As graphic design goes, typography is one area that – when done well – never ceases to impress us. It’s the technical building blocks of the medium and a vital element of visual communication. It sets tone and influences how readers perceive and process information – and it can instantly lose someone’s attention if not handled correctly. Luckily, Isobel Guy is one designer who knows her stuff…
A recent graduate of Central Saint Martins’ graphic design course, Isobel, who is originally from a small town in the south-west of England, grew up painting and studying art, often drawn to the thinking and process behind the work. “It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time I got into graphic design,” she tells It’s Nice That, “but I think it was studying the work of modernist painters that inevitably led me to Swiss graphic design.” While working towards her Foundation Diploma in art and design, Isobel began to explore ideas typographically, a move which eventually lead her to her chosen medium.
Isobel’s introduction to the discipline via Swiss graphic design and art theory is evident throughout her adept portfolio of typographic treatments. Often exploring particular places or moments in history, Isobel’s practice is heavily influenced by research leading to thorough and creatively-reasoned outcomes.
After finding herself in the Central Lettering Record at CSM, Isobel was inspired to create Regia, a typeface influenced by Ancient Rome. “Curated by Phil Baines and Catherine Dixon, the archive contains an enormous photographic collection of historical letterforms,” she explains, “I spent a few days in the archive studying Roman inscription before deciding that I would draw a revival.” The result is a contemporary display serif and accompanying specimen which takes its content from Ancient Roman building and monuments.
Looking beyond the fundamentals of type design, Isobel’s practice encompasses the treatment of words and letterings as a whole. Her project Middle English Type Proofer, for example, is a digital tool for designers to test the spacing of their fonts. “Bringing to life the idea of reading individual letters and spaces instead of words, the web-based tool allows you to drop font files onto the page and preview daily headlines in historical Middle English,” she explains. “The outcome is a range of Middle English strings containing letter combinations that type designers can use to preview their fonts with.”
Isobel’s understanding and appreciation of the subtleties of type are what shapes “the other side” of her practice where she explores “the craft and details of typesetting”. Approaching the copy, and visual footprint it would create on the page, as “setting a ‘colour’ and tone”, her project Perfume showcases Isobel’s technical skill when it comes to handling and arranging letters, words and negative space. The project makes use of Walbaum, a font which dates back to when Patrick Süsind’s novel was set meaning Perfume has a “texture that is light and delicate at first glance, while also reflecting the darker undertones of the narrative,” she explains.
By dabbling in the often-overlooked elements of graphic design, Isobel – who is currently interning at Fraser Muggeridge studio – has carved out a distinctive and deft portfolio, especially for someone so early on in their career. Projects, although understated, are finished pristinely; deceptively simple in their execution, not to mention a promising sign of things to come.
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