Stowe Framework developed from a project in the Studio & Entrepreneurship module of this course and was originally conceived as a typeface design project to embody the area of Walthamstow.
Stowe derives from Old/Middle English as a word to describe a holy or meeting place, and ‘stow’ appears in ‘Walthamstow’. As the location is known as a welcoming place, it is suitable to retain this part of the name to ground the project, whilst removing it from the locale enough to make it applicable in other areas in the future.
I am using the typefaces Archia (san serif) and Calendas (serif) from the Atipo Foundry – I like pairing the typefaces from the same foundry as it gives a more cohesive feel. Both have a few different styles in the font families, but not so many to be overwhelming. Calendas Plus is a serif font with a pleasing stroke contrast and is suitable for long stretches of text. It also has some interesting discretionary ligatures as extra glyphs (see the as and us above) that give it a special feel without being too distracting for the reader.
Archia has a modern geometric feel that contrasts to the traditional feel of Calendas. The ‘a’ has a single storey, like Calendas, and some letters like the lowercase ‘l’ have slab serifs to make reading easier. The descender of the ‘g’ has a flattened base, and the ampersand has a flattened top loop, which gives it some distinction. It can be used for very heavy text, for captions in small sizes, or in lightweight spaced capitals for headings.
The colour theme uses a two-colour palette of black and neon red (Pantone 805C) so that the high-contrast between paper and text is easily readable and the unusual bright colour is eye-catching. The palette utilises tints of the colours.
Stuart has mentioned this to me time and time again, and I had fun playing with the tool at the time (and at Pick Me Up!) but I didn’t think that it fitted into my project, until now. The last few months have been me trying to get people involved in the project and receiving nothing back. It has been frustrating.
Now we are coming out of lockdown, it seems like a better time to launch the project. This is going to take efforts on multiple fronts, and one of them is web. Getting people to contribute in a simple way using a tool similar to Paint could be a way to do that. Over the lockdown, I’ve given people the opportunity to report pieces of lettering that they have seen in the area that fits a brief: for example, it looks like a stencil or looks 3D. This tool would allow people to create their own.
Using a tutorial and the p5.js library, I managed to create this simple web paint application:
It’s very simple, and I began to make it more to spec by adding options to draw circles and squares. This is all well and good, but I found myself out of my coding depth very quickly. Instead, I am going to build an example interface to show the examiners that I would commission a developer to make (or learn how to do outside the stress of course deadlines.)
Here is an annotated page of what I would do:
The annotations do show the process pretty clearly, but basically: a participant clicks to take part and then is taken through a tutorial explaining the following: they are given a prompt to follow, for example, they can only use straight lines. They are also given a glyph, such as a capital H, and also a feature, such as it being tall. They can interpret this how they like. If they are unhappy with the prompts they can re-roll, or if they are unsure, they can ask for a tool tip that thoroughly explains the task again.
The canvas has dotted grey lines in the background that can be snapped to so as to provide the participant guidance. The tools on the left of the canvas will differ according to the prompt, for example a curvy line and circle won’t be available for the prompt “can only straight lines”.
Before launch, an example database will be populated to give the participant an idea of what others make of the option combinations. They won’t be the same: the example will show, in this instance, glyphs that are also tall, or an H, or drawn using straight lines, but not all or a combination of these. When sufficient glyphs are drawn, the examples will be from those available. I wonder if the glyphs will become self referential from the first submitted.
The participant can enter their name, and then also submit their letter. the letter will be then human checked so that it doesn’t show anything inappropriate. It seems a little censoring to do this, but given that the tool is open to everyone, and that participants have little restriction about what they draw, it seems prudent to check that drawings of swear words or rude images are not posted.
Here is a workflow showing the process, and a list of prompts I have so far thought of:
The glyphs submitted with be wonky and crude and maybe not make sense, but I want to give free range. The tool will be available on tablets and smart phones so that participants can use fingers if they want to.
