TypoCircle at 40 – how its Circular journal continues to evolve

As TypoCircle turns 40, with an exhibition and book celebrating its role in type and design, we look back at the evolution of Circular, the organisation’s journal that launched in 1993

In 1976, the idea of forming a new members organisation dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of all things design and typography-related was suggested by Maggie Lewis, at that time a typographer at agency, Collett Dickinson Pearce. Two years later, the volunteer-run Type Directors’ Club, London was formed.

While the Club transformed into The Typographic Circle in 1988, gaining a new logo by Peter Saville and Brett Wickens, this year sees the latest stage of its evolution – as TypoCircle, complete with a new identity designed by Studio Sutherl& and NB Studio and crafted by typographer Bruno Maag. Events such as its series of Typo Talks remain at the heart of what TypoCircle aims to do.

Circular 5, designed by Patrick Baglee, Roger Fawcett, Tim Fendley
Circular 5 (1995), designed by Ben Tappenden, Patrick Baglee, Sam Davy, Tim Fendley (MetaDesign) and Phil Jones. Cover image by Rian Hughes

Under its current chairman, Alan Dye of NB, and president, John Bateson, TypoCircle is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a publication on the history of the organisation and an accompanying exhibition at the Protein Gallery in London which features a selection of its lecture series posters, designed by (or for) each of the speakers who hold a Typo Talk.

With one section of the publication devoted to the posters, the other visual hit comes from the range of covers and spreads of the organisation’s in-house journal, Circular, which has been produced by Pentagram’s Domenic Lippa since 1999 (he worked on issues 8-14 while at Lippa Pearce).

Issue 19 has in fact just come out and, in the interests of disclosure, features a piece by me, alongside contributions by John L Walters, Adrian Shaughnessy, Laura Bradley, Jeremy Leslie and Tony Chambers.

Circular was launched in 1993 and along with articles on typography and design, often features interviews with a wide range of celebrated practitioners. While issue seven (1997) featured the work of Jonathan Barnbrook and Chipp Kidd and 11 (2003) had GTF, North and Alan Fletcher within it, for example, issue 17 (2011) saw the work of A2/SW/HK, Hat-trick, Studio8 and MadeThought gracing the pages.

In the 40th anniversary book, past editor Patrick Baglee, who worked on Circular in the 1990s, says, “I got to write about a subject I loved, and talk to people in an industry in the middle of immense change.”

Circular has attempted to reflect many of the changes that the design and type industry has faced, most notably in early features on software developments and the impact of computers on graphic design (issue one introduced readers to a new piece of kit called ‘Acrobat’).

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Circular 13 (2005), designed by Domenic Lippa at Lippa Pearce

Lippa has continued to art direct and publish Circular with support from paper company GF Smith and, as his tenure has developed, his work has taken in more experimental formats such as the image-only issue 17.

In 2013, in celebration of his 15 years of work on the journal, Lippa organised a V&A show during the London Design Festival. Since 2011, he has designed issues 17-19 with Jeremy Kunze at Pentagram.

According to Bateson, the research that has gone into the production of the TypoCircle publication “has just shown us what a unique and remarkable history we have. We are all so enthusiastic to share, promote and just talk about all the great ideas out there now and also those that push at the boundaries of communication. So a great new start to the next 40, or dare I say it, 80 years.”

For now, enjoy the pages featured here from Circular issues 1 to 19, 1993 to 2016, and try to catch the exhibition in London, which opens tomorrow and continues until the weekend.

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TypoCircle 40th anniversary publication (note the ring binding through the ‘o’), designed by Studio Sutherl&, NB Studio and John Bateson

TypoCircle’s 40th Year Exhibition runs from October 21-23 at the gallery at Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3EY. Copies of the book and an optional tote bag will be on sale at the show. Studio Sutherl&, John Bateson and NB designed the publication, with words by Lynda Relph-Knight and research by designer and design educator Sallyanne Theodosiou. The large format book comprises three differently-sized sections linked by a circular metal ring. Printing is by Gavin Martin Colournet on Colorplan from GF Smith. See typocircle.com

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