High fashion, community, game design and all things Helvetica: October’s Nicer Tuesdays returned to physical life with a bang
After a year and a half online, we finally returned to London’s Oval Space where we welcomed back a host of fascinating creative talks in an evening of inspiration.
This week was a very special one for the team here at It’s Nice That. It marked the return to Oval Space for Nicer Tuesdays after a year and a half of being online. And the much-anticipated event did not disappoint. We welcomed our lovely audience back to the east London venue at a reduced capacity, refreshed the Nicer Tuesdays identity with a sparkling new display which stirs even more excitement, and invited a stellar roster of creatives to take to the stage to tell us about their awe-inspiring work. Featuring Monotype, Iggy Ldn, Nina Manandhar and Keiken; we welcomed Nicer Tuesdays back to the physical realm this past Tuesday, getting the latest lowdown in variable fonts, high fashion campaigns, community-based photography and game design respectively.
Over the course of the evening, we traversed through various corners of the creative industry from type design, filmmaking, digital art and photography. We discovered how Iggy Ldn moved from law to poetry to being a director and how Keiken’s ever-metamorphosing work saw a five-channel installation evolve into a multi-dimensional game. In the second half of the event, we journeyed to Thamesmead with photographer Nina Manandhar who took us through her beautiful documentary series highlighting the diversity of the area as well as a sneak peak into another series Gurkha Boys. And last but not least, we heard from the type foundry giant Monotype on how the most famous typeface in the world Helvetica, was updated for the 21st century in the form of Helvetica Now Variable Font. Find out more below.
Keiken: Wisdoms for Love 3.0 (Copyright © Keiken, 2021)
Iggy Ldn: Harrods, Set Your Stage (Copyright © Iggy Ldn, 2021)
A film that speaks to the creativity of London, updating Harrods for today
Ever since he was a child, Iggy Ldn wrote to express himself. His journey started off far away from the sector however, as Iggy originally trained to be a lawyer. While on this path, Iggy continued to navigate life through words. He wrote a poem titled Black Boys Don’t Cry, an astute take on the expectations of Black males and gave us a rendition of the emotive poem during October’s Nicer Tuesdays. At the end of one poetry reading, a viewer suggested something that would alter his career trajectory forever. They suggested he should make a film from the poem and in time, Iggy didn’t think it was such a bad idea either. With £50 in his back pocket and a group of friends in tow, Iggy created his first film.
Taking us through portfolio of works to date which include the award-winning Velvet and Fatherhood, the filmmaker took us through a snapshot of his career and how words and poetic feeling have played an important role in its development. “I became a director by force,” he said. Crafting stories through film which challenge the status quo and champion diverse voices, he built his career on a few personal projects before cracking the commercial spheres. Fast forward a few years later and we find ourselves in the now, where Iggy has just directed a new campaign for Harrods, telling a very different narrative than the one we might expect from the London-based luxury fashion retailer.
There was only one rule for the film, it had to be shot in Harrods. Iggy wanted to make a film that speaks on the London creative scene: “growing up I didn’t see films that related to me,” he said. So the film, in turn, details how Iggy experiences the city. “I wanted to make something profound but not a normal fashion film.” Showcasing London at the helm of fashion, and London a the helm of creativity, the short – featuring some of Iggy’s favourite creatives – features poet Kai Isaiah Jamal giving their poetic take on what ‘H’ means to them. Through the film, Iggy directs a new future for Harrods and a new direction which updates the retailer for today. Taking us through the trials and tribulations of the shoot (it ended at 5 am for instance) the director also took us through the sweeping camera shots which achieved a floating, heavenly feel and ended the inspiring talk with thoughts on the importance of collaboration.
Keiken on its free online crypto game, Wisdoms for Love 3.0
Next up, we were joined by Hana Omori and Isabel Ramos, two co-founders of digital art collective Keiken. Keiken, in Japanese, means to experience, and the studio is predicated in this intention. Working in the phygital (a mix of the digital and physical) the collective explained how it broadly uses existing technologies to generate new meta verses and test drive possible futures – the metaverse being a future iteration of the internet connected by virtual realities of the virtual world.
