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Curly Things

Logotype for Mr. Tabby’s Spice Shop (“tekir” is “tabby” in Turkish)

Handwritten fonts, script fonts, gothic letters, art deco, art nouveau, faux-oriental fonts, retro stuff, scrolls, ornaments, patterns – these are all challenging visual elements for graphic designers. Not only are they very tricky to get to work as part of a layout (alignment issues and so on), they also have to always be used within an appropriate context. In fact, they are so tricky that I advise my novice students to stay away from them at all cost until they become more experienced as designers. Otherwise, these things (no matter how attractive they may appear to be by themselves) can end up becoming visual mine fields when placed in proximity to the other stuff that will also be on your page. I have always liked script fonts, although in my career I have had very little occasion to use them. When it comes to handwritten fonts, until recently, I was not a fan at all. But over the past few years font designers have started to create some very elegant handwritten fonts that almost manage to conquer the intrinsic flaw of this category of fonts, which is that although they emulate handwriting they fail to do so, since unlike real handwriting the glyphs of a font are identical. In other words, every time you hit a particular letter on a keyboard you get the identical shape. Whereas when it comes to real handwriting every single letterform that your hand produces is unique. Some of the recent handwritten fonts try to overcome this through varied ligatures. With very limited success so far – it is a truly complex problem to solve. But that said, many of them are really beautiful nevertheless.

However, as I said earlier, these things really do need an appropriate context to operate in. You can’t just use them anywhere, with any subject matter. They are highly specific in their usage: They are whimsical, cute, warm, personal, cuddly. They remind us of things like edibles, love letters, chocolates and candies. Our grannies. Things like that. Above all they are intimate.

So, in order to be able to use them I needed to invent a new form of play:

I am pretending that my cats, past and present, are either my clients or they are doing the design work themselves. And they include cats that are no longer alive. Who, I imagine are now running businesses in cat heaven. Very non-catlike businesses too – chocolatiers, spice merchants and so on. Like, I have one deceased soul who now owns a millinery shop. And since she had always manifested regal aspirations in this life, she has insisted that I design her a heraldic logotype made out of sewing materials.

And then there are those that are still alive, such as the big fat cat Mestan who insists on writing experimental haikus with an online poetry generator which he then writes down with faux- Japanese typography.

It doesn’t take me that long to make one of these, so whenever I have an idea for one, or I come across something that gives me an idea (like a mockup or a font or a clipart or a photograph), I go over to photoshop and make it. Then I add it to a set on tumblr, where I think more of them will make an appearance for a quite a while to come:


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