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Wednesday 25 November 2015

Graphics Design Students Design Southampton Typeface

Students recently had the chance to learn from Fellow and former chair of the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) David Quay, when the designer visited Southampton Solent from Amsterdam to deliver a week-long typeface design masterclass in November.

Nick Long, Programme Group Leader for Visual Communication and Applied Arts, said, “It is important that we internationalise our campus by bringing the very best industry professionals to Solent. David is an important figure in typography – one of an elite band of type designers that major companies trust to design their bespoke typefaces.”

In 1990 David co-founded The Foundry, one of the first digital typeface companies, with Freda Sack; the company has produced custom type for Yellow Pages, British Gas, NatWest Bank, Dyson, Land Rover and the Lisbon Metro system in Portugal.

Exploring an identity for Southampton

David Quay guides students in hand-drawing type

At Solent, David set third-year BA (Hons) Graphic Design students the challenge of designing a typeface for a wayfinding system for Southampton, helping visitors and the populace to navigate their environment.

The project saw students hand-sketching letterforms, digitising their drawings, and printmaking from their laser cut alphabet outlines. “Having both a printmaking workshop and 3D workshop next to our dedicated graphics studio,” Nick Long said, “meant the students could digitise their typefaces on our Apple macs, move to the laser cutter to cut their letterforms out of wood or plastic, and then take these forms direct to the relief press, to ink and print and experiment on paper.”

At the end of the week, David, Nick and Susie Smith, Senior Lecturer for the graphic design degree, judged the students’ work and picked the best of the best. “We were looking for a typeface that could be developed further and could be genuinely usable in an urban environment,” Nick said.

Speaking about designing for city identity and signage on an earlier project in Bath, David said, “The typeface that we produce shouldn’t be part of any fashion or fad – fashions change fast and the identity of a city should aim to last as much as possible… Using an existing typeface, meanwhile, makes the identity look standard and lacking in local flavour.”

Winning words

Winners Barbora Volankova (left) and Yngvild Sorheim (right), with David Quay and their winning design

The eventual winners were Barbora Volankova, an international student from the Czech Republic, and Yngvild Sorheim from Norway.

Yngvild said, “It was really exiting getting to work with David Quay and learning from him. We learned how to design our own typeface with inspiration from the city of Southampton. We had to do a lot of sketching and thinking about how to take in the different aspects from the city.”

Barbora agreed. “We really wanted the typeface to give the impression of the city tradition, history and the background of shipping industry, which is why we have chosen quite heavy letters with a strong accent on contrast of rectangular and rounded shapes. It was a great opportunity to go through the whole designing process, from getting the ideas, through sketches and drawing, up to the digitalisation of the font and even getting it laser cut in to wood – and what’s more, with such a great personality of typography!”

“I don’t think I would have worked with someone like David Quay unless I was studying here at Solent,” Barbora added. “Probably the most important thing I have learned was not to be afraid of trying, and thanks to David’s guidance I’m really motivated to try to make a font again soon.”

Talking about his time at Solent, David said, “It was an exhilarating week spent with a bunch of hard-working and creative students—with fantastic results!”

Exploring international design

Susie Smith, Senior Lecturer, BA (Hons) Graphic Design, said, “We have visited David many times on our study trips to Amsterdam, so it was great to finally get him over here to explain his design processes to our students.”

The annual Amsterdam study trip gives students the option and opportunity to step inside some of the very best design and advertising consultancies in Europe – in 2015 students visited Total Identity and Kessels Kramer, explored the Stedelijk Museum and its visual communication exhibitions, and met up with David Quay himself.