We had a pleasure of hearing Craig speak at the recent OFFF conference and thought we’d outline his talk including influences, development and general typography interests he has evolved over the last few years. Interestingly, we do not have many typography projects on CAN and considering the Craig’s procedural working we thought it might appeal to CAN readers.
Craig was early on drawn to Chuck Close’s work, not something particularly evident in art history including his face drawings that were composed out of many small pictures. If you are unfamiliar with Close’s work, it’s a must see, an American painter and photographer who achieved fame as a photorealist, through his massive-scale portraits (wiki).
“I felt his work was relevant to mine because he believed that the brain was capable of making huge cognitive leaps when it came to recognising forms like the face. And that, because of that, he felt comfortable and able to abstract it so greatly. I believe the same is true of letters and words – here in came my point about nurture Vs. nature as you don’t recognise letters from birth but thanks to your education (and possibly Sesame St) you’re able to treat and abstract letter a lot before they become unrecogniseable to human eyes.”
Craig later developed interest in the concept of “nurture vs nature” in typography, treating type relevant to context and Henrik Kubel’s work with letter press. He particularly enjoyed manually set kern which Henrik and Craig likewise believed this manual process resulted in better design decisions.
2003-07 were Craig’s “Letterpress Years”, getting inspired by constructivist type assemblages of words and type. His “build a house and rocket car” was one of these pieces, created using letterpress included type with own narrative. These experiments evolved to creating pieces such as the typographic map of NY and a map of London.
He particularly enjoyed the printing process, able to produce unexpected results, a textured type in most cases but always being “slightly a chance”, the distortions that were difficult to control and uncontrollable elements to play with.
Once his cut hair fell on the floor resulting in what could have been read as a letter ‘C’. Having gone to the barber to collect hair waste he began to experiment with creating other letters of the alphabet by just throwing them around and looking for shapes to come to life. The typeface was created out of images of hair followed by PhotoFont software commission to create new photo sets.
“ink and water don’t mix” were his new experiments by simply dropping water onto black ink and photoshopping these thereafter. Pieces like “don’t die from a broken heart”. It was the organic and clean juxtaposition that he enjoyed the most. A conflict of something that is controllable but at the same time organic.
Since 2007, Craig influenced by the work of Universal Everything and particularly that of Karsten Schmidt began to explore generative possibilities of type. Working with Processing, he commissioned explorations from programmers to explore how type/shapes could be evolved. What began as simple explorations into generative shapes, with some control introduced into algorithms they began to see letters evolve – beautiful by their creations. “Reimagining frost patterns” was the inspiration, writing a script that will create invisible patterns. “Love” piece created using particles – gravity and motion further inspiring “kinetic type experiments”. “Love Spreads” (in collaboration with Cedric Kiefer) was one of the pieces, utilising Brownian motion to draw hairs out of each pixel embracing the random element in generative.
Further on, inspired by random phrases found in the toilets, scratches into walls, Craig created pieces such as “wishing where I was when I was wishing I was here..”, “dont stop thinking about tomorrow” leading onto geometrical progression.
His interest in kinetic typography, things that were physical in their nature but had qualities of digital began to evolve to include a project playing with type on broken glass. With Jason Tozer, photographer they created experiments with screen printed glass being fired into with split seconds captured by the camera. They particularly enjoyed the physical manifestations in the process – avoiding replicating in 3d software. Pieces such as “you blow me away” was created. See the making of here.
Having been commissioned by CreativeReview to design the cover, re-image the logo, Craig experimented with amorphous perspective, drawing logo in space viewed from a single viewpoint. Logo was projected onto stair, drawn in red, legs in the air – emerging behinds the stairs.
This led onto designing the cover for the CreativeReview’s The Annual. With this large task at hand, looking at previous work where artists produced bigger and bigger manifestations of type in the built environment, Craig decided to instead go smaller. Experiments led to creating things like a letter A on the top of a pin but Craig was more interesting into going even smaller, at cell level. Laser cut pieces were just too big and having found a immunology lab, Craig began to play with pollen cells, micro beads resulting in beautiful natural creations where pollen compacts fall into the letter A embeds.