• 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. Quimmarin-posters-int-list

    Barcelona-based designer and art director Quim Marin has a strong visual sensibility and a prolific work-rate if scrolling through his site is anything to go by. There’s a load of impressive poster and other print design on there, with particularly effective use of some trendy tropes which can often feel stale in less talented hands. “In such a visually polluted environment I try to come up with fresh and memorable designs with a clear aim at essential beauty and equilibrium that, at the same time, will ensure communicative effectiveness,“ Quim says by way of a mission statement, and it’s hard to sum up his work better than that.

  2. Chevalvert-int-list-2

    You wade into Chevalvert’s portfolio rubbing your hands across your eyes, unsure of what you’ve stumbled across. The Paris-based studio was founded in 2007 by Patrick Paleta and Stéphane Buellet and describes itself as being based on an “open, multidisciplinary approach,” which might go some way to explaining why it feels like a cave laden with treasures. So many treasures.

  3. Fantastic-man-list

    Fantastic Man magazine has been redesigned, as shown in its teaser image of its tenth anniversary issue. The magazine’s new issue cover star JW Anderson has shown the new cover on Instagram, which reveals a new design seeing the masthead run vertically and horizontally, instead of its previous preluder horizontal configuration. The cover image also runs to both sides, moving away from its previous white-edged format. We’re excited to see what changes might have been made to the inside of the mag…

  4. Dwp-bikestock-int-list

    This morning I had a puncture that I couldn’t fix and had to get the train to work, so it feels timely to be writing about Bikestock, a range of vending machines full of cycling essentials that can be found all over New York and Boston. The concept is a simple one; inner tubes, spanners, tyre levers tyres and any number of other little bits and pieces that make your wheels turn smoothly are boshed into a vending machine so you can grab them on the go and, more importantly, at any time of day!

  5. List

    Joost Bos is a recent graduate from the Academie Minerva Groningen in The Netherlands where he’s spent three years studying for his bachelor’s degree. Like many of his Dutch counterparts he’s a dab hand with typography both traditional and experimental and has a plethora of printed pieces in his portfolio. This one, Sequence 1, is an exhibition catalogue for a show of artist books at Joost’s alma mater, which perfectly demonstrates his design sensibilities. Immaculately set type is interspersed with hand-drawn elements and bright colours bring intrigue to an otherwise monochrome publication. Like what you’re seeing? He’s available for freelance work right now!

  6. Sam-coldy-penguin-int-list

    Is it just me or is Penguin killing it at the moment? The publishing house only recently celebrated its 80th birthday by launching a range of its classic titles for 80p each, accompanied by a slick website and a poster campaign which has reached even the furthest corners of London’s transport system. And right now, they’re in the midst of a new campaign called On the Page which celebrates women authors and characters in literary masterpieces.

  7. Karansingh-mop-int-list

    The glorious coming together of pattern, shape and colour makes for a joyous experience and that’s why print designers are held in such high regard. Last week we commissioned Animade to turn three eye-poppingly good Pucci x Orlebar Brown patterns into trippy GIFs, this week we’re turning our attention to profiling creatives we believe are among the best around when it comes to working in this area. We are proud to present these #mastersofprint.

  8. Gerard-marin-int-list

    There’s something of a trend going around at the moment for identities using 3D logo-marks, and with this one by Gerard Marin we can see why. Barcelona-based designer Gerard developed the branding, stationery and corporate materials for interior designer and visual merchandiser Neus Ortiz. Recognisability and malleability were at the forefront of his mind for this project, and the flexible “N,” which changes according to its application, prove a neat solution to both. His is an unfussy aesthetic which lends itself perfectly to branding projects – here’s hoping more make their way to him very soon.

  9. Nike-logo

    There’s a moment in this film where Michael Bierut comes over all Hayley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense as he declares: “ I can see things in typefaces that normal people can’t.” It’s part of his discussion about how “design can be a lonely thing” and that as you immerse yourself in that world “you’re actually making yourself less normal than regular people.” Filmed at Design Indaba in South Africa last month, this interesting short film moves onto to look at logos and why designers are so interested in them. Using famous examples like the Nike swoosh and the Target, um, target, Michael explains his theory that we’re drawn to them because they’re primitive and yet we invest them with so much meaning. “A lot of what we see when we’re looking at the logo isn’t really happening in the logo; it happens in our own mind,” he explains.

  10. Emilyoberman-snl-int-hero

    One of the undoubted highlights of this year’s Design Indaba conference in Cape Town was hearing Pentagram partner Emily Oberman detail her long-running work on Saturday Night Live. Emily has worked with the programme for 20 years, creating three separate versions of its identity, various title sequences and even spoof adverts to run in the breaks (like this). Now Emily has teamed up with writer Alison Castle to produce Saturday Night Live: The Book, a 500-page paean to the show which coincides with its 40th anniversary this autumn.

  11. Studio-lin-stampa-int-list

    Sometimes a dead simple idea is all you need to create something really striking. In the case of Studio Lin’s branding of Stampa that simple idea was a rolled up poster. Stampa specialise in limited edition prints produced by some of the best illustrators around – shipped direct to your door. How do they do this? By rolling them up in a poster tube. So what does their logo look like? A pair of rolled-up prints joined at their edges to form an S. Studio Lin also commissioned an entire custom typeface for the brand, but for me it’s that swirling blue S that hits the nail on the head every time. Simple!

  12. Ines-cox-int-list

    Scrolling through what feels like an endless array of projects, it’s difficult to believe that Ines Cox only founded her studio last year. Since parting ways with former partner Lauren Grusenmeyer, co-founder of five-year endeavour Cox & Grusenmeyer, Ines has branched out on her own to establish an eponymous practice based in Antwerp. While she still includes much of her old work with Lauren in her portfolio, her new work demonstrates an exciting and playful approach to typography and innovative poster design.

  13. Dot-dash-flatpack-int-list

    Film festivals and great graphic design go together like Powell and Pressburger; as proven by the identity for Iceland’s Stockfish Film Festival, and Dot Dash’s designs for Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham.