Show sidebar

Pressing local matters

Categories: Jewellery Quarter

The fact that a former incarnation of Supercool HQ was a pen works and that it's located only about a 2-minute walk away, it seemed like madness to have never visited the Jewellery Quarter's pen museum. So, in an effort to explore nearby places, I went to have a quick look around.

Cosy it may be but the Pen Room is packed to the rafters with pen paraphernalia, there's typographic eye-candy a-plenty thanks to loads of glorious examples of old packaging and signage, and the enthusiastic volunteer staff are brimming with pen-related facts.

"Birmingham was the centre of the world pen trade for more than a century, employing thousands of people, pioneering craftsmanship, manufacturing processes and employment opportunities – especially for women."

Probably the best thing about the Pen Room is the interactivity – there's no touch-screen technology here but you can make your very own pen nib. You go through the whole process – from cutting the blank, to embossing the maker's mark and then pressing into shape – using the chunky, clunky, antique machinery; all under the careful supervision of one of the staff, of course. Then, you get to take it home with you! (The nib, not the staff member.)

The Pen Room is free (though donations are welcomed) and it's perfect to visit during a lunch-hour; you'll get a bit of history and a smattering of heritage, see some fantastic packaging design and make a tiny keepsake. I reckon it's well worth writing home about. (Sorry, I can never resist a bad pun.) Next on my to-go list: the award-winning Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

Portfolio surgery

Last week I took part in a 'portfolio surgery' for the third (and final) year group on the Visual Communications degree at BIAD, BCU. With a whole host of 'patients', I was one of five surgeons including representatives from Type, Surely?, Clusta and One Black Bear. Over the course of the morning I managed to talk with a dozen or so students, each at very different stages of their final major projects and with portfolios at various levels of completion. Whilst some were a way off a polished final piece, the standard of the work contained within was refreshingly original and quality of finish very high. Without wanting to sound like a very old man, things have clearly moved on since I graduated from the course seven years ago, and I'm sure, any one of the people I saw would have shone in my year group.

Understandably, many of the students still weren't 100% sure where in the creative industries they were destined, however, for the most part, all could communicate their projects clearly. There seemed to be an incredible amount of enthusiasm for what they were doing and a positive self-confidence.

The Visual Communications course has a very wide remit and graduates leave going on to marketing, photography, illustration, advertising and even fine art. The very graphic/type-based students where, for me, the easiest to gauge potential, however the art of building the perfect portfolio is still incredibly difficult and one that few agencies can perfect – It's certainly something we find is a time consuming and never ending process.

The final shows take place mid-June – I'm looking forward to seeing the final outcomes.

Character traits and information overload

Categories: Extra-curricular, Nice stuff

The other week I wrote a post (Designing the ABC) mentioning we were taking part in collaborative project, Not My Type. Well, the project's completed and, for your delectation, here are the Supercool creations:

Overload by Sarah Wilbois

The ampersand was created using magazine cuttings of the word 'and', meticulously chopped, glued and placed to create the ampersand shape, which is bursting at the seams and falling over backwards with the umpteen 'and's contained within it. Information overload!

S is a character by Katie Parry

The letterform is made up of adjectives beginning with S and each word's set in a different font; a font which helps to represent the word in some way – either its meaning ('squidgy' uses a chubby, rounded font) or something else about that word's character ('Swedish' is set in Verdana; used by IKEA).

Within the S there are: one logo; one (purposely) misspelt word; one word which is also the typeface's name and a couple of coded S-words, set in Wingdings and Monotype Sorts. Spot/decipher 'em if you can!

All of the Not My Type characters – including a very jolly J by Jon Burgerman – are all on show and for sale (in limited numbers) at the Created in Birmingham shop, but only until Sunday 23rd May, when the shop closes – so get there pronto!

(Finally: I vow not to post any more alphabet-related things for, well, at least a week or so …)

Grafisk gorgeousness

Categories: Nice stuff

I'm not at all sure what is it with me and the alphabet at the moment but here it is yet again …

Hyperactivitypography is an abecedarium designed by Paul van Brunschot's students at the Westerdals School of Communication in Oslo.

It looks, feels and smells great, and is full of wittily written information to boot. It really is a ridiculously good, perhaps even flawless, example of balanced form and function.

You can look through and enjoy Hyperactivitypography in its entirety at or buy the real-life, beautifully tactile hardback book from Arctic Papers' shop.


(Hat-tip @H_FJ)