London Transport Museum Depot


We popped along to the London Transport Museum’s wonderful Acton Depot earlier this week with the Wynkyn de Worde Society.

The depot holds the majority of the museum’s collection – over 320,000 items. That includes an incredible poster and original art collection; a continually changing selection of old buses, trams, and underground trains; as well as a jaw-dropping range of old signs. It’s a type-lover’s paradise.

Here are just a few shots from our day out.










Up on the mezzanine level is row after row of old signs:




Here’s a pre-Johnston roundel from Westminster underground station:


The old enamel signs were manufactured by the Chromographic Enamel Company of Wolverhampton:


The poster collection is held in a room decorated with some of the very best posters from across the years:


Here’s another bit of pre-Johnston loveliness from a poster by Tony Sarg in 1913:


And poster designer C.W.Bacon’s short-lived symbol for the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933:


And look at this wonderful UND ligature from this 1925 poster by Frederick Charles Herrick.


The depot is a real treasure trove. They have regular open-weekends and guided tours – get along if you can.

De Worde type sampler


If you’re anything like us, when you first start working with a new typeface, it’s hard not to feel like a child with much longed-for new toy.

When you first download it, you’re full of awe and excitement. You give the typeface a speedy once-over. Get a feel for the overall vibe. It’s a quick and heady hit of joy.

But the real pleasure comes from when you properly dig down into the typeface to discover its true nature, its capabilities and aptitudes.

And as you start working with it more and more, you uncover its real strengths. Its essence.

So when the rather wonderful type designer Jeremy Tankard approached us to design a type sampler for his new typeface De Worde, we were properly excited.


De Worde has been commissioned by the Wynkyn de Worde Society to mark its 60th birthday. The Society was set up in 1957 by a group of publishers, typographers and designers ‘dedicated to promoting excellence in all aspects of print and the graphic arts’. The Society meets several times a year to drink, chat, eat, and to hear talks from leading designers, printers, publishers and associated folk.


In 1500 Wynkyn de Worde, often known as the ‘Father of Fleet Street’, was the first printer to set up his shop on Fleet Street, which for centuries was perhaps the world’s most famous centre of printing.


In 1528, de Worde was the first printer in Britain to use an italic type, and Jeremy used this as his starting point for his new typeface:

“When looking for inspiration for the De Worde typeface, it seemed logical to start with the italic he used and introduced to English printing. Examination shows a type full of chaotic rhythm – it bounces along the line quite freely and is not as regimented as we would expect today. This, combined with several interesting details seen in the lettershapes, formed the basis of what would become the De Worde typeface.”

(Read the full story of De Worde’s design in Jeremy’s excellent newsletter, Footnote 26.)

De Worde comes in seven weights, from a refined ExtraLight to a characterful (if you’ll pardon the typographic pun) Heavy.



Playing around with the typeface was an absolute joy, particularly discovering its extended character set which includes small capitals, superiors, number sets and fractions. There’s a real depth of study and understanding in the design of the letters, but that doesn’t weight it down – it has a joyous vivacity to it.



Our job was simply to reveal as much of the typeface’s brilliance as possible – to give just a hint at what it might be capable of.

For the format of the sampler, we worked to the dimensions of James Moran’s wonderful history of de Worde, Wynkyn de Worde – Father of Fleet Street, so that they could sit comfortably next to each other on a shelf.

We then wrote copy that related to print and publishing, or simply showed off the very best features of the typeface. And inspired by an old joke about newspapers, we decided it should be black, white and red all over. Well… Pantones 426 and 1797 to be accurate (but that’s a little less catchy).




The sample booklet was printed and bound by the good folks at Typecast Colour, on Shiro Echo White from Fenner Paper. The cover, on Remake Smoke (also from Fenner) was foil-blocked by the wonderful team at Benwells.


The spines were three-hole sewn, just to emphasise the sense of craft involved in the typeface’s creation.


Head over to Jeremy’s site and pick up a copy of the De Worde typeface for yourself.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook


We’re dead proud to announce the publication of the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook, which we recently designed for Octopus Books and the Ministry of Stories.

Here’s the blurb:

‘For hundreds of years, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies has been supplying quality goods for the Living, Dead and Undead – and this, its classic recipe book, has been in use for just as long. Now, for the first time, it has been adapted for use by humans. So whether you are entertaining trolls, hosting a vampire soirée or expecting zombies round for tea, you can make delicious treats to suit every occasion. With recipes and handy hints for monster housekeeping, this classic tome is an essential addition to every home, lair, cave, swamp or fiery pit.’