Keiken’s new game, Wisdoms of Love 3.0 is an investigation into such. Showing the audience how to play the game and what it involves through a live demo, we see the avatar collecting wisdom token (or digital artworks) along the way. Along the way, Keiken explained how players can find other games online too, and with every token that is collected, a binding moral contract questions the player to assess what is being exchanged. “It encourages a perspective that pulls the audience out of the current moment and into a bird’s eye view,” said Hana.
Talking us through the various re-imaginings of the universe and the body, Keiken went onto discuss the importance of repurposing work in its practice. In this instance, Wisdoms of Love 3.0 started out as a five-channel installation and gradually morphed into a game through a number of installation additions along the way. “We keep our work alive through other works,” said Isabel, touching on the various iterations of the game so far and how it’s developed into the conceptually immersive we can experience today.
Photographing Gurkha sons and the communities of Thamesmead with Nina Manandhar
Nina Manandhar is a photographer that needs no introduction in the British creative scene. Known for her breathtaking portraits and documentary works which combine archival work, photography and participation, the first generation Londoner kicked off her talk by explaining how her mixed heritage has informed her artistry. It allows her to “slip into worlds that [she] doesn’t usually belong in,” a perfect trait for a documentary photographer getting under the skin of her subjects. Using photography as a tool to explore different, current themes; Nina took us on a tour of her project including a series capturing the young Gurkha community in London and also a foray into the Thamesmead area of the city.
Setting up a makeshift studio in an events space for the Gurkha community, Nina tells the stories of young Gurkha men through her project, Gurkha Sons. Getting to know the boys in turn, she was interested in how they expressed their identity through both British and Nepali signifiers; through their tattoos, their ideas of brotherhood and how the community comes together. Like much of Nina’s work, this series explores the idea of people and place. “Photography is a license to be nosy,” she added on how she wields the camera as a social vehicle.
Nina also took us through her recent series Thamesmead. Walking us through the brutalist architecture of the London area – well known for films and TV shows such as A Clockwork Orange and Misfits – Nina told us about the people she met along the way. From the man known as the Thamesmead cowboy, to the traveler communities that with their horses and ponies, South Asian families a myriad of other people from all kinds of backgrounds and ages too; Nina’s artistry breathes life into a static image that paints a picture of London at its best, when it is diverse.
The past, present and future of Helvetica
Headlining Nicer Tuesdays October was Tom Foley, creative type director at Monotype. Rounding up the night’s events, he talked us through a project that’s been near and dear to him for some time now. “I’m going to talk to you about a very emotional subject,” he joked, “Helvetica.” For the international community of type designers however, this is indeed a highly emotive subject. It all started in 1957, Tom explained, taking us through the history of the iconic typeface and how it’s moved from metal to foil to digital typesetting, and the various iterations that have occurred in turn.
Breaking down the intricacies of type design in an accessible manner, Tom’s talk was a masterclass in the importance of Helvetica, its iterations along the years, and how it’s developed for the 21st century in the form of Helvetica Now and most recently, Helvetica Now Variable Font. The type expert explained why it was essential to reconfigure Helvetica into Helvetica Now back in 2019 as it introduced new optical sizing for all needs, then went onto explain the significance of variable font technology and what it can offer wider design thinking and culture.
“We made thousands of adjustments to make this work,” said Tom, and proceeded to go through a few crucial ones, citing masters, axes, and resolution along the way: all fundamental considerations when designing a variable don’t. Taking us through various transitions carried out by Monotype from the subtlest of blending to functionality for screen and so on and so forth, Tom’s jam-packed talk offers a lowdown of all things variable fonts combined with the most used typeface in history, Helvetica. In this rework of the iconic typeface, he addressed how something as classic as Helvetica can be developed with the dynamism of technology for a new era. And finally, to top off his talk, Tom went on to tell us about Monotype’s latest variable font, a creation he worked on throughout the lockdown titled Cotford. Finding inspiration in his local neighbourhood, Tom found inspiration in the hand drawn signs of local family businesses and started work on the new alphabet with broad nib calligraphy to create the resultant soulful and contemporary variable font.
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About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.