• 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

    There’s something about the painstaking perfectionism of type design that doesn’t scream fun and frolics, but Commercial Type’s new webfont showcase is ready to prove me wrong. The New York and London based type studio run by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes is widely-regarded as one of the best around, but the pair have struggled sometimes to communicate the personality of their fonts. Enter the Commercial Type Showcase which they built with Wael Morcos to show off the lighter side of 16 of their creations by way of 16 microsites, ranging from poetry and poster generators to a train schedule board and even a digital therapist.

  2. List

    Lotta Nieminen is one of those graphic designers who is able to creating a lasting impression with her work in spite of it often being incredibly subtle in its approach. In my opinion this goes above and beyond her colour palettes, though they often combine pastel shades with serene muted tones; rather her projects seem to be finished with a kind of nuanced subtlety that resonates long after you first see it.

  3. Main2

    Not much makes us as happy as a brilliant studio churning out spectacular work, but to find out each member is a fantastic designer in their own right is even better. Diogo Potes just got in touch to show us some of his personal work away from his day-to-day collaborative venture, Portuguese design studio Alva Alva. Diogo’s solo work boasts all of the vibrancy, sense of humour and love of hand-drawn elements that Alva Alva has, but also contains a good dollop of personal style. For me, I think his work is strongest when he incorporates photography into his designs – something about choosing off-the-wall shots and enveloping them in rich colours and bold typography is very, very pleasing. Nice work Diogo, keep it up!

  4. List

    Like their counterparts over at Unit Editions, the Viction:ary team has an unerring eye for putting together graphic design books that are a cut above the competition. This stems from their ability to select a theme that is relevant and interesting and (crucially) identify the right creatives to showcase in exploring that subject.

  5. Wadelist

    When showing off a new typeface, most designers opt for the go-to panagram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” On one of the promotional posters for his new font Hardy, Wade Jeffree has plumped for “It’s too easy being a c**t.” In other words, this is a typeface with attitude.

  6. List

    20 years ago in 1994, little known designer Eike König set up his “graphic design playground” Hort, creating a community in the centre of Berlin where creatives could collaborate on ideas and client briefs side by side. Nowadays, the playground is slightly bigger, undertaking work for Nike, The New York Times and Walt Disney among others, but the underlying emphasis on collaboration and experimentation remains exactly the same.

  7. Main

    Political, powerful and poignant (although not always all at the same time), Abram Games’ work earned him a place as one of the 20th Century’s most iconic and influential graphic designers. Notoriously, one of his posters was banned by Churchill in post-war Britain and, although he crafted advertising for the Times, Transport for London and Guinness, his most impactful work was created for noble causes. During the Second World War he designed hundreds of recruitment posters and images discouraging waste, with slogans like “Use Spades, Not Ships” and bold dynamic graphics.

  8. Andrealist

    Sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest to pull off, but that is precisely what Andrea Evangelista’s graphic design achieves with quiet aplomb. I imagine most young creatives would quail at the notion of designing a book titled Trafficking Survivor Care Standards, but Andrea’s work is confident and careful, lending the text the clarity it demands. He lets the content sit in plenty of white space inside its buttercup cover, resisting the temptation to chuck in a bunch of pretty images.

  9. List

    As newspapers change, so the meaning, placement and purpose of their mastheads change too. This archive of Indian newspaper nameplates is therefore a celebration of the beauty and communicative skill that goes into them, and a snapshot of the contemporary news media in the sub-continent – see how the odd editorial email address crops up alongside some pretty historic type treatments. The collection has been compiled by Pooja Saxena, a Bangalore-based type designer who previously worked in Apple’s font team and studied at Reading University’s world-leading Type Design and Graphic Communication school.

  10. List

    Here at It’s Nice That we’re very aware of how often we cover certain creatives on the site, and we constantly make time to search out talented practitioners we don’t know as well as feting the latest work of those we do.

  11. List

    Every year during graduate season we sift our way through an enormous number of grad show identities. It’s arguably one of the trickiest briefs for a young student; creating a comprehensive identity for a showcase of upwards of 100 creatives’ work – all of them with different styles and concerns. Some of what we see is excellent, but many seem to struggle under the pressure of pleasing their peers.

  12. List

    Creating a visual identity to capture an aural experience seems like a near impossible task, let alone when the music is as lustrous and strange as Amy Kohn’s, but Non-Format have succeeded gracefully with their work for her new album PlexiLusso. The USA and Oslo-based team manipulated original photography by Merri Cyr to recreate the ethereal quality of her music, conjuring up a glass-like aesthetic with a hint of abstract surrealism in the form of floating boulders and rippling waves. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is all conceptual nonsense though; they’ve also made an original typeface to mimic the sonorous melodies, using disconnected arcs which resemble the notation of quavers and clefs laid out on the stave, as in sheet music. It’s an oddly alluring combination which creates an impression of Amy’s music before you’ve even pressed play.

  13. List

    Some cracking work here from our friends at Studio Makgill with this beautiful Specials Applied book for our other pals at G . F Smith. The paper company has an unerring knack of working with some of the best design studios around – whether that’s Hamish and his team or the ongoing partnership with Made Thought – and the quality of their promotional material is testament to the importance of creative, collaborative working relationships. This book showcases G . F Smith’s more unusual stocks and through a clever use of cut-outs we’re taken on a journey through a selection of interesting samples.