Here a photos of a few spreads:





The book has been brilliantly written by Cara Frost-Sharratt, with a few additions by We Made This. The wonderful illustrations are by the fantastic Caroline Church, and they really make the book.


We looked at Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, classic Victorian cookbook, for inspiration. So as with that, our book features a few pages of adverts at the front and back. This pair of ads are for The Collywobbles, and for Grimm & Co., the amazing Apothecary for Magical Beings in Rotherham.


Here’s a short promotional film, showing the making of some Fresh Maggot Brownies:

(You can see some more of the films here.)

The book is available from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, with profits going to the Ministry of Stories – and it’s rather perfect for Halloween…

Oh, and there’s also a US edition, titled The Monster’s Cookbook, which is out later this month.

Futuro House

Futuro House 1

Earlier today, on the rooftop of Central Saint Martins, we took a step into the future past.

Since last September, the art school has been playing host to a Futuro House, courtesy of the artist Craig Barnes.

Futuro House 4

Barnes has been hosting tours of the building during its stay at the college, and filled us in on its fascinating history.

The Futuro House was a type of prefabricated home designed by Finnish architect Matti Suoronnen at the tail end of the 1960s. He designed it at the request of a friend who was looking for a ski cabin that would be quick to heat and easy to construct in a tricky mountainside location.

A perfect 2:1 ratio ellipse, the house is made of 16 fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic segments that are bolted together on site (although it could also be choppered in fully assembled), and mounted on a steel base. About 100 houses were made, of which around 60 still exist, in varying states of repair.

Barnes’ Futuro (#22) comes from Port Alfred in South Africa, where he first saw it as a child while visiting family nearby. He visited it time and time again. Jump cut to April 2013, when Barnes saw that it was in danger of either falling to pieces or being destroyed. Without much forethought, he convinced the owner to sell it.

Now all he had to do was take it to pieces, ship it up to the UK, fully restore it, and put it back to pieces. Simple.

After five days spent carefully deconstructing the house, he shipped the pieces back to Herefordshire, where they took up residence in a former WWII bomb factory, and restoration began. Barnes spoke to the team at the Wee Gee Exhibition Centre in Finland, who had previously restored a Futuro House. They impressed on him the need to remain faithful to the original designs, which he mostly did. His only significant departure was to ditch the internal colour scheme. Instead of a gloomy purple, he created a bright white interior set against just one other colour, a mustard yellow used on the fabric of the seats and bed (a gentle nod to the interstellar interiors of Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey). It’s a monumental achievement to have restored this fantastic building, and it’s fantastic that Barnes is sharing it with other people and institutions.

Futuro House 2

Futuro House 3

Initially installed on the roof at Matt’s Gallery, for the past year the house has been living atop Central Saint Martins, looking for all the world as it it’s just floated in from space. Barnes told us that a ‘certain amount of smoke and mirrors’ was required to hide the supports necessary to secure the building to the roof.

Futuro House 5

Booking is currently closed for tours of the house, but it is expected to continue its stay at Central St Martins for another year, so that may change.

The only Futuro house in the UK, it’s still looking for its own future home. Which got us to thinking about where it could go. We can picture it sitting happily alongside the new Design Museum in Kensington. Or perhaps setting up camp at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Or it would look incredible on the lawn of a National Trust property as part of their contemporary art programme.

Find out more about the Futuro House.



So, we just picked up and devoured the latest volume of Saga, the fantastic comic series from writer Brian K. Vaughan and illustrator Fiona Staples.

Described (loosely) as a cross between Star Wars and Game of Thrones, Saga follows the lives of Alana and Marko, star crossed lovers from two warring races in a galaxy far far away.




They just want to be left alone to raise their daughter – but since she’s the first child to be born to parents from both races, and considered an abomination, the authorities are determined to stop them by any means necessary.

Along with them for the ride are a host of fantastical (but always entirely credible) characters: bounty hunters, robots with TVs for heads, and Lying Cat, a huge feline that only speaks when it knows someone is lying.




The artwork by Staples is luxurious, visceral and beautiful. And Vaughan imbues all his characters with wit, reason and emotion, so that no matter how alien the setting, we still believe in them.


If you haven’t come across it before, you should absolutely check it out. First published at the beginning of 2012, it’s now well into its stride, and the latest volume (#6) collects together issues 31 to 36 of the comic.

Olivetti – Beyond form and function


We nipped over to the ICA at the end of last week to catch their exhibition, Olivetti – Beyond Form and Function, showcasing the spatial and graphic design of typewriter manufacturer Olivetti during the post-war era.