When the glyphs are submitted, I’d like to bring them out into the open for people to see and to advertise the project. It might be something similar to the letter grid, or maybe on a presentation stage such as the Sketch Aquarium.
In Week 25 I will figure out how to present this …
This week is the big week for the critical report! I’ve got a lot done so far, and am very happy with the project, but I just have these little parts that I need to do before I set it into Indesign.
I’ve asked Anne-Maria Geals to take a look my glyphs that I’ve designed, but scheduled this for after the deadline. She has created some great typefaces and worked with Bruno Maag, so she will be an amazing person to get feedback from. She’s such a lovely person giving up so much time.
My partnership with Forest School will hopefully yield some submissions that I can include on my website and analyse for my critical report.
I’m taking a look through old blog posts at my previous work on this project and assessing how far I have come. In Week 4, I planned for my formative assessment, the outcome of which is here. More interesting is when I started planning the difference between this MA project as a testing phase and a more detailed Stowe Framework I could do later. The original is here.
I’ve already established that I need to scale down this project, and make it a testing phase for a project that is run as a full-scale project. I made a table that breaks down the elements of the project and how I can achieve them.
STOWE FRAMEWORK “AT LARGE”
What do I want to do?
How can I test this?
Photo walks with adults
Small walks with a few people doing it independently with survey at end
Adults asked to look for typography they like
Small select group of adults
Target wide demographics to reflect Walthamstow
Make sure people are varied, but a smaller number
Adult asked to design glyph for themselves
This could be possible, but it will have to be independent rather than in a workshop and I would have to get more feedback about what went well and what needs improving
Area Survey photo walks
Go around myself to take photos like in GDE720
Could this launch the beginning of the full project and be formed from feedback?
Talks online with local typography experts such as archives, Bracey, Angry Dan
Interview them myself and publish. Ask them to design type/glyph/describe their favourite piece of type
It is heartening to see that what I achieved has broadly followed my plan: I have designed and published a range of workshops that people can take part in. Some of them are the same, for example the Area Survey walks, and some have been changed, such as glyph designing, as a result of the pandemic. I have jettisoned some ideas, such as the photo competition, for this stage as it felt like the project was becoming too broad.
I would have liked to reach more people with my workshops and am disappointed that I have not got more responses so far. It is hard to distinguish between the shortcomings of the workshops I designed and what is down to the pandemic. I’m going to do a more thorough review later in the project.
It’s hard to put into words what the pandemic has done to everyone, and to see how it has affected my project has been tiring. I am excited about this project just feels like bad timing. It’s not what the people of Walthamstow need right now. I feel constrained by deadlines of the course and would ideally push it back until September to be able to get out into the world and engage with people in libraries and museums that are opening up as of today.
I will be free to concentrate fully on the outputs, and my plans are to:
design more glyphs
so that I can experiment with distorting them
ensure that the type map is working because I’m not happy with it as is
As well as showing photos on maps, I would like the website to show submissions from the workshops. After my first submission yesterday, I have created a section of the website to display the outputs. Here is the finished look, which you can also see here:
This submission is from Jess for the glyph workshop:
She wanted to go for a minimalist look and chose the following features. She lives near Blackhorse Road, and so included a black horse and the construction work cranes that are next to the station. There is an old building that was a music venue on the corner that has a bold striped colour scheme. She loves to walk around the area, particularly the Wetlands, so drew a flower. As Walthamstow is her home, she has put a little house tucked away in the top left and one of her cats in the right. She loves the community spirit in the past year so has a rainbow in the shadow. Great work, Jess!
While going through source photos of typography, I looked in the backgrounds and saw lots of distorted type from window reflections. I think this could be a good way for me to play around with found pieces of type and my own designs.
Denis Wood, co-author of Making Maps, has been working on an atlas of the Boylan Heights neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina since the mid 1970s. The atlas, which has never been published in its entirety, is called Dancing and Singing: A Narrative Atlas of Boylan Heights.