Charming Handmade Lettering and Type by Mark van Leeuwen

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I’ll admit I write about hand-lettered type often, it is a love of mine, but it’s also been continually trendy over the last few years. It’s a beautiful, difficult craft that I continue to be delighted by as I scroll through my various feeds. In particular Marco van Luijin, better known as Mark van Leeuwen, has one of the most consistent styles I’ve come across, possessing some great ability to produce familiarity over and over again. He also has a great eye for spacing and flow that can be difficult to achieve by hand.

Van Leeuwen, a Dutch freelance designer out of Northern Italy, specializes in typography, lettering and branding design, and he’s only sixteen-years-old! While he does some client work with logos, most of van Leeuwen’s work is made for fun and personal practice when he isn’t in school. He’s been teaching himself the craft by examining Instagram accounts of other letterers’ and incorporating techniques the techniques he notices. Before long, his style emerged. I especially notice his consistency when he uses sans serifs for supporting words.

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“I naturally began to develop a style that is slightly different than others’, but it is not a very intentional process,” van Leeuwen said. “Each time I work on something I want to experiment with new styles and techniques, but at the same time I do not want to make my work too much different from my previous creations. Like this I try to keep my style as consistent as possible, but interesting at the same time.”

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A lot of van Leeuwen’s early work involved layering type over photographs, as tends to be a common practice on Instagram, but he has since ceased to do that, instead trying to make type-work that could stand on it’s own. And he’s been quite successful. Van Leeuwen’s very good at getting his type to contain itself in very pleasing, inferred shapes, occasionally using some small illustrations to bring the whole piece together.

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Van Leeuwen recently released the typeface Timber, a thick, hand-lettered slab serif with a very outdoorsy feel that will be perfect for autumn. As van Leeuwen’s first typeface, he really want to create something versatile but that paid homage to his own vintage, handmade style. He intends to make more in the future.

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October 10, 2014 / By

Barnes & Webb Employ a Creative Solution to Help the Honeybees

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You may have noticed that bees have been popping up here and there and the Fox is Black recently. Why? Quite simply: they’re important, not only to our own well-being but for that of the greater Earth too. Unfortunately in recent years their numbers have been dropping and their environments disrupted. Barnes & Webb of London have come up with a wholly creative solution that attempts to mitigate the issue. Their service offers bees right in your backyard and all the delicious honey that comes with doing so. What grabbed my attention was their detail to design, branding, and the arts, as they cleverly combine the three in order to uplift their service and aid the honeybee’s plight.

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Apes curamus et nos curant (we look after honey bees and they look after us); the tiny insects are integral to the environment but also economies. In the past 60 years, the number of honeybee colonies has fallen drastically from six million to two-and-a-half million present. According to the US Department of agriculture, one mouth in three benefits from honeybee pollination. That’s huge. How huge? As of June, President Obama launched a task force tasked with protecting the bees, investing $50m into research and action to combat the decline.

Environmental responsibility is becoming a popular public affair and more light is being shed on the honeybee issue. It’s businesses like Barnes & Webb that demonstrate, quite optimistically, how we can tackle these topics with a flair of creativity.

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Barnes & Webb install and manage beehives across London, providing raw, local honey and all the pleasures of urban beekeeping without any of the hassle. The concept is more or less as a result of a key insight: you don’t have to have 100 acres to help the honeybee. Every lawn, every yard, and even rooftops can pitch in. When it comes to honeybees, the smallest change can affect the global food supply—so customers can rest assured knowing they’re making a valuable contribution.

The creative approach trickles down into the product itself too. The package design is smart, clean, and minimal, which makes a traditional product feel modern and makes honey and the honeybee stand out on your shelves or kitchen cupboards. Engaging and proactive.

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Aside from the packaging, Barnes & Webb work with local talent to further help their brand stand out and place the honeybee on a pedestal. They’ve collaborated with designer Anthony Burrill to produce a one off print and identity, which the brand uses extensively, from posters to advertising. They’ve also seen commercial work be produced on behalf of Olivia Whitworth, an English architect turned illustrator, who adds charm and personality to the company’s image.

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The fun doesn’t stop at their packaging or advertising—just last week over 30 artists and illustrators created unique artworks that went on display and were auctioned off to fund the company’s not-for-profit campaign activities. Of the talent featured was Burrill, Edward Monaghan, Jean Julilen, Essy May, Adrian Johnson, Robert Hunter, Jody Barton, Stevie Gee, and more.

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Connecting bee lovers and keepers, artists, designers, environmentalists, and the wider public, Barnes & Webb use these events to ultimately raise awareness on the issues faced by the honeybee and other important pollinators. They believe in “combining the creativity, knowledge and passion of individuals and organizations to create initiatives that benefit the bees and our environment. A powerful network for positive change.”