The show featured a mix of advertising posters, magazine adverts, and ephemera from Olivetti, courtesy of the Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti. Many were designed by Giovanni Pintori, who worked in-house with Olivetti for over 30 years, eventually becoming the company’s Art Director.

It was interesting to see how photographs of the typewriters were kept quite small, if shown at all, letting simple abstracted graphics to do most of the work instead.


(You might recognise the image above from some adverts for The Guardian by Weiden + Kennedy back in 2007. This post from Simon I’Anson about the similarity between those ads sent us off to this fantastic Flickr album of graphic design work done for Olivetti.)

The show also featured some actual typewriters, including the beautiful lightweight and portable Lettera 22. We have one in the studio, and love it:



Here’s what the text from that looks like once it’s typed out:


We were wondering who designed letters themselves. Courier, the standard typewriter typeface, wasn’t designed until 1955, and the Lettera 22 dates from 1949. We’re guessing that quite a few similar typefaces were around at the time – but were wondering where the first one came from (do get in touch if you know). As you can see from the sample above, the characters are monospaced, so they each take up the same amount of space, allowing the creation of tabular information to be done really simply. (Read more about typewriter typefaces over on this Typographica page.)

The first commercially successful typewriter was the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer, also known as the Remington No.1, which went on sale in 1874. It introduced the first QWERTY keyboard, which lingers on today, despite attempts to update it.

However the Remington was slightly limited because you couldn’t see what you were typing while you typed, and it only had uppercase letters.


Even on the lowercase and uppercase typewriters, some characters were still absent. If you look at the keyboard on our Lettera 22 above, you’ll see there’s no numeral 1, no exclamation mark, a dollar symbol but no cent symbol, and no maths symbols (addition, multiplication, division, equals).

Using a typewriter necessitated some clever tricks – here are just a few:


The dumb quotes we mention there are a massive bugbear of ours. They still linger on modern computer keyboards, when they were only created as a space saving device on typewriters. They should have disappeared years ago. (Read more about that on this old post about dumb quotes.)

If you’re looking for more Olivetti Lettera goodness, check out this Flickr album from Ed Cornish,  showcasing the machine’s instruction manual.


Lovely stuff.

Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today


Yesterday we popped over to the wonderful South London Gallery in Camberwell to check out the preview of their latest show: Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today.

The exhibition is the first from the gallery to be shown across two sites: their main building, and their new space just across the road, the former Peckham Road Fire Station.



The show brings together highlights from the Guggenheim’s collection of recently acquired Latin American art, including installation, painting, performance, photography, sculpture and video.

Here are just a few of those:

Over in the Fire Station, Jonathas de Adrade’s piece, Posters for the Museum of the Man of the Northeast (below) features 77 fake posters advertising the real Museum of the Northeastern Man in Recife, Brazil. Viewers are invited to move the posters around – effectively to rehang the room. Go on, unleash your internal curator.


Rivane Neuenschwander’s piece Mapa-Múndi/BR, below, invites viewers to select a postcard and send it to someone. Each of the postcards shows somewhere in Brazil that is named after somewhere not in Brazil: bars, churches and stores with names like Alaska, Baghdad, China and Las Vegas (a motel).


Back in the main gallery, Amalia Pica’s piece A ∩ B ∩ C features large primary coloured acrylic shapes stacked against the gallery walls, which are presented in a performance piece each week (Saturdays at 1pm).



The catalogue blurb for the piece says that the shapes: “refer to 1970s Argentina. During this period, set theory was forbidden from being taught in elementary classes, in response to a concern that it might ultimately prompt citizens to conspire against the military junta. In A ∩ B ∩ C, Pica invites performers to manipulate translucent colored shapes, producing new configurations that, emancipated from the historical anecdote, use abstraction and intersection as an invitation to reimagine forms of collaboration and community.”

So essentially these are rebellious Venn diagrams made real.

The show was previously on at the Guggenheim in NYC, and at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. It’s part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, which supports contemporary art and artists from three regions – South & Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East & North Africa — through acquisitions, curatorial residencies, exhibitions, and educational programmes.

The show alone is worth a visit, but there’s the extra incentive of getting to take a look at the gallery’s new site, the Grade II listed former Peckham Road Fire Station.

It’s just a few doors down from the main gallery, across the road next to the current fire station. Donated to the gallery by an anonymous benefactor, only the ground floor is currently open, and it’s only open for the duration of this show, before a full refit begins ahead of the re-opening in 2018. So it’s worth getting in there for a look while you can.


The show opens tomorrow, and runs until 4 September 2016.

