Friday, March 29, 2013

Type Collectives and the Power of the Internet

We've grown up around the internet and the power of social media, but not so long ago, designers didn't have the same resources or opportunities online as we do now. The internet has allowed designers to promote and monetize their work, side projects, and hobbies in completely new ways, sometimes launching careers that may otherwise have taken a few years to gain momentum. Jess Hische is a prime example of this. She attributes the beginning of her design fame to her side project Daily Drop Cap, where she posted free drop caps for anyone's personal use. It became free publicity for her, and as more and more people talked about the posts, more and more people looked into her work.

I decided to explore other type collectives and side projects that were started because of or affected by access to the internet, and found three recent and relatively popular sites.

Friends of Type

The Friends of Type blog was founded by Erik Marinovich and Aaron Carambula in 2009 as way for the two friends to keep in touch from across the country. It has since expanded from a personal online sketch depository into a group of four men and their guest-letterers who celebrate their lives, goof around, and share rejected ideas through lettering and typography. They've described it as an "online sketchbook" where they provide fresh content every day from at least one contributor. At the end of every month, they choose a guest designer to contribute for a week. 

They’ve also created an online store from the blog. This website has expanded from a sketchbook correspondance between friends into an active type community that makes money off of their crazy doodles. It's shameless self-promotion, type inspiration, and eclectic style all in one place.


Calligraphuck is a profane greeting card press in London. It was started as a side project by Australian designer Linus Boman in early 2012, who was inspired by curse-laden conversations with comedian friends as well as past designers’ explicit projects. His goal was to take otherwise personal greeting cards for his friends and give them a broader appeal. One Indiegogo campaign, a few social media accounts, and an online store later, Calligraphuck has grown into a business with a few hundred to a few thousand followers between Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.

But it’s the internet that really gave this project a chance. He used Indiegogo to raise $5,000 for materials and capital to start this press, a feat that pre-crowdsourcing would have taken months or even years rather than a few weeks. Through social media, he gets free advertising and networking for Calligraphuck, as well as exposure for his other design work. He also stays connected with his fan base/clientele by holding submission competitions for new phrases and obscure curses, allowing the public to contribute to the press and also decide on what they want to see in the store.

Lost Type Co-Op

Lost Type is the most prolific of these three collectives. With their novel business model and interesting display faces, their work has been seen everywhere from Urban Outfitters to summer camp applications.  The idea behind it is that designers create typefaces (some complete with punctuation and numbers, some without lower case, and even some number-only faces) and then you name your price online. You can pay any or no amount of money for them, and in return you get virtually unrestricted use for nice free fonts. Naturally, this has made them extremely popular.

While some have lamented the overuse of these fonts (making them uncool or at least way too recognizeable), others have pointed out that corporations or anyone who could pay the full price for a typeface could (and do) choose not to. Critics feel that designers are being taken advantage of, while others feel that it is, again, free publicity. Either way, Lost Type Co-Op remains the only foundry to have this business model. In the online age, they control their typefaces pretty much completely. Why pirate something from a shady site when you can get it from the original for free?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Body Scripture

Ronit Bigal  (Israel)

"Body Scripture II" is Ronit Bigal's new exhibition featuring from the 27th of may 2010 at the Artists House in Tel Aviv. Photography, Calligraphy and floral ornamentation are the elements comprising this exhibition. Digital photography topped with drawings in black Indian ink produces an effect of bas-relief. Bigal photographs the body completely exposed. The camera explores the body, capturing different parts, discovering a world of hidden landscapes, textures, and unspoken eroticism. For the artist this was a journey of unforeseen surprise. Therefore she wraps parts of her photos with floral ornamentation and others with cited calligraphy taken from Biblical texts. They are almost abstract and enigmatic, arousing the viewer's curiosity to discover what are the photographed objects, what meanings lies behind the texts; and whether there is a thematic affinity between them or, perhaps are the associations purely aesthetical?

Aizone FW12 Campaign Behind the Scenes
“Typography needs to be audible. Typography needs to be felt. Typography needs to be experienced.” — Helmut Schmid


My inspiration : The Pillow Book is a 1996 film by British director Peter Greenaway, which stars Vivian Wu as Nagiko, a Japanese model in search of pleasure and new cultural experience from various lovers. The film is a rich and artistic melding of dark modern drama with idealized Chinese and Japanese cultural themes and settings, and centers around body painting.