When I was allocated the letter U, I will admit to being a bit stumped. I couldn't really think of many words beginning with U - and certainly not many places.
The first proper idea I had came during the lecture. During my found alphabet project I'd found a new love for looking at architecture in different ways. I was especially enamoured with the stained glass I'd come across in the John Rylands Library.
I thought about the ways I could make this work on the page - perhaps a gold colour for the frames, and then transparent or grey or blue for the panes? However I think this would be difficult to square with the "two colours" requirement of the brief, as stained glass is usually known for its huge range of colours depicting various scenes. Furthermore, I don't have any particular personal connection to or link with stained glass; I'm not religious, I don't go to church, there isn't really a good story behind my choice of letter.
In the lecture, I had a quick glimpse of the U produced for the Letterspace project. I thought it looked very interesting.
U from the Letterspace Project
Alcock is a former MSoA student who based his design for the Letterspace project on Whitworth Park.
Out of all the Letterspace submissions, this is perhaps one of the simplest but also one of my favourites. It's definitely one of the most intriguing and interesting designs.
The story behind it is the ironwork on the fences of Whitworth Park, and the archway which forms the shape of the U. Regrettably, this has had to be upside down in this letter for obvious practical reasons.
The colours are nice, with the cream background and the different thicknesses of black print over the top. It reminds me of old architectural drawings and plans, which links to the theme quite well.
In the studio session afterwards, we went through a few other letters and I drew out some ideas I had for those. And whilst those are obviously not applicable for my U, they encouraged me to think a bit less literally and to broaden my horizons.
I also drew out a few more Us. I thought about the basic constructions of the letter - a circular bottom, extended in one direction by a rectangle. I thought of this idea, which looks a bit like a venn diagram.
Steingruber was an architect and illustrator in 18th century Germany.
In the series Architectural Alphabet, he created imaginary palaces where the floorplans made letters of the alphabet. He then accompanied these with impressions of how a palace with such a layout could look. They are delightful in how they protray some of the eccentricities of the way we write letters.
There is an element of humour to the drawings; buildings would not naturally take the shapes of the letterforms he has drawn, therefore some of the palaces he has drawn have their own little quirks.
I think the idea is very advanced for its time, it has a playfulness that I'm not sure would've been expected at that time. My favourite letterform has to be the N, which is such a beautiful and unconventional shape and yet makes an elegant palace.
I was struggling for ideas. I thought about more ways to draw a U, with serifs pointing different ways. But none of these really made a good letterform, and lacked any sort of story or personal connection.
Blackdora Typographic Kit
Huang has taken three typefaces of differing styles and distilled them down to the basic parts that make up each letter. She has then produced physical pieces that fit together to allow people to make new letterforms using bits of other fonts.
I think it's a great idea. It looks like something I'd love to have a play about with. The playfulness is inherent in the design; encouraging the mixing of different sorts of fonts to create new letters.
It is an educational item as well: Huang produced it as part of a MA degree, and it helps to teach people about the history of typography through the three fonts it blends - Blackletter, Bodoni, and Futura.
I love the physicality, the tangibility of it. We see typefaces everywhere, on screens, in print. Huang's work helps to explore how the letters we recognise are made up of different pieces that can be combined in new ways.
In my tutor group, we had a discussion about what other ideas I could have. Their suggestions included: underwater, understanding, underground, and umbrella. I also thought about just presenting a mirror as my final piece, and saying that it represents "you". I sketched out a few of these, seeing where I could take them.
They were all OK ideas, but none of them really had any sort of special meaning or personal connection to me.
90° Typography Book
Przybyla has threaded cotton through pages of a book to create a unique typographical experiment. Each letter is contained between two perpendicular pages; opening and closing them reveals the letter from different angles.
I really like it, what a brilliant idea. I'm in awe of how much planning and experimentation needed to be done, trying to get all the angles right so that it would look good at different stages. It's almost like an optical illusion, different ways of seeing the same threads as differing forms depending on the way you look at it and how far the pages are open.
The letters themselves are very nice, the technical constraints of needing certain angles and verticals means that the font looks almost Blackletter in places, which is a very nice effect.
The colour scheme is great too, using the two colours of thread makes it look like a ribbon has been twisted and two sides are showing, in light and in shade.
I then thought more about the letter U, and what it can refer to. I thought about the phrase 'u-turn'; it's usually seen as a bad thing, an admission of failure. In politics, it's the phrase used when a politician realises a policy is unpopular and backtracks. On a road, a u-turn is recognising that the direction you were heading in was the wrong one.
This metaphor characterises such a movement as a negative one - I'm not sure I entirely agree. There are two parts to every u-turn: the beginning, and the ending. But the ending is where it remains afterwards, going off in the other direction. Accepting failure, yes. But turning round and making it right again - that's more important, I believe.
I considered some of the U-turns I have been on in life. Perhaps the biggest is coming to university; a School of Art no less. But I'm not the sort of person who's always liked 'art', not at school, not particularly much out of school either.