Give a beep


Our creative director Alistair recently signed up to take part in London Cycling Campaign’s interesting Give a *beep* initiative.

LCC have teamed up with the Swedish company Hövding (who make the airbags for cyclists) to create the initiative.

The project uses flic buttons: wireless smart buttons which hook up to iOS or Android devices. You can assign up to three different actions to the button at any given time (using a single click, a double click, or by holding the button down) via the flic app available on the App store, or on Google Play. Those actions could be setting off an alarm on your phone so that you can find it when it’s lost, triggering the camera on your phone, or playing some music. Some of those actions are pre-designed by developers such as Spotify or Google, but you can set up your own too using IFTTT (If this, then that).

Here’s the button Alistair was sent:


For the Give a *beep* initiative, 500 of the flic buttons were given out free to cyclists in London (you can still buy your own from the flic shop though). Those cyclists were asked to assign the Give a *beep* action to their buttons via the app, and to then stick them on their bikes. Here’s Alistair’s in place:


The idea is that cyclists press the buttons, or *beep*, when ‘they’re cycling and feel at risk; whether from high traffic speeds or volume, or a poorly designed road layout.’

The locations of those beeps are then logged, slowly building up a map of the danger spots throughout London where cyclists regularly feel most at risk. Here’s how the map of the centre of town looks after the initiative has been running for just a couple of days:


You can also set the button to send an email to the mayor’s office, though Alistair didn’t do that, feeling just a tad hesitant about giving up control of his email account to an app.

It’s a great use of location based data, and the button is a dead smart way of allowing that data to be recorded really simply while on the move. We’ve been wondering if there might be further uses for the same tech / cycle combo – perhaps logging potholes in winter? Or perhaps in a positive way, recording places where cyclists feel particularly safe, where new cycling infrastructure has really helped?

Designology at the London Transport Museum


We nipped along to the London Transport Museum recently to catch their brand new show, Designology.

The exhibition is part of their London by Design Season, celebrating 150 years of design heritage. As part of this, they’ve already installed a new permanent gallery, London by Design, within the museum. This temporary show adds to that, displaying a selection of bits and bobs that illustrate how the design process works within various strands of London’s transport network.


It’s a slightly cramped show, and the display can feel a little home-made at times, but there are some real gems on display.

Our favourite was the set of archival material from when the London Underground’s iconic Johnston typeface was updated and turned into New Johnston by Eiichi Kono at Banks & Miles. (This provides the perfect complement to the Johnston exhibition currently on at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.)

It was partly some indecisive crotches that prompted the renovation. Here’s typographer Watler Tracy RDI (at the time, recently retired, but who had worked on some Johnston revisions in the mid ’70s) to explain:



At the top of this post you can see a page of Eiichi’s preparation for a presentation to London Transport in 1980. It shows the original range of Johnston typefaces. The note at the very top reads: ‘There are six variations but only medium and bold romans are available for LT’s general printed publicity.’ The faces are: Johnston Bold, Medium, Light, Bold Condensed, Medium Condensed and Medium Italic. Here are some of Eiichi’s illuminating notes:



Brilliant stuff.

Here’s how New Johnston is specified in the current Tfl Design Standards:



You can read more about the design of New Johnston in this fascinating piece by Eiichi for the Edward Johnston Foundation. And Eiichi will be giving a talk about New Johnston at the museum on Tuesday 7 June.

Also on show at the exhibition, you can see David Gentleman’s original wood blocks for his stunning murals on the Northern Line platforms at Charing Cross.


Here’s how the print from that block looks:


And a poster showing how the artwork appears on the platforms (the brown lines on the artwork represent benches):


And of course, there is a vast array of lovely signs, photographs and ephemera:




There’s also a fantastic short film showing how bus destination blinds are manufactured… but you’ll have to visit the show to see that!


Related posts:

London Transport Museum Acton Depot

Poster Art 150

Interrobang: an international showcase of letterpress print


The lovely people at St Jude’s Prints have just sent us the latest edition of their Random Spectacular journal, Interrobang, and it’s a corker.

It’s been published in collaboration with Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, which is our new favourite place in the whole world.

The Sussex village of Ditchling was the home of letter-cutter Eric Gill (he’s the chap who designed Gill Sans) and calligrapher Edward Johnston (responsible for the famous Johnston typeface used by London Underground). The museum has collected together works from them, and from the artists and craftspeople who gathered around them.

We took a wander down that way a month or so ago. It made for a fantastic day out, starting with a stroll along the South Downs.


Here’s a sign post set, of course, in Gill Sans.


And an old National Trust sign, set in Albertus.


