The Art in Words

An interview with Simon Walker on type design and brilliant criminals.

After growing up in England and moving to the States at the age of 15, Simon Walker began drawing inspiration from everything including graffiti on the streets and vintage signs found in classic movies, to blogs and posts from artists online. Now working as a designer at GSD&M, he applies this inspiration to the bold designs of his logos and typefaces in and out of the office.

Recently, Simon was asked to design a custom typeface for the seventh poster in a series of eight, and was featured in 8 Faces, a limited-edition magazine containing eight interviews with leading designers. Each issue contains an array of different arts and a spread of the artist’s 8 favorite typefaces (everything has to do with 8 if you didn’t catch on). 

Here’s our Q&A with Simon regarding his most recent work.

WHEN/WHY DID YOU BEGIN DESIGNING TYPEFACES?

Simon: I was inspired by graffiti and liked to make my own (never illegally of course), only with pencils. Graffiti artists are such brilliant criminals.

I didn’t get involved designing actual typefaces for years, until I was asked to design a custom logo and typeface for a freelance job. It wasn’t great, but I was intrigued and kept working at it.

WHERE ELSE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION?

Simon: I draw inspiration from everything and everyone. There is such a thriving online community that feeds and supports ideas instantly and is integrated in giving feedback while in the process of designing.I’m inspired especially by anything vintage; old books, classic movies, record covers.

IF YOU COULD DESTROY ANY TYPEFACE IN THE WORLD (BESIDES COMIC SANS), WHICH WOULD IT BE?

Simon:  Mistral. Although, the movie Drive uses it on all of it’s posters….and it works. So maybe that’s true of all typefaces — it can work if used in a fresh new way.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TYPEFACE YOU CREATED FOR 8 FACES.

Simon:  I was asked to come up with a phrase that was type-driven for the 7th poster in 8 Faces. Mine was “ Make your own type.” However, I couldn’t tell people to make a typeface without actually doing it, so I decided to physically sculpt it. Mine ended up being the only non-digital typeface, so they interviewed me for the magazine. They also asked what my 8 favorite fonts were.

WHAT ARE YOUR 8 FAVORITE FONTS?

Simon:  1.  Chalet 2. Livory 3. Century Expanded 4. Neutraface 5. Brandon Grotesque 6. Tribute…and I have forgotten the other two.

WHAT MATERIALS WERE USED TO CREATE YOUR FONT?

Simon:  For this typeface, I started out by concepting digitally for it, before projecting the image of the words on wood and transferring them to clay on wood. Then the words were photographed for the poster.

DO YOU WANT TO CONTINUE DESIGNING PHYSICAL TYPEFACES OR DO YOU PREFER TO DESIGN DIGITALLY?

Simon: Although I always start out concepting digitally, I plan to continue experimenting with different mediums whenever I get the time.

Check out a gallery of Simon’s font created by hand and some of his other digital work. Photos by Alexis Wilson.

For more from Simon, check out his Dribbble page here: http://dribbble.com/super_furry

By Catherine Darby