• James-t-edmondson-hero2
Graphic Design

Our Student of the Month is California-based lettering wunderkind James T. Edmondson

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

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.”

  • James-t-edmondson-9

    James T. Edmondson: lettering

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.

  • James-t-edmondson-2

    James T. Edmondson: Lavanderia

  • James-t-edmondson-3

    James T. Edmondson: Lavanderia

  • James-t-edmondson-8

    James T. Edmondson: Duke

  • James-t-edmondson-4

    James T. Edmondson: Duke

  • James-t-edmondson-5

    James T. Edmondson: Duke

  • James-t-edmondson-6

    James T. Edmondson: lettering

  • James-t-edmondson-7

    James T. Edmondson: lettering

If you’d like to be May’s Student of the Month, then check here for all details on how to submit.

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    It’s the overriding rule of all things trend-driven that as soon as we take a big leap forward in technology we start to look back nostalgically, triggering all manner of retro imagery, touches and techniques. At least it seems that way, and I’m sure I’m not alone in how often I’m drawn to graphic design which places hand-drawn type and recycled imagery alongside high-tech touches.

  2. List

    At its core, dance is about innovation, beauty and movement – ideas executed brilliantly in this identity for a European contemporary dance festival by Verena Hennig and Ludwig Janoff. The clever designs take a very hand-crafted, even scrawled look, aiming to play on the idea that “the classic ballet thrives on the idea of perfection,” according to Verena.

  3. List

    Parisian studio Playground’s website really does reflect its name – a joyful metaphorical ball-pond of colour and fun. The studio works on graphic design, illustration, branding and motion graphics projects; uniting all their work through a fantastic eye for colour and line to retina-grabbing effect. As something of a huge Of Montreal fan, I was particularly drawn in by their work for the band’s 2012 release Daughter of Cloud, which offers a lush, psychedelic alternative to their usual illustration-led artwork.

  4. List

    Wilfred van der Weide was once part of Dutch design duo wilfredtimo, whose work we’ve been admirers of since we came across these superheroic graphics in 2012. After several years in each other’s pockets they’ve gone their separate ways, but unlike most break-ups, some of the results have been beautiful.

  5. List

    Dutch designer Roosje Klap recently set up an international initiative known as The Design Displacement Group with the intention of approaching modern design in new and unusual ways. Their intention is to “form a group together which creates work as seen from the future. Yes! We time-travel 20 years and look back on today, to understand the discourse of graphic design as it is happening today – with different eyes and speculative future categories.

  6. List

    Belgian designer Corbin Mahieu learned his craft at the prestigious Sint Lucas School of Arts in Ghent, following in the footsteps of a legion of other respected Belgian designers and illustrators. His work is academic in style; specifically focussed on arts projects for the local creative community in Ghent. Although he’s recently completed an internship in London at Zak Group, presumably developing into further spheres of design in the process. Pictured is a beautifully realised catalogue for his alma mater, exploring the facilities and faculty in detail.We’d say he’s definitely one to watch, and hopefully he’s sticking around in London a little longer.

  7. Furnlist

    Berlin-based consultancy D describes itself as a “two-headed quadruped that focuses on graphic design and illustration” that “was born, speaks, thinks, and of course eats Italian.” It’s this heritage and appetite that explains the beautiful identity work the studio has created for Italian furniture design factory Edizione Limitata. We don’t often get excited about catalogues, but this one really is lovely, showing well-shot images of the furniture alongside more playful, painterly illustrations with brushstrokes and doodle-like patterns acting as a lovely contract to the slick imagery of the pieces on sale. It’s great to see the usually rather serious world of furniture given a less stony-faced identity, though the careful use of colour and typography as shown on business cards, stationery and technical sheets still shows Edizione Limitata as very much the high-end Italian operation.

  8. List

    There’s nothing heavy-handed about Seoul-based design studio fnt’s work. It’s like the graphic design equivalent of that little dish of mint-flavoured ice cream you get handed between courses at fancy restaurants to refresh your palette; something about their refined use of thin lines in muted colours on a white background feels newly delicate, when you’ve spent several hours being accosted by great slabs of colour and text that feel like a knock to the head. Maybe it has something to do with the Korean script, introducing a whole new realm of possibilities to the ways they treat typography, or the studio’s willingness to dabble in patterns and geometric shapes in a simple and understated way to jazz up otherwise clean layouts.

  9. List

    Furniture, typefaces, identities and posters, websites, limited edition fashion lines, music packaging and abstract works all exist within the broad practice of Berlin-based designer Till Wiedeck. Under the moniker of HelloMe, he’s been a constant creative force on the contemporary graphic design scene for the past six years, accumulating big-name clients like The New York Times, COS and Warp Records among others. This recent work for German/French art fund Perspektive, is characteristic of Till’s holistic approach to his process, with print collateral, web and all other elements of the identity created by the studio, all united by a bespoke typeface.

  10. List

    It’s all well and good writing about slick, big-client, big-agency graphic design. But once in a while it’s bloody lovely to cast our eyes over a graphic design project that takes itself not-so-seriously. One photographed using Polaroid, and sent to us as if broadcast directly from amidst a 90s Kevin Smith film. The projection questions is the visual identity for Baohaus – a restaurant that takes its name as a smart little play on, er, bauhaus and Bao – the form of Taiwanese food the restaurant specialises in.

  11. List

    Some people may be already winding down for Christmas but not so Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton, aka Sawdust. They’ve just updated their site with so much new work that we were genuinely spoiled for choice when it came to selecting what to focus on. Great typographic illustrations for_Men’s Health_,_ Wired and The New Republic didn’t make the cut on this occasion; instead we decided to showcase two very different, but equally excellent, print projects.

  12. Listhkagw-1

    It can’t be easy working on a brief set by a client that’s both an art event organised by a non-profit and a big banking firm. How best to balance a slick, serious look with one that shows creative awareness? For The Partners’ branding for the new Bank of China-sponsored Hong Kong Art Gallery Week event, the consultancy cleverly chose to look to a sense of place to inspire its look, which is informed by the area’s hilly topography. The event bring together more than 50 local galleries and museums, who spend ten days opening their spaces up for all, aiming to promote the work of local artists and contemporary Chinese Hong Kong art to the world.

  13. List

    There’s something deliciously tactile about Anne Jordan’s book cover designs. Much of her work unites a very materials-driven approach with clever typography, resulting in work that makes a two-dimensional image feel extraordinarily physical. The designer is based in Rochester, New York, and is also one-half of the duo behind the Walking blog, a rather sweet project in which she and her husband take half an hour a day to make something creative and post it online. However, we wanted to focus on her designs for books; and especially hone in on the way she takes an often oblique title and creates a design that plays off it, frequenly in smart, unexcited ways. Her look for The Woman Who Read Too Much, for instance, plays with cliched images of femininity like hair and curves to render the title less legible; and the look for Kevin McLauhlin’s Poetic Force uses feint lettering and thin-to-breaking-point paper as a backdrop. The choices seem obvious as we write them down but her work is anything but, creating covers that delight and make you think in equal measure.