for two degrees at the same time, caught up intensely between graphic and textiles, not knowing which is my true call and so I was crazy about anything that seemed to connect the two. I shared it with one my friends too who was a photography student and also a keen typography practitioner. We had this grand idea of creating a whole book of patterns from letterforms, black and white and in colour, she would design the letters and I would make patterns from her. She had a lot of typography brushes and had a very experimental style, which was a great contrast to the rigid style of my patterns then. However it never reached further than the few experiments and sketches. I suspect that because we didn’t go for a particular style nor did we go in alphabetical order, there was little consistency between our experimental work and then life took us on to different paths and the project never got finished and was quickly forgotten about.
Then came the fresh start in 2019 with this new website just as was settling back into my Scottish life after a stint in Amsterdam so there I was again, happy for anything that connects graphic and textile design again. So I looked at my past and saw the old university project and the experiments with my friend in the folder and I decided to finish it. Getting new letters designed is not particularly important – the computer is full of fonts. So I started using classic pretty fonts such as Clarendon and Futura and I was surprised how easy it went – because it’s easy to create pretty patterns from pretty letterforms.
So I looked again and found many fonts I have never used in my life. Curlz, Gigi, Jokerman, and Comic Sans, the legend. There are various reasons these fonts don’t work, some are plain bonkers (Jokerman), some are pretty but hard to read and you will always need to use another for any sort of postcode or abbreviations (Edwardian, Kunstler), some are just dated and have been used for too long (Mistral was cool in the 90s!), and, well… some some are Papyrus and Comic Sans. But hey, just because they don’t work on posters or with text, it doesn’t mean they are completely useless. I wanted to show some TLC for these poor guys quietly sitting on everyone’s PC (they are all Microsoft fonts). It’s part of my game – it’s what I like to do with pylons or brutalist „eyesores” too, transform them to shine, present them in a way you’ve not thought about them before, and to accept them and learn to appreciate them because somebody did design them and thought they were going to be great – and wasn’t Comic Sans such fun at the age of 8 in Paint?
The results you can judge for yourself but the process was fun and I’m definitely not finished. The rule was to leave them at the same size, use only the selected letter and keep them black and white. I made 26 posters this way, all available on my Society6.com shop. However this is nowhere near finished. I’m already thinking about the colours so I keep going. Watch this space…!