On the way from the Downs to the museum, you pass the home where Edward Johnston used to work and live. (We believe the security light is a more recent addition.)


The museum’s identity was designed by Phil Baines. And boy it looks great on a sunny spring day. Loving that arrow.


The current main exhibition at the museum is a history of the development of the Johnston typeface, and that alone makes it worth a visit. Just look at this lower case qu ligature. And the alternate versions of the g!



And check out this lovely set of Ws:



If you do one thing this year, go to Ditchling. Twice.

Anyway, we digress.

As part of their brilliant Village of Type events which run throughout May, the museum has put together Interrobang – an international showcase of letterpress print. The exhibition is an open submission, with pieces selected by a panel of typographers and designers.

The journal, designed by Kenneth Gray, and put together by St Jude’s in tandem with the show, features a selection of fantastic articles about the current state of letterpress printing, as well as all the work from the show.

It opens with Phil Baines writing about Hilary Pepler, who set up the local St Dominic’s Press in 1919.


Then there’s an insightful article by David Marshall and Elizabeth Ellis of The Counter Press about the state of letterpress. They rightly point out that letterpress printing is having a moment, with myriad new small presses joining the old hands who’ve been doing it for years. But they worry about whether letterpress printing is being valued purely for its old-world values: ‘it seems that more often than not, people struggle to leave the nostalgia and vintage charm of the aesthetic in the past.’ They warn of the danger of ‘pastiche and unimaginative reproduction’.

Coming from anyone else, this might sound like they’re just stirring the pot. But they’re one of the most exciting design teams working with letterpress at the moment. They specialise in what they call ‘traditional techniques with modern design thinking’. Here’s the cover of their recent publication Extra Condensed.


It is beautiful. And we do care.

This theme continues in Patrick Baglee’s wonderful interview with Alan Kitching: ‘He is a designer that is surrounded by and works with letterpress type and letterpress technology. But it is the ideas and deeper meaning that step forward… This sense of expressiveness, of freedom and joy is still what marks Kitching’s work out from much of what passes for letterpress – where it is the means of production that people believe we ought to care about – rather than the final idea as evidence of artistry, craft and simple, clear thinking.’

Here’s Kitching’s recent print for Monotype commemorating Paul Rand:


Later on in the journal, there’s an article about Adams of Rye, the printshop where Anthony Burrill creates his posters, including this recent one for the museum:


Another piece looks at the collaboration between Tilley Printing and poet Nick Alexander, creating posters which are flyposted in the local Tinsmith’s Alley in Ledbury, Herefordshire.


The bulk of the journal though is a showcase of the prints from the show. Here are just a few of those:

From Nicole Arnett Phillips in Brisbane, an analogue bitmap Q: ‘My intention with this series is to explore the space between analogue and digital type design and lettering. Each print translates form between analogue and digital instances. The letterforms start as pencil outlines. I then use physical type – either the face or the feet – (face being right way up type side of the sort, and feet being upside down backside of the physical piece of type) to typeset an analogue bitmap inside the pencil outlines.’


From BunkerType in Barcelona, a print (#6) from their ongoing project, The New Call, based on the work of Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman:


Artist Ruth Kirkby shows one of ‘a series of prints to represent the Western-imposed state borders and the effects they have had on the Middle East. The text in the prints is taken from recent Al Jazeera articles about the areas affected by the enforced borders.’


From New North Press in London, comes a print from their ‘A23D’ 3D-printed letterpress font, designed by A2-Type, fusing old and new technologies.


One Strong Arm in Dublin submitted a print featuring a quote from Rudolf Koch, but we couldn’t find a picture of it, so here’s one of their other pieces, with a quote from Roddy Doyle.


Tom Pigeon, the studio of Pete and Kirsty Thomas, show one of their ‘Cinematype’ prints. ‘Cinematype is an original sans-serif, geometric typeface designed by us and inspired by the typography of early 20th Century film. We’ve worked with British printmaker Thomas Mayo to create these exclusive Cinematype letterpress numbers prints.’


The next print is from The Print Project in Shipley. We’re rather in love with their fantastic posters for the gig night Golden Cabinet, printed using metal type and overprinted laser cut abstract shapes:


We’re also quite taken by this print from The Wireless Press in Brighton. It’s based on Parisian graffiti from the 1968 uprising (the text translates as ‘Stop clapping – the show is everywhere’).


All in all, the journal is a wonderful record of a brilliant show, giving a really thorough sense of what is being produced by the best designers and artists working with letterpress print today.

The exhibition is on until 30 May. In the meantime, you can (and should) buy the Interrobang journal from St Jude’s.