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Partnership / Fontsmith: Local Characters

Local Characters: Anna Kulachek, Astrid Stavro and Jimmy Turrell create bespoke posters based on their tailored typefaces

Following on from It’s Nice That’s partnership Local Characters with London-based type foundry Fontsmith in the winter of 2017, we’re excited to announce that the typefaces will now be available to purchase — with a special set of posters by the designers involved; Anna Kulachek, Astrid Stavro and Jimmy Turrell. Anna, for instance, used an existing Fontsmith typeface to represent Moscow, while Astrid was briefed to modify a library font to represent Trieste, and Jimmy developed a concept for an entirely new custom font as an ode to his hometown Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Not only will the typefaces be available to reimagine in your own graphic styles, each will also come with a specially-designed poster by Anna, Astrid or Jimmy, portraying the ideas and memories of cities they hold close to their hearts which inspired each typeface’s use. Overwhelmed by the response from the design community following the Local Characters series last year, Fontsmith’s founder, Jason Smith, felt “there was a clear need to open up the designs for others to use and benefit from.” Whether it’s a poster based on Moscow, Trieste or Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, each will be printed on Fedrigoni Freelife Vellum paper at 320gsm at an A2 size, rolled up so they remain uncreased in their typographic glory.

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For Astrid’s Fontsmith project, the consistently praised graphic designer tailored the typeface FS Sally to reflect Trieste, an Italian city she holds closely. As an “experimental, high contrast display typeface,” the designer explains that her initial thoughts were led by the fact the typeface “works best when the characters are used at large sizes,” she tells It’s Nice That. When enlarged, each of Astrid’s uniquely proportioned letterforms “works almost as illustrations,” due to its “instinctive aesthetic qualities,” ideal for the centrepiece of a poster.

Using the same colour palette Astrid picked while designing the project last year, the designer’s selections spread across a colour wheel. “I was stuck with choosing one single colour for this new poster, so I chose four instead!” Allocated from her taste, Astrid explains that “there is no particular concept behind the colour selection besides the fact that they work well together.”

Looking back on her tailored typeface a year on, Astrid has “grown to like it more in time,” she says. “At first, I found the merging of the two typefaces aesthetically jarring.” However, “that was precisely the point,” representing the multifaceted personality of Trieste’s architecture and demographics. “At the end of the day, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’”. Excitingly, Astrid’s FS Sally Triestina has only grown in popularity since we initially wrote about the project at the beginning of 2017, recently winning the Graphis Platinum Trophy for typeface design. “We had no idea that the project would become so successful,” Astrid reflects. “In fact, for such an experimental project I find it quite surprising. It is the first highly experimental typeface that I ever conceptualised, and working with Fontsmith to make it happen (and now commercialised) kind of blows my mind. It is a project close to my heart for obvious reasons: a homage to Trieste, to my legacy and multicultural background. The fact that people will now be able to use the typeface for their own projects makes me very happy.”

Astrid’s tailored typeface, FS Sally Triestina is available to purchase here in a pack with one of Astrid’s posters, each screen printed in a limited run of 100, 25 of each colour.

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Across the globe in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, the always colourful and joyful illustrator and designer Jimmy Turrell created FS Erskine. A new bespoke Fontsmith typeface influenced by Jimmy’s upbringing in the Byker Wall estate, it takes its name in honour of the architect who designed and constructed it, Ralph Erskine. For Jimmy’s poster, the ethos that drove the typeface’s design capturing “the spirit of the Byker Wall in one single image” was key he says. “It seemed only natural that the font itself should act as the very building blocks of that structure,” particularly the iconic Tom Collins House, “probably the most famous part of the Byker Wall.”

A typeface evocative of the Byker Wall’s vibrant colour palette and architectural forms, the estate’s “triangular structure is visible from miles around and it also offered a simple geometric shape to drop the typeface into,” Jimmy tells It’s Nice That. Thinking about FS Erskine a year on, the designer is still just as fond of it saying: “I’m a bit of a softy at heart so it still definitely taps into a strong nostalgic sense I have for that period of my childhood. It’s strange — I walked through the Byker Wall last week for the first time in ages and I actually started to see specific letters materialise in the forms and shapes of the architecture in front of me. It was refreshing and odd at the same time — I felt like a kid again.”

“I just love Jimmy’s work!” says the type foundry’s founder, Jason Smith. “He’s an incredibly genuine guy and his work is just so mixed in media and refreshing in today’s world of flat graphic design. The idea behind the FS Erskine font is really cool and the expanse of the character set and programming of the font features is pretty astounding."

The idea that a typeface Jimmy developed on his home with Fontsmith will now be available for others to use is an exciting prospect for the designer: “I’d really like to see the typeface used in a way that I hadn’t really envisaged,” he points out. While Jimmy’s themes when designing FS Erskine were based on “togetherness, escapism, community and play,” the possibility of it being used in an entirely different context is stimulating for the designer. “Maybe a horror movie poster or a club flyer would be interesting, he says. “I guess even though FS Erskine is very deconstructed and irregular, the poster shows that it can be used in a grid, which to me was actually pretty surprising.”

Again printed in a limited run of 100, a one user licence for his bespoke Fontsmith typeface will come with one of Jimmy’s specially designed posters, which can be purchased here

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For revered designer Anna Kulachek’s poster design she was looking for a typeface and colour palette which represented the bold, busy and bright characteristics of her chosen city of Moscow. Selecting Fontsmith’s FS Dillon typeface for the “linear structural elements” that build the sans-serif font, when implementing it in a poster template Anna wanted her design “to translate Moscow’s monumentality, its constant movement and its saturation of events,” she tells It’s Nice That. "This typeface was the straightest of the Fontsmith fonts,” she points out. “It is bold, just as Moscow is.”

Reflecting Moscow’s swift-moving traffic and towering architecture, Anna’s poster is a graphic design maze built of FS Dillon’s typographic forms. Repeatedly stating “Moscow, Moscow, Moscow” in the jaunting colour combination of primary red and blue, the designer wanted to “find a colour combination that would amplify the movement in a poster, a combination where two colours next to each other would start vibrating,” she explains. “I ended up using red and blue with similar saturation and those are also the two colours that remind me of Moscow.” The use of these colours, in turn, highlights FS Dillon’s audacious qualities, proving how courageously it could be used. Anna’s Moscow posters are also available to buy here.

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