Review of the Year 2016: graphic designer Sarah Hyndman


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Our tenth interview for Review of the Year sees us chat to designer Sarah Hyndman about the incredible experiences she’s had this year and the work she continues to do with Type Tasting.

Designer and type champion Sarah Hyndman is on a mission to “prove that typography is fun and engaging for everyone”, and 2016 has seen her take major steps in making that idea a reality. Her work, which takes the form of books, workshops, talks and events, aims to “dispel the myth that type is a dusty subject for academics and experts” and “demonstrate the power of typography”.

This rhetoric has been continually explored through Sarah’s ongoing work with Type Tasting – the experimental type studio Sarah founded in 2013 that delivers a programme of events and talks, which this year included wine tastings, type safaris and open studios.

Sarah’s year started off with the release of her book Why Fonts Matter, which we published an extract from in January. In the book, Sarah looks at the power typography has on our lives and senses, going further to suggest that typefaces and the way they are used can “provide an extensive emotional range typographically”.

From her talk at Nicer Tuesday’s in February to a TV appearance in Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch in the same month, Sarah also took time out to teach in Mumbai, India for three weeks which involved her sharing her ideas with a completely new audience.

Sarah is on course for a stellar 2017 with her new book, How to Draw Type and Influence People out next spring, and here she is to talk us through her highlights of 2016, the lesson’s she’s learned and how she aims to approach 2017.

What was your creative highlight of 2016?

It’s been a year of creative highlights so it’s very hard to choose. It could be the publication of the book I wrote and designed. I could choose the fantastic opportunities I’ve had to play my games with audiences at Creative Mornings, Nicer Tuesdays, Tate Modern, and the presenters on Sunday Brunch. 

However, the highlight by far was going to Mumbai, India to teach 60 design students. This was the perfect culmination of the year because I incorporated my experiments and ideas into a weeklong course; we compared their results to my ongoing UK/US research, and I took them on an expedition of discovery throughout the week. At the end I could see first-hand how my unconventional approach to teaching typography really works.

What was your lowlight of 2016?

My own experiments and ideas don’t always go to plan, but I never write these off as failures as there is always something to learn. However, this year there have been seismic political events that have resulted in collective fear for the future, a rise in intolerance, and the devaluing of things we consider important such as creativity in schools. It’s too easy to get stuck reposting/retweeting within our social media bubbles, but we are realising that this is an ineffectual distraction. It’s vital to get out and do something beyond the bubble with the aim of making a positive change, no matter how seemingly small our actions.

What do you think are the markers of a good year creatively?

A good creative year is one that takes us on a journey. It is important to have challenges, because this is how we grow; to always question things, especially our own assumptions; to be constantly curious, surprised and inspired. A good creative year is one where expectations are exceeded and we end it looking forward to the next one with anticipation and excitement. 

Which piece of work from the last year has been your favourite to work on?

Creating the Master Talk that I delivered to industry leaders and design students in Mumbai, at the end of my week teaching the students at the Ecole Intuit Lab. 

This talk was my usual light-hearted and interactive format: packed with Type Tasting games, demonstrations and audience participation. However I worked with the students to recreate the materials in their style, from the pre-talk experiments to the games and demonstrations. They gathered typically Indian spices for the font sniffing game, recreated Typography Karaoke, created their own Font Fortunes and I presented their experiment results.

I felt so proud to deliver the talk and to showcase their work.
 You can watch a short extract here.

Which piece of work from the last year do you feel has been most significant to your portfolio/career?

The publication of Why Fonts Matter in the UK and US has been most significant to my career. This began as a self-published project that I worked very hard on so I am immensely grateful that Penguin/Random House picked it up, and that it is receiving such great reviews. 

The book is an introduction to my work that sets out my attitude to typography as fun, engaging, for everybody to enjoy, but underpinned by research.

How has your work evolved over the last 12 months? 

My work has become more confident, playful and informed. Having a wider audience means I get feedback from beyond my immediate design circles and this really helps me to develop my ideas. I’ve now been running surveys and experiments for three years so I have a growing collection of research results to build on.

What’s been the most important thing you’ve learnt in the last year?

I’ve learnt that collaborating with experts in other fields leads to extraordinary ideas that you could never have conceived of yourself. This year I’ve worked with scientists, chefs, a perfumer, type designers, editors, a psychologist and a philosopher. I’ve had the most fun creating a Wine and Type Tasting evening with a brilliant wine expert, this sold out at the London Design Festival so we’re bringing it back for one night in December.

Who has been the most influential creative for you in the last year?

Psychologist Professor Charles Spence, who founded the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. He is a true creative thinker, whose research into our senses and how they can influence our perception began when he was eating a packet of crisps in a pub and noticed that the crisp tasted different when he altered the sound of its crunch. 

Describe 2016 in five words…


What are your hopes for 2017?

To take my workshops and events to more people and continue my mission of making typography fun and engaging for everybody. I hope my new book coming out in April inspires people to pick up a pencil and to physically connect with drawing type. I’m really excited about a new collaboration to create food and type inspired events next year.

On a much more important level I would like 2017 to be a year of true creative thinking as we each find our own way to do something to change the dangerous and intolerant direction that society seems to be going in.

Supported by Google

At Google, we believe that design is critical to product excellence. That’s why we’re proud to support INT in its effort to champion a broad and inclusive community of creative makers and thinkers with the annual Review of the Year.

We also believe in fostering design through Material Design, a unified system combining theory, resources, and tools to help designers and engineers craft digital experiences, and through Google Design, a cooperative effort whose mission is to support design and engineering excellence by producing original articles, videos, events, as well as creative and educational partnerships. Sign up for the Google Design Newsletter.  

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca Fulleylove is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and culture. She is also senior writer at Creative Review, having previously worked at Elephant, Google Arts & Culture, and It’s Nice That.

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