It’s safe to say James T Edmondson has a skill but more than that is a positive attitude towards his practice that really shows in the making. Lettering and type – hand-drawn and digitally rendered, research and contextual statements, multiple weights and infinite applications – are his artistic bent, the results of which are not what you would immediately marry up to his undergraduate status. But that he is, a senior studying graphic design at the California College of Arts in San Francisco and our Student of the Month.
Beneath the very accomplished bits of type is the great way James talks about each one as if it has a character. His most recent and ambitious work, the laundromat inspired Lavanderia, comes with the label-like advice: “You can dress it up, dress it down, take it to a black-tie affair, or your cousin’s quinceañera.” Where as Wisdom Script is designed to “look like it’s telling the truth.”
This wholesale notion that type is worth more than what the words literally mean imbues James’ work with a real personality, vim and conscience about its application. When asked how he felt about adding to the lettered landscape, the response was gratifyingly enthusiastic for type in general: "Even if it’s a subconscious thing, a hand-lettered sign is the ultimate way of saying “I give a shit about you, my business, and this neighborhood. Spend money here please. Signs are huge design opportunities, and one of the best things about living in a city. To me.”
At the time of making/creating these projects, who or what was your biggest influence?
There are many people and influences who have a role in shaping my thoughts on type in the time leading up to each project, but when I’m actually drawing, I’m just trying to stay faithful to the original idea behind the typeface. Like with Wisdom, I just kept thinking “honesty.” With Lavanderia I was thinking of a combination of “fancy” and “humble.”
Also, I’d be a fool not to mention Underware, House Industries, and Sudtipos. For the script-loving type designer, those guys are the best in the biz, and everybody knows it. I feel really lucky to have designers like that to look up to.
What is the most valuable thing you have learnt at university to date?
There are a couple things that are extremely valuable. One is to jump right in to whatever you want to do. People that talk about projects and never take action drive me nuts. I am guilty of this, but what I love about school is deadlines. I can’t get anything done without a deadline. School forces you to figure things out and take action quickly, because you don’t want to let your teachers, fellow students, or yourself down.
Another thing I think about is how there is no such thing as talent, just work. Talent is the desire to practice. I’m not sure if this is really true, but I don’t care because it’s inspiring. It’s great to feel like you’re just as capable as anyone else. The skills I have came about because I enjoy practicing them. There are of course Mozarts and Shakespeares, or people with god-given talent, but I call those types “assholes” and keep practicing.
Along those same lines, school has taught me how to pick fun projects — basically things I would be inclined to do extracurricularly. I struggled through my first few semesters in graphic design because I was setting myself up with projects that weren’t fun, and I wasn’t making them fun. Then I had this revelation and discovered that concepts exist purely as a vehicle to justify doing what you want. That was huge, and was key to me having a great time in school.
“There are of course Mozarts and Shakespeares, or people with god-given talent, but I call those types “assholes” and keep practicing."
James T. Edmondson
What would you be doing now if you weren’t at art school?
Jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Just kidding. I would have probably graduated from my first college, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in graphic communication (printing). I’d be working in pre-press, selling paper, testing inks, or something along those lines. I had it in my head that even though I wanted to be a graphic designer, I couldn’t really draw, so I wasn’t good enough for art school. That turned out to be total bullshit! Nobody here can draw! I’m just kidding again.
Where are you making/creating most of your work?
In my bedroom. It gets lonely sometimes. Luckily I have Ira Glass and Twitter.
What are you working on at the moment?
School is wrapped up for the semester, so now I just have a few lettering projects, and about a dozen incomplete typefaces in need of serious TLC. And I’m not talkin’ T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chile.