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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Truth be told, today’s poster started a long time ago as a concept entitled “It would be fun to make letters of carrots.” Carrot letters remained on our minds – not constantly, though – until we found a way to incorporate them into the Theatre of Literature series in a perhaps somewhat abstract but not completely random way: to illustrate Anne of Green Gables.

Probably nobody needs this classic story described. We focused on the one most characteristic feature of beloved Anne, her orange-red hair that earned her Carrots nickname from teasing but oh-so-charming Gilbert.

More indirectly we found carrots a good match because they bring to mind a certain simplicity of rustic life that is present in L. M. Montgomery novels. We made letters out of carrot slices, having bought a particularly big  specimen for the purpose. We contrasted orange letters with the green background because of the strong contrast but also because of the greenery of Montgomery’s countryside setting. (Also, this way form and meaning go hand in hand, as we prefer them to do.)

We didn’t design the letters ahead, just experimented while carving into the slices. A carrot proved, as we hoped, a very graceful material, submitting easily to our ideas.

And because we enjoyed working with carrots so much, we did not stop with one poster but designed a whole Carrot Alphabet for future use and reference and for the challenge the other letters presented. Of course, it’s possible to do some of the letters differently but in general we’re pleased with them.

Alias Grace is one of wonderful novels by a Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It tells a story of a servant convicted of murder. It’s one of those Victorian-obsessed novels, like The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Crimson Petal and the White, and it’s up there with the best of ‘em story-wise while Atwood is arguably a better writer. All I’m saying is, read it.

Quilt is a dominating motif of the novel, both as a part of the story and a composition principle and I always regretted no cover author (to my knowledge) used it but hey, at least we could in our new poster. With my mom’s extensive collection of patterned fabrics we built the quilt-like composition out of almost 150 pieces.

A part of an interesting challenge of this poster was to design letters built of rectangular triangles and then separate them from the background of other triangles and squares. As quilt rookies we researched quilt making on the web and had our misconception corrected: initially we planned to separate the letter elements by color (like red) but it turned out pro quilters use difference in lightness. So that’s what we did, with light colors forming the title and dark, mostly navy blue and brown with red thrown here and there as a reminder of the murder, making up the background.

Originally we planned to sew the pieces together and we might still do that but for now arranging them properly turned out challenging enough.

We loved how this project let us focus on our design interests – such as grid-based letters, color, topic-form relation – but also broaden our comfort zone a little with new materials. We could have done it with paper and I daresay it’d still work but fabric pieces are so much better.

As promised, we continue the series of literary and typographic posters. Today’s work reaches beyond paper as it let us experiment with different materials, inspired by a different subject matter. We tackled the classic stories of Isaac Asimov dealing with robots and robotics. Instead of choosing one (though if we had, it would’ve been The Caves of Steel), we decided to treat them jointly as a sort of anthology. We suppose this way, with the author’s name, the stories are easier to identify.

Isaac Asimov might well be our favorite science-fiction writer because we appreciate his lucidity and the fact that he usually managed to avoid the opaque philosophical passages other sf writers use to give their work appearances of profundity. In other words, he’s fun to read. Many of his stories and a few novels deal with the introduction of robots into human society. Asimov invented the famous (at least geek-famous and Will Smith-fans-famous) laws of robotics which determined what robots could and couldn’t do and then spent his time inventing ways for robots to overcome them. Writers.

Asimov is tricky in that he wrote about the future but his is already a classic and somewhat retro science-fiction vision so we were looking for a visual futuristic language that would include a nod to the past and again, materials proved to be an answer. We used aluminum foil which is soft and easily molded into shapes, and pressed it onto a form composed of old letterpress type, creating an imprint of the text. The silver foil stands for metals that robots are built of but the letters introduce a more human (and intentionally somewhat messy) aspect, present in Asimov’s writing. It’s the combination of the two that he found interesting.

As you might realize then we had only to flip the photo to get a legible, non-mirror version and, of course, post-process it to some extent.

But we usually look for something extra than just the letters to make the posters more fun, a sort of illustration without illustration. This time we went all-out and actually built a moveable type robot, which looked like this:

This is the lower layer of the poster, you could say, and we really enjoyed assembling it (no, it doesn’t do anything though).

Both layers of the robot’s head:

Robot head before and after applying aluminium foil

Today we continue our series of typographic theatrical posters, which we began the last week with The Three Musketeers. Today’s project, I, Claudius, illustrates the famous novel by Robert Graves, a pseudo-autobiography by the Roman emperor Claudius (better known to his friends and relatives as Claudius the Idiot, or That Fool Claudius, or Claudius the Stammerer). A great story, adapted for TV by BBC, would make a fine play.

Actually, the whole Theatre of Literature project’s roots lie in this poster, which evolved from a different design that it was first a part of. We thought it would make a good poster and only then did we decide to continue doing posters based on famous novels’ titles.

The title is arranged from paper letters cut out and then cut into pieces so that they resemble a broken stone or mosaic. This brings to mind the passing of time which makes stone crumble but also Claudius’ stammering and, more generally, the fragmentation of any historical account (also, I studied literature before turning to design).

The typography is based on Requiem by Hoefler & Frere-Jones, a great alternative for overused Trajan. Although inspired by work of a sixteenth-century Renaissance calligrapher, it clearly descends from Roman capitals and retains their monumentality and classic elegance.

The red color of the background is the kingly red but also the color of blood.

Theatre of Literature will continue with more posters next week(s) so, stay tuned.

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