Graphic Design and Animation Graduates 2012

Online portfolio and print on demand catalogs for Graphic Design and Animation graduates from the Department of Design 2012. On this page you will find our conference presentations, and by hovering over the menu groups on the left you can read contextual documents. You are welcome to attend our Grad Show, opening on 29 November 2012 at 6pm, and daily from 30 November to 6 December 9.30am – 4pm.

Nick Baillie

Exploration into the Vernacular

-Distilling a cinema in a typeface

Through type design I have saught to encapsulate a dying vernacular architectural space. My chosen site is Capitol Cinema in Balmoral, Auckland. I chose this site for its locality and its importance to New Zealand’s history and culture.

The local context of New Zealand cinema and its emergence in the early 1900’s to its decline in the 1970’s is central to my project. Very few independent cinemas ‘hung on’ after the introduction of television. Capitol Cinema was one of the few.

A typeface is a complex thing. One of my goals at the start of the year was to research and understand the practice of making a typeface. Not a simple task. Early fonts were made by casting metal into moulds, every mould created a letter or number; also known as glyphs. This was groundbreaking stuff but was very laborious, not to mention expensive. Fast forward hundreds of years and now fonts are created digitally; what was once a physical task is now at the designer’s fingertips. A contemporary ‘face’ is a reflection of this; new ways to interpret information and understand communication are being explored. For example Kris Sowersby’s ‘National’ typeface is exploring how subtle quirks and characteristics can distinguish it from other fonts but remain legible.

New Zealand’s type design culture is relatively small. The type design community has a heavy online presence. Very few designers can make a living just designing type and even fewer can without the internet. Kris Sowersby is a notable type designer that has influenced my learning and sub-practice. His work has reached international acclaim with an array of awards for his typefaces.

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Cinematic and theatrical vernacular typography are key contextual references in my work. The ‘vernacular’ of facade signage and display typefaces are present in my conceptual approaches. I use line to form material referencing forms such as neon, metal and moulded plastic. The way in which audiences react and engage with typography is integral to my project. Similar to the way theatre facade draws in an audience to its show, my typeface achieves a demanding attention that excites the viewer. My work aims to please the onlooker with this vernacular language. It also aims to push contemporary type design with new ideas by referencing the architecture of my site and the vernacular.

How can a typeface reference a place or site? Architecturally? Atmospherically? Historically?

Process and practice are reoccurring ideas in my work. The process of design is as important as the final product. The ‘getting there’ is a valuable process that designers need be aware of. The conceptual thinking and methodologies that designers undertake to reach solutions is part of the problem solving.

Practice as a designer is multi-faceted. Analysis of my own practice has helped me determine the type of designer I aim to be. Jessica Hische has studied many different fields of design, including type, her approach to client work can be undertaken in a number of ways. Her approach has been very influential to me. My work this year has focussed on type design alongside graphic design. I have highlighted this aspect to my audience so they can reflect on their own practice.

A key aspect in my process was the methodology of interviewing practitioners. Interviews with Jessica Hische, Kris Sowersby and Kyra Clarke helped me understand their process and reflect on my own. Hishce and Sowersby gave me insight into the inner workings of type design and how this functions in their design practices. Hische showed me that working on projects in spare time can bring useful passive income. Sowersby taught me the kerning of a typeface is the longest/hardest part of the process. Clarke taught me to value collaboration and passion to drive my design projects. I have taken this learning and included several collaborative inputs from designers in my publication output this year.

At the beginning of my project I chose to design type in an analogue at first, taking it digital later. My approach was much like Kyra Clarke’s [to just do it] and as I designed, I learned the way shapes react causing negative and positive space; the importance of color in a typeface (color meaning the overall darkness of the typeface). These fundamentals of type design became apparent in the development of my initial typeface. I chose to sketch over a grid to keep proportions within the face and then edit them digitally from there. Decision making continued throughout the digitising of the typeface. Angles and measurements were translated throughout the font for consistency.

My ‘Capitol’ typeface was explored conceptually in sketch at first. The more I explored the ideas on paper the more they filtered through in my later developments. Introducing curvature within the face triggered further study and readings. A particular book that helped me through the design process was ‘Designing Type’ (Cheng).

The initial drawings of the typeface were explorations of what I thought the lowercase of the Capitol facade signage would look like. I tried to figure out what the typeface was at first with no luck; I had to assume it was a bespoke face that wasn’t made by a type designer. So finding similar structured faces, I conceptualised a lowercase and went from there. I referenced a number of structural features in architectural drawings to the typeface. Particular angles and proportions were important in the architecture so I made these equally important to the typeface’s structure. Some of the glyphs have key shapes and ornaments that were found throughout my site investigation.

I found synergies during my design process which enabled me to further explore alternate weights in the family. My earlier research into neon type fueled the thin weight decision making. Overall the structure was based on the regular weight, but the weight was consistent – much like neon tubing.

For the black weight I took another approach entirely. Using what I already had developed I created something new and fresh that had a more contemporary feel. This multi-faceted typeface family is a direct reflection of the different avenues of research undertaken throughout my project.

The outcomes I have been working towards are two publications; one that will highlight the importance of process in a designer’s practice, another that will act as a specimen for my typeface. What I want to communicate to my audience is that process makes practice. This concept is the underpins my project this year. Encapsulating this in a publication will shed light on the key strategies in my process to help push others to undertake similar methodologies.

The typeface specimen publication will be made available to the public to take home. It will explore the typeface’s uses and put it into a designer’s context. When a member of the audience picks up a copy of the publication the graphic design will synthesise with my wallspace work so that the viewer will instantly recognise my work. In turn this will enable potential employers to recognise me as a designer.

I will send the publication to key industry studios that are of interest to me and my career goals. This will highlight to designers that there is definite room for growth in New Zealand’s small type design culture.

I am using a lightbox to showcase the typeface, this comes from synthesis within my research of the cinema itself. Showcasing it as if it were a movie seems fitting with my site. The lightbox will explore the notions of display and how the typeface works.

In conclusion, this project has helped shed light on New Zealand’s cinematic culture as well as highlighting my own work in a context. As New Zealand designers we need to embrace our culture and place to see how this can reflect our contemporary practice and sub-practice. Encapsulating a place within a typeface is just that.

Cheng, Karen. Designing Type. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2005. Print.


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