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While it’s often easy to get cynical when it comes to environmental affairs, Barnes & Webb’s approach is refreshingly optimistic. Their service demonstrates that the issue can be aided with creativity and design.

Whether we like it or not we have a duty towards the planet, as recent years have seen us leave a negative impact. What many forget is that we therefore have the power to incur the inverse and work towards responsibly inhabiting what we’ve come to know as home. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, right? I believe Barnes & Webb are on the forefront of this positive change, their approach will serve to hopefully inspire others.

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The aforementioned collaboration and event was the first of many that the Barnes & Webb has planned. Follow the brand’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates on forthcoming events.

September 24, 2014 / By

Burberry Prorsum’s Script Typeface Energizes Their Men’s SS15 Collection

Burberry's Script Typeface Livens Up Their SS15 Collection

When you think of high-end fashion does typeography spring to mind? Patterns and monograms are de rigueur in fashion branding yet type is rarely used to augment a brands presence and reenforce it’s identity. Brian Alexander at SLAMXHYPE recently did a nice job of distilling down the typographic use of fashion brands but how often do you see these typefaces gracing a garment? This is where Burberry has taken a new tack, introducing a beautiful new script which graces their Spring/Summer 2015 menswear collection.

Burberry's Script Typeface Livens Up Their SS15 Collection

Emblazoned with script in all forms they’ve made jackets and bags, scarves and portfolios. The Daily Mail states “the collection, entitled ‘Book Covers & Bruce Chatwin’ featured original illustrations and typographic prints that take their creative lead from vintage English book covers,” while the Telegraph specifically states that it was a “weathered Bruce Chatwin first edition” which provided the inspiration. Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative and CEO, is well known as a book lover, so the stories certainly fit.

For me the collection feels like a bold experiment which uses this lovely script as a visual element, but also as a brand element. The exaggerated scale of the type abstracts it just enough. It piques your interest just slightly but doesn’t detract from the garments and accessories. I’m curious to see if other brands pick up on this trend in their next collections or if this is simply a summer fling with typography. Even so, I applaud Mr. Bailey for bringing a bit of the graphic design world into his fashion design world.

Burberry's Script Typeface Livens Up Their SS15 Collection

Burberry's Script Typeface Livens Up Their SS15 Collection

July 8, 2014 / By

Dave Foster’s Intricate Hand-lettered Tweets

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Handlettering tends to be the skill I see designers practicing most outside of client work — taking on personal projects to better hone their abilities and style. Sydney-based letter and typographer Dave Foster  came up with a clever, engaging way to do so while also promoting his name. Using the clever #MayDave, Foster’s been handlettering his tweets for the entire month of May.

“Tweets are engaging, I thought it was a good way to advertise and grow my following while showing what I do,” Foster said on why he chose Twitter. “The length was capped too, which I felt would limit the difficulty somewhat.”

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May 20, 2014 / By

Portfolio Update: Emory Allen

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Illustrator, typographer, and all around talented guy Emory Allen updated his portfolio recently with some new work. On showcase is a slew of expressive illustrations which most of the time have some sort of type intermingled. The piece above is basically my Friday spirit animal. Be sure to also check out his Downloads section where he has some sweet backgrounds for your phone, tablet, and desktop.

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Emory Allen

April 18, 2014 / By

‘Gastrotypographicalassemblage’ Finds A New Home at The Culinary Institute of America

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Gastrotypographicalassemblage is a a massive 35 feet long by 8.5 feet high installation which combines two of my favorite things, typography and food. Created by Lou Dorfsman in 1966 (along with the help of designer Herb Lubalin) to grace the walls of the CBS building in Manhattan, the piece featured over 1,650 individual letters spelling out culinary terminology and expressions, as well as 65 food-related objects. Unfortunately the art was removed when the building was sold in 1989 though thankfully it was saved by designer Nick Fasciano and Dorfsman himself from remaining in the dumpster.

For the past 25 years though the work has been kept in storage, looking for a new place to reside. Thankfully The Culinary Institute of America has found it a home in it’s Hudson Valley campus. The video below tells he story of Gastrotypographicalassemblage and it’s recreation at the CIA. It’s great to see that such a wonderful piece like this didn’t get lost in the shuffle of time.

April 14, 2014 / By

Comic Neue – A Designer’s Attempt At “Bettering” Comic Sans

Comic Neue - A Designer’s Attempt At "Bettering" Comic Sans

I never expected to seriously be writing about Comic Sans. The occasional reference for humor is a low hanging fruit to any typography writer but here we go. In all seriousness, let’s talk about the world’s most hated typeface because designer Craig Rozynski challenged himself to redesign it.

First, let’s look at the history of Comic Sans via Just My Type by Simon Garfield, because I believe that the world is too harsh on Vincent Connare. You might say he’s the person you curse under your breath when you see that passive aggressive note about cleaning the microwave at the office — but really he’s only partially to blame.

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April 14, 2014 / By

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