Lettering and type

Although I don’t quite have the temperament for calligraphy, I have always loved playing around with lettering. Then, after an intensive course at the London College of Printing, I developed a similar pleasure in typography – though a much more respectful and orthodox sort of pleasure.

If I had the chance to incorporate a bit of hand-lettering into a drawing I usually took it. Every year since the mid-Eighties I have produced a calendar to send to clients and friends and that often gave me a lettering opportunity.

The Inktober challenge in October each year is another opportunity to mix lettering with illustration.

Some time after I left, I learned that Neville Brody had been a fellow student at LCP. His iconoclastic rejection of the very typographic orthodoxy I was learning to embrace made him a leader in the exciting design changes of the 1980s. Think of his design of Face magazine and City Limits during that period, making typography an epoch-defining art for a while.

When I designed the cover for my book of Thatcher caricatures Where there is discord, I used a Brody font (Industria) to try and get an Eighties feel.

Though I constantly found his work stimulating, I was uncomfortably aware that Neville Brody was not sympathetically inclined towards illustration. He liked the tight control a designer can have using photography. So I was ambiguous about New Statesman flirtations with the idea of a Brody redesign in pursuit of younger readers. It didn’t happen.

Of course the best way to have the tight control a designer dreams of is to produce your own magazines or books and use your own illustration. In fact, why not do all the writing yourself too? That’s what I did with Checkmate Books. The tragedy is that I was in charge of sales, promotion and distribution too. But after years of responding to other people’s briefs I was so pleased I did those books, projects in which set my own agenda.

I can’t resist a bit of medieval lettering, so it was great to be involved in a string of early music concerts in the 1990s, designing leaflets, posters and programmes.
For a while I could call myself consultant designer to the National Consumer Council, which somehow seemed the most impressive-looking thing on my CV.
Hours of enjoyment putting together this quarterly magazine with editor Camilla Dinkel, who became a lifelong friend.