Anna Mills on how she imbues type with movement and personality

The graphic designer recalls how the stifling boredom of lockdown quickly became fertile ground for creative discovery.

14 September 2022


Joining us from Bristol, Anna Mills opened her talk with an example of her early work – and by early, we mean her childhood drawings. She showed the audience a birthday card she made for her dad, joking: “I actually don’t think my work differs from this too much now.” Of course, her drawing skills have come a long way since these formative days, but, in a sense, there’s a similar spirit present in her current practice. Known for her animated words and letterforms, Anna has developed a style of type design that is characterised by childlike playfulness and imaginative movement. Though many years have passed since she made the card that was shown on screen, she has retained a youthful desire for exploration that manifests itself in her creative outlets.

Next, she explained how, during lockdown, this need for stimulation led her to look for an activity that she “could get lost in”. Naturally, she picked up a pencil and some paper and began playing with letterforms, redrawing letters within grids over and over again as a way of slowing down her approach to type. She spent so much time doing this, that she began to see the letters in different ways, envisioning them as characters with unique personalities. Soon, she felt the impulse to create a basic animation for one of them and allow it to come alive. In that moment, she discovered a knack for moving type that would become a mainstay in her practice, and make it what it is today. From that point onwards, she “couldn’t stop seeing the potential for movement”.

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