Our Summer in London – Letterform Archive


Oct 31, 2017

Our Summer in London

As the Archive often brings unexpected connections and opportunities, so we found ourselves on the way to London to participate in London Design Festival. About a year ago, the Archive had the pleasure of a visit from a lovely London couple. Shortly after their trip we were invited to be part of Bankside Design District’s events as part of LDF — one of the visitors, Nicole, works as Deputy CEO for Better Bankside and thought we’d be a great addition to the already thriving lettering and calligraphy events sponsored by the district.

London Design Festival panel
Donald Hyslop, a curator from the Tate Modern, discusses lettering with Paul Antonio, Rob Saunders, and Sam Roberts.

The exhibit we put together, Graphic Design Process: Analog Artifacts of Experimentation, Development, & Production, was ambitious for the space, highlighting the depth of process material in the Archive collection. In addition to a four day long run of exhibition, we organized a series of gallery talks. Opening night we had an amazing panel moderated by Donald Hyslop, a curator from the Tate Modern. Visitors were loath to leave after a spirited dialogue between panelists Rob Saunders, Paul Antonio, and Sam Roberts about the ephemeral nature of letters; in fact, many stayed to mingle and discuss further over another glass of wine. Over the course of four days and four gallery talks we enjoyed introducing the Archive to hundred of people who were unfamiliar with our collections — although we also met many fans of our social media channels!

In addition to the main exhibition programming, Rob and I wanted to ensure that we connected with our peers, colleagues, and collaborators to spread the word of the Archive and catch up with old friends. Our many outings included St. Brides, the Type Archive, the Design Museum, the Central Lettering Record at Central Saint Martins College of Art, the University of Reading, and the Ditchling Museum. We had the pleasure of connecting and reconnecting with Ewan Clayton, Mike Meyers, Martina Flor, Claire Mason, Nicholas Barker, Kristy Carter, Emma Thomas, and John Walters. We had the privilege of personal tours at most institutions we visited as well as the pleasure of a personal showing of the Abram Games archive, courtesy of his daughter Naomi.  We visited Alan Kitching’s print studio and enjoyed the Berthed Wolpe exhibit at the Type Archive alongside Toshi Omagari (designer who revived several of Wolpe’s typefaces for Monotype) and Sue Shaw, founder of the Type Archive.

We somehow made time to visit a few exhibits around London that weren’t to be missed. Our location, based in Bankside, also gave us ease of access to the Tate Modern, where we visited the Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition. The Wellcome Collection’s exhibit Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? featured a wide range of health and wellness awareness posters, advertisements and other historical and contemporary pieces.

One of the most special days of our trip was the day we spent with Ewan Clayton in Brighton and Ditchling. Ewan planned our whole schedule, starting with his own studio in Brighton where he showed us several of his current projects before taking us to Ditchling. Ewan grew up in Ditchling and regaled us with stories and a tour of the village, showing us Gill and Johnston’s houses and examples of lettering done by them and their students around the village. After a cozy lunch at the village pub, we made our way to Ditchling Museum where we went behind the scenes in the collection store to explore the various original lettering by Gill, Johnston and other Ditchling craftsmen and women. The warmth and thought that Ewan put into the day is what made all of these experiences so special and is indicative of how the community that surrounds the Archive comes together.

At the end of the day, there’s always more to do in London than any one trip will allow for, but given our busy exhibition schedule, we are grateful for the many letterformy adventures we were able to enjoy!