Week 10: Critical Reflective Journal

To start with

Typography is the backbone of what I do here at Walker Book, but this week is a departure from the typography I usually do. For the most part, I work on long-form books and concentrate on making my work ‘disappear’. What I do is supposed to allow the reader to dive as easily as possible into the text without any distractions of awkward line breaks and inconsistent spacing. To make a typographic piece that is to stand for itself is different.


A lot of what was covered in the lecture and additional reading was familiar to me because I’ve studied type design and history in the past. However, I got a lot of context from “A smile in the mind: witty thinking in graphic design” (McAlhone, Stuart and Quinton, 2015) because it puts into words what I think most designers try to do: make people smile. This is a reading text from Week 9, and I feel like it fits into this week too.

From the book, I resonated with a few different phrases. From Michael Bierut, I like the idea that “if you show people a completed picture it doesn’t engage them as much as when they connect the last few dots, and have the moment of discovery”. I like having Easter eggs in my book work, like one hundred fish images in an author’s one-hundredth book, and want to learn how to do that graphically too.

From Aziz Cami, “What is great about wit is that it triggers questions in people’s minds. They start imagining – what would a person be like who has a van like this? … Curiosity must be satisfied”. How can I use my graphic design to represent myself and others that only makes people more curious about us?

I most see myself in the wisdom from Alan Fletcher:

  • I see wit as cerebral acrobatics
  • Other times I go to bed without an idea in my head, and I wake up to find it’s all there – and I’ve written the caption too.
  • If an idea is not coming as quickly as it should, my mind takes off somewhere else… I actually have to discipline myself.
  •  I have to set up my own boundaries, and fence myself in

I think I could learn from this, especially the confidence to give myself the boundaries and produce something within that, rather than keeping my approach too open and not committing to anything!

One of the magic moments where an idea presents itself was the tetrahedron approach to the Week 1 challenge. I was making my bed early on the Tuesday morning when the realisation that a tetrahedron fitted my goal of an arrangement of four equally even (size and hierarchy-wise) panels.


The company work for, Walker Books, published a great book about the joys of reading as a child called A Child of Books that was illustrated by Sam Winston, a guest lecturer on this course. I was inspired by his use of type to create images:

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I dug a little further and found that all his typography is amazing, my favourite pieces being:

I also went back to the D&AD archives for this year for inspiration on words and form as they have a specific category. These are the entries that spoke to me most:


It occurred to me that we are designing from text already set (although we had free range) and that some of the examples we’ve been given have been written and designed in parallel.

Kinetic type

Stuart posted up the Dia Studio on Instagram, and it’s a whole new level of moveable type. This is another area I would love to explore and develop my skills in.


Most of my work is black ink (and shades of grey) on white paper, and I want to play with colour! I’ve been restricting myself because mono is what I know, but colour can bringing type to life… everywhere … even if it’s just a different colour to black:


Karina Yazylyan

And can’t you just hear this poster by Alan Kitching?


This poster was created by Mike Clayton (the typesetter from below ) and Catherine Dixon, showing the lost vocabulary used in the Fleet Street area from its printing heyday, and their meanings.


St Bride’s Letterpress Workshop

I’ve known about St Bride’s for a few years now, and I’ve been on a tour of a workshop previously. When this week’s theme was typography and there was a letterpress course this Wednesday I decided to “Just Do It” and sign onto a course.

Mick Clayton took me and my fellow participant, Emma, through letterpress printing on an Adana press, a fairly compact (as letterpress printers go) set-up that you can bike from Bristol to Germany. Mick came into typesetting as an apprentice, and when he completed his apprenticeship six years later, spent years working as line compositor for newspapers based in the Fleet Street area. The stories he had to tell! The number of words he had to set!

I had hoped to work on my project a little, but the task of the workshop was to set by hand a short piece of text about printing in England. Even though the type pieces are tiny and light individually (a composite of tin, lead and antinomy), the weight adds up.

It made me aware of how lucky I am to work in the age of desk-top publishing. Picking the individual letters didn’t take me too long, but adjusting the spaces between the words by trial and error took me twice as long.

My galley proof (the quick proof you do before properly printing) had two mistakes, but as I picked up my block I did not, I repeat I DID NOT drop half my letters. Spoiler: I totally did. Mick helped me sort it all out though, and then I got to use the Adana! We had to do everything, from inking up, to the registration of the sheets, to adjusting the pressure of the press on the paper.

In the end, I have lots of sheets with the first four lines of the text on, with one missing comma and one slipped ‘l’. That’s good enough for me.

My main aim was to learn about the sheer volume of text the compositors had to set and how letterpress has shaped our understanding of typesetting today. If you have a chance, go!



One thought on “Week 10: Critical Reflective Journal

  1. Pingback: Week 2: Written Task – Anna Robinette

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