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Talking type design with GSM

One of our Christchurch-based creatives, Liam Ooi, recently sat down with GSM magazine to talk about his experience of designing a typeface as a student. You can read the full article below, or get your free copy of GSM Magazine from BJ Ball Papers here.

I’d always liked the idea of designing a typeface—they are one of a graphic designer’s most ubiquitous tools. We handle type every single day, so learning to make decisions around type is a vital skill that all designers must hone. It is essential to our craft. So designing my own typeface seemed to be the perfect final year project when I was a design student.

Most design schools in New Zealand don't offer any formal type design papers, so most of my learning was self-driven. One of my biggest motivations was from months trawling through Klim Type Foundry’s design notes, informing my approach to designing a typeface. I also found a few blogs and guides online. These helped me understand more of the process and craft, but ultimately it came down to a lot of trial and error. After a few weeks I actually decided I wasn't happy with what I had—so I scrapped it all and started again from scratch! Within a few days I had already made better progress from my increased knowledge and confidence.

Designing a good typeface requires you to judge not only the individual letter, but the relationship between all letterforms. There are many optical adjustments made that can contradict a designer’s desire for perfect consistency, which can be especially hard to understand as a student. It forces you to look at letters in a different way. Learning these ‘rules’ of type design has become very important to my work as a practising designer—it gives me the confidence to break or bend them to suit the project.

Liam's work on Lamplugh Sans took home Silver in the Student Graphics category of the 2017 Best Design Awards, and received Distinction in two categories (Craft and Print) at the 2017 AGDA Student Awards.