Design Magpie Halloween Will o' the Wisp

All Hallows Eve

Design Magpie Halloween Will o' the Wisp

All Hallows Eve

Oct 31, 2018

Design draws inspiration from various places. It is always better if we are fully informed, be it tangental or direct. When starting some projects you don’t know where they will end up. Solving a brief in a creative way will always lead us on various paths before a final convergence or elimination providing the solution.

Looking at Halloween has been a fascinating tangent. Halloween is not something that we in Australia have as a cultural ‘thing’. Despite importing various cultural practices from Great Britain, this is not one. We see a lot more halloween influences as the cultural import from America increases.

The jack-o-lantern which has become synonymous with halloween, was originally known as a will o’ the wisp in the UK. The tale of these ghostly lights has been told around the world. Observed in Canada, America, India, Thailand, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia all with varying degrees of sinister lore to accompany them.

A will ‘o the wisp is a glowing light seen over marshy swamp land. Often believed to lure travellers to demise, through malevolence or mischief. In Australia we have in the outback the phenomenon of the Min Min light. A glowing orb that appears to follow travellers, always out of reach.

It has been fascinating to see how linked and similar around the world stories and lore can be. No one really knows what exactly causes will o’ the wisp’s, making them intriguing and just a little bit spooky – happy halloween!


Design Magpie - The origin of the serif

The origin of the serif

Design Magpie - The origin of the serif

The origin of the serif

October 25, 2018

All travellers to Rome experience the convergence of history; iconic monuments, fascinating architecture, cobbled streets. A maze of narrow roads and lanes to wander, struck by the placement of fragments, fountains, pillars and parks. Not to mention traffic, tourists and tiramisu.

For a graphic designer, the first glimpse of Trajan’s Column is peering into the evolution of serif typefaces. The serif origin begins in Roman antiquity, then moves to the Renaissance when interest in the classical world combines with the advent of the printing press. In particular, the font Trajan takes its direct inspiration from the ancient hand-carved inscription at base of the column. Designed by Carol Twombly for Adobe in 1989, most will know Trajan as a font used on movie posters and book covers.

Walking the Roman Forum is to see up-close carving remnants lying on the ground. In the four arches one cannot but admire the skill of people long-past; the elegance of the letter forms surviving through time. Of course, beyond the artistry, the inscriptions provide direct evidence for events and people of the Ancient World.

For a designer, apart from the historical chronicle, the typography has a beauty all of its own. There is a tangible sense to our collective professional past. Long before desktop publishing, offset presses, hot metal type, illuminated manuscripts and Gutenberg; masons elegantly carved roman letters into slabs of stone. Throughout the former Roman Empire, there are hundreds of museums and sites to view artfully carved inscriptions. Two particular favourites of mine are: Lugdunum Museum, Lyon and Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Colonge.

Above: Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Colonge, Germany.

Above: Musée archéologique – Eglise Saint-Pierre, Vienne, France.

For those wishing to explore further, The Origin of Serif, 1968 by Edward Catich is recommended reading. Whether we can truly say at this point in time serifs originate from brush strokes or if they were used to neaten the chisel end, is perhaps, to miss the point of the underlying typographic elegance.

The serif is one of many fonts used in Ancient Rome. Technically, these are known as: Republican and Imperial capitals, rustic capitals, square capitals (Imperial Roman capitals written with a brush), uncials, and half-uncials, and a cursive script. The Vindolanda Tablets feature mesmerising examples this handwriting.


Design Magpie - typographic progression

Typographic progression

Design Magpie - typographic progression

Typographic progression

April 1, 2020

The beauty of fine typography enthralls me because the process of design belies its everyday utility and transcends the technology used to realise it.

1990. University. First year graphic design. Lecturer with years of publishing experience earnestly mentions to bright-eyed young designers, “by the time you have been in industry five years, you will have four favourite typefaces* and use them constantly”. Have yet to pick these four, in fact, quite the opposite. With ever-increasing plethora of options available, type design cycles through fashion to the same degree as colour. Locating the perfect face to give the right look to a project is a much-enjoyed aspect of graphic design.

The history of typography is entwined with the development of written language, starting out as symbols on the cave wall. The evolution of letter forms through all phases is a theme we will explore in brief here, covering topics such as: the exquisite detail of Ancient Roman inscriptions, illuminated manuscripts, hot metal type and the earthquake unleashed by desktop publishing and its influence on modern fonts.

Kerning a font is a process of continuing refinement and nuance. Our Design Magpie Instagram feed will feature typographic experiments, along with colour, texture, imagery and seasonal themes. Where this adventure leads, we will keep you posted…

*For an explanation on the difference between a typeface and font see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typeface