Enticed by the physicality of type and letterpress technology – particularly the freedom to move characters around, rotate, reverse, or overprint them – Isbell also uses her digital projects to further her experiments with interactivity.
“The way we create is broadening, resulting in an exciting fusion of analogue and digital,” she says. “With digital, things are constantly evolving and this opens up so many new possibilities: it incorporates interactivity, layers, networks and, most excitingly, user generated responses through inputs like sensors and microphones.”
Isbell’s print projects often transform into digital experiments – the point being that ‘making’ remains at the centre of her work, regardless of the means of production. In her Kraftwerk poster, which won an In Book award at D&AD, she used a “craft-based experimental approach” to create a printed piece inspired by digital processes – namely, the “movement and interactivity of sound” as perceived by the listener (see over).
Maps and systems have also been of interest to Isbell since her time spent travelling as a child “seeing how the visual language changes from country to country: in structures, signs flags, typography, shapes, colours, patterns, maps and people”. Since then she has used her skills to try and document these kinds of things – her favourite project to date was creating a catalogue for the wooden letterpress facilities at Bath Spa University, where she studied graphic communication.
“This combined my love of type with organisation and systemising,” she explains. “I enjoyed the research; visiting letterpress workshops, meeting practitioners like Martin Ould and Kelvyn Smith and visiting St Bride’s library. Having printed, scanned and then identified, measured and classified the 67 fonts and printing marks available to students, I placed the information into a book.”
With interests extending well beyond graphic design, Isbell is also something of a collector of ephemera, and frequently dips into her archive of old travel passes, newspapers, printing marks and books when working on new projects. “I have a box full of print pieces, textured surfaces and interesting things from my travels,” she says. “When I designed the Bath Spa UCAS fair identity, I looked through an old 1970s Times. Browsing it I noticed the worn, old style borders framing an advert for a trip to Greece. In my mind a connection was made which gave me the idea to repeat the borders to form columns – a theme reminiscent of Bath itself – and the framework for my final design.”
Isbell is currently interning at Wallpaper* magazine and hopes to one day start her own studio. Her work to date is online at fleur.isbell.net.