We sat down with Caz Hildebrand and Kara Johnson, our partners at Ink Works, on how they developed The Eric Gill Series product line by turning letterforms into physical products.
Caz Hildebrand – Ink Works, Creative Partner
We worked with Monotype to create new products, which celebrate the launch of The Eric Gill Series typefaces. We’ve created a number of products inspired by the fabulous letterform designs.
So, when did you first encounter Gill’s typefaces?
CH: I first encountered Gill’s typefaces probably when I was a foundation student, in a sense, that someone actually explained what it was. I’m sure that I’d actually encountered them long before, looking at signage and things around me, so it had a familiarity, even though I didn’t know what I was looking at.
When you were asked to make the Eric Gill Series products for Monotype, did you have a blank slate?
In a sense, yes, we had a blank slate. We could suggest anything that we felt might be appropriate. Actually our brief to ourselves is not an Eric Gill quote, but a William Morris quote, which is ‘You should never have anything in your house that you do not believe to be useful and to be beautiful.’ We decide that everything we make should try to be useful and beautiful, so that was our brief to ourselves.
You should never have anything in your house that you do not believe to be useful and to be beautiful.
What was the first item you made using the Gill typeface?
Before we worked on this project, we had been making our own enamel signs celebrating Great British typefaces for our own pleasure, I suppose. So, we were in our enamel sign zone. It seemed only natural to do more from The Eric Gill Series.
How did you decide on the cushion?
We were interested in the idea of creating something that might dawn slowly on the recipient or whoever was lucky enough to get one. Obviously one of the things about cushions is the idea of snoozing and sleeping, so the idea of having many Zs seemed only natural.
Do you have a special favourite or one item that was particularly exciting or challenging to create?
I think my special favourite, and one should never have favourites amongst all of one’s designs, but it might be the enamel signs just because it feels to us like an almost forgotten technique and something that should be supported and continued. It is such a wonderful medium and so perfect for type, so I think — if I had to choose — that’s probably my number one choice.
We want to get people to reappraise letterforms by presenting them in a slightly unexpected form and in abstract ways.
Do you think there’s a new kind of taste or appreciation for letterforms?
One of the ideas in the work that we’ve been doing with Monotype is to get people to reappraise letterforms by presenting them in a slightly unexpected form or in an abstract way. One of the things that helps, I think, interest people in typefaces is looking at them out of the context of words and looking at them as just shapes. I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to take things out of context, and it’s not just a message, it’s a beautiful thing in its own right.
Kara Johnson – Ink Works, Producer
So, Kara, how do you go about turning flat design, like a letterform shape, into physical products?
KJ: We usually start by looking at the types of material that we want to work with. We try and think about the materials almost as much as the design, so that they work in parallel. For example, the Z with the cushion. The letterform pattern works quite well wrapping round the cushion.
Is there a period of research that goes into developing a product line for letterforms?
The period of research to find the right makers is quite a long one. Ink Works is really lucky because we’ve been working with the same makers for a long time. So we know that if we ever want to make anything in wood, I can go to my lovely man down in Cornwall who makes everything out of wood for me. Same with enamel signs — we find the people that do all the London Underground signs, as we know that they’ve got years of experience working in that field. They can apply their expertise and we can apply our designs and it all manages to end up looking quite nice.
Do you have a special favourite in the Eric Gill Series product line?
One of my favourites are the wooden coasters, the set of four. We try, in everything we do, to work with British makers and materials. For example, [the coasters] are made of sycamore wood. It was a brilliant wood to work with.