A hand-painted font for Glasgow

Design studio Kellenberger-White has created a hand painted font and identity system for arts festival Glasgow International.

Design studio Kellenberger-White has created a hand painted font and identity system for arts festival Glasgow International.

The festival launched in the city last week and includes talks, exhibitions, screenings and performances from local and international visual artists. Kellenberger-White was asked to create an identity that would relate to Glasgow in some way, and opted for a handmade font inspired by the city’s ship-building and design heritage.

“We were looking at the lettering and signage on large ships, and saw  that some Greenpeace activists had painted ‘No Whales’ on to one with a roller,” explains Eva Kellenberger. “We liked the idea of this as a quick communication tool and thought it would be interesting to create an array of roller paint signs across the city,” she says.

Kellenberger and co-director Sebastian White created letters by standing up and painting with a long roller at arm’s length. “All of the arks and shapes of letters are produced completely by hand. It had to be done using a roller from quite high up, using the arch of the hand and the radius of the arm,” explains Kellenberger.

“There are also a few quirks that relate to some of the type that [Scottish designer] Charles Rennie Mackintosh drew – the b’s and e’s and a’s, for example, have quite high waistlines,” says White.

The font has been applied to signage around the city as well as merchandise, maps, brochures and the festival’s website. Kellenberger-White has used a colourful palette, inherited from a previous project commissioned by the festival, for which local artists were asked to paint the word Glasgow on to tote bags.

“They’d used quite an eccentric set of colours, a lot of Victorian blues, browns and greys as well as brighter colours, and it seemed like a great palette to inherit,” says White.

The identity system doesn’t feature images of work that will be on display, as Kellenberger and White say they wanted to avoid selecting one particular artist to represent the show, or compromising work by cropping or editing it to fit.

“A lot of the festival is quite a spatial experience. Events are in unusual buildings or ones that aren’t used very often, and it’s not a white cube gallery event, so we didn’t want it to feel like that,” says White.

Its an unusual approach to arts branding, which often features sleek or minimal typefaces, and both Kellenberger and White say they wanted Glasgow International’s to have a human and friendly feel.

“We wanted the identity to reference the themes artists are playing with – lots of the works are funny, or loud, or have a sense of irony,” she says.

The studio has created several custom typefaces (including one for Frieze Foundation), but Kellenberger and White say this is the first they’ve done entirely by hand.

“It wasn’t labouring for months on a computer screen, so it was quite quick and intuitive –  we changed the configuration of the studio, started working on the floor and came up with all sorts of elements for communication materials, from maps to social icons and symbols for water,” says Kellenberger.

“We had such a rich palette to work from after it and we wouldn’t have got such a particular visual language from using something off the shelf,” she adds.

To find out more about the festival see glasgowinternational.org

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