You might already know that my entries are mostly about design with a few personal perspectives that peep out between the lines of prose. Sometimes the personal might take over. Today is one of those times. Apologies if you’re used to seeing more professional material in my feed, this is an indulgence: I’m celebrating!
Summer has arrived with a smile the last few days in Bristol. It’s humid and bright, and somehow calm in the city. This morning was no exception. Just after rush hour, and before the shops opened for business, I swung my backpack on my shoulders, hitched into my flip-flops and walked through the old town to the harbour. I headed for the Watershed, but it wasn’t opening its doors until ten-thirty, so I wondered along the river with my camera, looking for some inspiration.
The city noise fell away as I walked around a bend past the famous Lloyds TSB building; the only sounds were an occasional river boat chugging by, and people talking on their ’phones as they sat in the sun and smoked. I walked under an avenue of young trees in front of new office buildings and came to Caffe Gusto, nestled at the end of a grassy divide between tall office and apartment blocks called Cathedral Walk. The tables reach out towards the river at the edge of the dock. The wifi extends to the river like the rippled reflections of the morning sun on the water. I sat for a while in the shade then moved out under a parasol. That’s where I’m sitting now. A ferry just passed by, gently bubbling the River Avon with its velvet diesels.
There are some changes in the air; as gentle as this moment, but no less significant. They might take me away from this city where I’ve lived for the last eight years to a different country. It’s an exciting time; all for the good. So, if I seem a little whimsical, forgive me: The breeze of change is blowing.
I would like to share one important event with you: Last Thursday, I got a great email. It was from Freda Sack, type designer, co-founder of The Foundry, and President of the International Society of Typographic Designers. The opening line simply said:
“Welcome to ISTD”
I grinned so much I almost swallowed my ears. I had spoken to Freda on Monday last week to ask about submitting web specimens for consideration. She told me that was fine, the board was meeting the next day, and it would be considering applications if I could submit in time. To do so, I built a web page that mimicked the PDF application form and submitted it that night. I really wasn’t sure I would be accepted. Web typography is volatile: The paper is inconsistent, the printing imprecise, and the opportunities to make a mess of it are manifold. I looked at my specimens the next day (not to mention some of my rushed copy) and winced.
The ISTD started life as the Guild of Typographers in 1928. It is acknowledged as the authority on typography in the UK, and has international standing. Applicants submit six specimens of work that are reviewed by the voluntary board. Acceptance is by merit, and understandably geared towards print typography, so submitting six examples of web typopgraphy was a slightly nervous experience. The standard required is high. In some ways I felt like I shouldn’t apply; to be accepted was a genuine surprise. It still feels very much like a seminal moment.
I confess, sometimes when I read what others so generously write about my work, I feel like a fake. Such generosity is truly heart-warming to read, but I can’t help feeling sometimes that it’s undeserved. It would be ungracious to say so and detract from the gesture, so I just say thank you, and mean it. The same is true of my application. It might sound like insecurity, but I’m always conscious of how much I don’t know. I’m also deeply aware of my own impatience with false modesty so even writing this is a little tricky for me. The main issue is that I am mostly self-taught, spending time researching my craft alone. There are benefits to this accidental approach, but I never experienced the (presumably) reassuring consensus of formal learning, especially around typography. I never served my time, so to speak, like so many of the incredibly talented people who’s work inspires me every day. However, I believe in my own work, and how I approach my craft. That’s a problem itself: My pedantry precludes me from believing that any piece of work is truly complete. That’s why being accepted into the ISTD is both a cause for celebration and reflection.
Navel-gazing aside, I am honoured to be a part of the ISTD. It’s driven by volunteer members, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. Hopefully, I can learn, and contribute too. Web typography is flourishing. Print designers are discovering the tools to bring their paper skills to the Web. Web designers are re-discovering the elegant beauty of type on the screen. Discussions around the CSS3 fonts and web-fonts modules are in full swing. Sites like I Love Typography are bridging the gap between traditional typographers and web designers. It’s an exciting time!
I’m about to step away from Caffe Gusto, and take a slow walk back to my office. Hopefully this side note in my life has been an interesting read. For me, I’m just happy to be able to share the moment. Hopefully there’ll be more to come!