Part 2 Exercise: All the world’s a stage

‘A regional arts company is staging a series of outdoor theatrical productions and musical events. They want you to produce a poster that reflects a sense of being in a real space through your typography and connects the theme of the production to the locations they’ve chosen.

Choose one of the following events, or choose your own to work with, and creatively develop the typography for the title of the production. Use objects and materials appropriate to the locations or other forms of physical typography. Try and develop some conceptual connection between the materials you choose and the content of the productions. The settings or themes might suggest a way of working, for example.

  • Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596) performed in a botanical garden.
  • Handel’s Water Music (1717) performed at a local outdoor swimming lido.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) performed in the ruins of a local castle.
  • Arthur Laurents’ West Side Story (1957) performed in a derelict warehouse.The when and where will be added to the posters later on, so either leave room in your designs for these details or, if you wish, add them yourself.’

As suggested, this first lead me to the world of Stefan Sagmeister. he has done several Ted talks, which always give you a good flavour of a person. I really didn’t know that he’s actually got a good sense of humour along with some pretty crazy exploits…Not least carving into his own skin, and getting naked to advertise his services. He’s now teamed up and renamed his firm Sagmeister and Walsh, as he’s gone into partnership with a very capable young woman. I found their work very inspirational – it really does seem to push boundaries, and the Art Direction is great for the photographic work.

Here’s an example of their physical typography



Jessica Walsh – she has done several in this series, often by suspending the lettering on wire. This image is real, not photoshopped! (Well OK they probably added the sun flare afterwards but the typography was physically built for the photoshoot)


Internet search for physical typography – I was really interested to see the playfulness, and variety of materials used here. Some use negative space, or folding (the playing cards). Its useful to begin to think about materials and how to shape them into letter forms. Obviously some materials are delicate, others more rigid – so how does that effect how you might use them?


Sometimes though, people go the extra mile – Rhett Dashwood spent countless hours on google earth putting this ‘typeface’ together!


Netherlands designers Hijack Your Life created this on a cold windy beach


There seem to be endless possibilities, but I decided to go for West Side Story, partly because I thought it likely I could gather some relevant materials. I had a brain storm about warehouses…


Then I started thinking about what materials and textures I have available to me to photograph. (pretty good timing that my partner has just ordered a load of building materials)!





Packing tape and bailer twine


Brick, concrete and wood




Old paint


Old sink


I really wanted this exercise to be as little about my computer as possible and to take photos of my typography in situ. I also gathered together cardboard, chain, and started by stapling the black packing tape into letters – it worked well! It would have been fairly easy to do all the lettering with black tape, but I thought variety is more interesting….


I tried to use the sink and concrete blocks outside, but the wind scattered my letters immediately, and it wasn’t workable. Back inside, I haven’t done any silversmithing for ages, but I do have old wire, sandpaper, copper sheet and wirewool. The wood is arranged on the floor. The ‘0’ in story is a wooden reel of wire. I was pretty happy with this! However, I wasn’t sure if wood is industrial enough…


So I transferred by letters to a metal workbench, and inserted some paper under the wire elements to help them stand out . As this bench is a couple of feet high, I struggled to take a good image far enough above it, but it should be possible to edit.


My Posters





For the wood poster, I simply cropped and used curves to enhance the image a little. For the metal, I added my wood background from earlier, and edited some of the metal. I added a few fake shadows, and I hope it looks ‘real’.

These images were really fun to do! I prefer the (plain) wood…but as I said, I don’t know if it says ‘industrial’ enough? In an ideal world I’ve have access to an actual building…maybe find peeling paint and old bulky radiators. Or those huge chains they use to winch stuff. (Have you noticed in films those chains are usually conveniently placed for our hero to winch their way to freedom or knock a baddy unconscious. A huge melting furnace is even more useful (thats how they defeat the evil cyborg at the end of Terminator 2) and of course Sigourney Weaver dives into one in the third Alien film. I love her.



Sagmeister & Walsh interview


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