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Interview with Roberto Gamonal

Kelcey Towell

If there were such a thing as typographic pen pals, Roberto Gamonal and I would be prime examples.

What started with an online order question has led to a continued long-distance conversation between two type-lovers brought together by a mutual love for Spanish Civil War typography. Curious about his work and his involvement in Santo Tipo, I sent Roberto, a Madrid-based designer and letterpress printer, a few questions; his answers below in both Spanish and English.

ESPAÑOL


Háblame de ti, de tu práctica de diseño y de la tipografía familiar Plómez.

Soy profesor de Diseño, Edición y Tipografía en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid y soy diseñador editorial. Estoy especializado en diseño de publicaciones. Así que mi principal materia prima es la tipografía.

Me gustan las letras por su forma y por su contenido. Las letras del alfabeto me parecen el dibujo más perfecto que jamás ha hecho el ser humano.

También formo parte de Familia Plómez, una asociación cultural cuyo objetivo es preservar las técnicas de composición e impresión artesanales con tipos móviles. Tenemos un taller de imprenta donde damos un uso actualizado de un material antiguo rescatado de viejas imprentas. Principalmente producimos carteles porque es el formato más expresivo para potenciar el poder visual de la tipografía.

ENGLISH


Tell me about yourself, your design practice and La Familia Plomez.

I am a professor of design, publishing, and typography and the University Complutense of Madrid, and I am an editorial designer. I specialize in the design of publications. So, my primary material is typography.

I like letters for their form and their meaning. Letters of the alphabet seem to me to be the most perfect drawing ever made by a man.

Also, I form part of Familia Plomez, a cultural association whose objective is to preserves the artisan composition and printing techniques of movable type. We have a printing workshop where we provide an up-to-date use of old material rescued from old printing presses. We primarily produce posters because it’s the most expressive format to show the visual power of typography.

 

How and when did you get into Letterpress?

I began to letterpress from a didactic perspective. To work with movable type is the best way to learn about current typography. To compose text with lead type helps you learn concepts that ordinarily happen inadvertently like, white space, line, and paragraphs. Touching it and being able to see it in a physical and analogical format makes these abstract ideas better understood.

From where you do draw inspiration for letterpress?

From music, books, conversations with my friends, other designers, posters, signs I see on the street… I always walk looking up watching signs and one day I'm going to hit a street lamp. :)

Cómo y cuándo empezaste letterpress?

Mi acercamiento al letterpress fue desde una perspectiva didáctica. Trabajar con los tipos móviles me parece la mejor manera de entender la tipografía actual. Componer un texto con tipos de plomo te ayuda a entender conceptos que en el ordenador pasan inadvertidos como el espacio en blanco, la línea o el párrafo. Tocarlo y poder verlo en un formato físico y analógico hace que estas ideas abstractas se entiendan mejor.

De dónde sacas inspiración para letterpress?

Pues de la música, de los libros, de conversaciones con amigos, de otros diseñadores, de los carteles y los rótulos que veo por la calle... Siempre paseo mirando hacia arriba viendo letreros y un día me voy a chocar con una farola :)

 

SANTO TIPO


What is Santo Tipo? How did you become involved?

Santo Tipo es the Typography Week of Santo Domingo. A conference in which typography, calligraphy and lettering are strengthened, as well as editorial design. This is realized in the form of conferences, workshops and debate panels. It allows an exchange of knowledge and experiences in addition to showcasing really interesting work being done by Dominican designers.

The idea began as a joint proposal with a former Dominican student who studied with us, obtaining a master's degree in Editorial Design in Madrid: Marova (https://www.instagram.com/marovita/). Thanks to the support of the Cultural Center of Spain in Santo Domingo, we were able to put this exciting project underway.

Que es Santo Tipo? ¿Cómo te involucraste?

Santo Tipo es la Semana Tipográfica de Santo Domingo. Un encuentro en el que se potencia la tipografía, la caligrafía y el lettering, además del diseño editorial. Se realizan conferencias, talleres, mesas de debate y exposiciones. Permite un intercambiar de conocimientos y experiencias además de conocer trabajos muy interesantes que están realizando los diseñadores dominicanos.

La idea nació de una propuesta conjunta con una antigua alumna dominicana que estudió con nosotros un máster de Diseño Editorial en Madrid: Marova (https://www.instagram.com/marovita/). Gracias al apoyo del Centro Cultural de España en Santo Domingo pudimos poner en marcha este proyecto tan ilusionante.

Marova, at center, teaching a lettering workshop for Fun Packed Moments. Image Courtesy: Fun Packed Moments http://shopfpm.com/acerca-de-fun-packed-moments/

Marova, at center, teaching a lettering workshop for Fun Packed Moments. Image Courtesy: Fun Packed Moments http://shopfpm.com/acerca-de-fun-packed-moments/

Talk to me about your stencil workshop. Why do you think stencils are a good way to create letterforms?

One of the workshops that we proposed for Santo Tipo was a small introductory course on the construction of the letter. It was an approach to sketch letters in an analog form and it was addressed from two points of view: the module and the stroke. Working with the module, I thought that the most useful tools would be to use stencils as a limited and predefined form. I allowed for the creation of an alphabetic system with few elements, but these elements can be combined almost infinitely and you can create multiple forms.

What other tools and methods do you use when creating letters?

I prefer analog tools to pixel and vectors: Wood and lead type, calligraphy pens, pencils, pens, felt pens. I love ink.

How can designers of the world get involved with Santo Tipo 2018?

We still do not know how we are going to make the follow-up edition or which guests are going to participate. But, we do want to publicize it on social networks with contributions from other designers with the words "Santo Type" made with any technique and/or tool.

Háblame del taller de plantillas. ¿Por qué elige plantillas para crear formas letras?

Uno de los talleres que se propusieron en Santo Tipo fue un pequeño curso de Introducción a la construcción de la letra. Se trataba de un acercamiento al boceto de letras de forma analógica y se abordaba desde dos puntos de vista: el módulo y el trazo. Para trabajar el módulo, me pareció que la herramienta más útil era usar plantillas con formas limitadas y predefinidas. Esto permite crear un sistema alfabético con pocos elementos, pero estos elementos se combinan de forma casi infinita y puedes crear múltiples formas.

¿Qué otras herramientas o metodos usas cuando creas letras?

Prefiero las herramientas análogicas al pixel y al vector: tipos de madera y de plomo, plumas caligráficas, lapiceros, bolígrafos, rotuladores. Me gusta la tinta.

¿Cómo disenadores del mundo pueden involucrarse en Santo Tipo 2018?

Aún no sabemos cómo vamos a hacer la siguiente edición ni qué invitados van a participar. Queremos publicar en las redes sociales las aportaciones de otros diseñadores con las palabras "Santo Tipo" realizadas con cualquier técnica y herramienta.

 

Below, conference goers use LetterMaker and other stencils to create their own unique alphabets. 

 

SUPER TIPO VELOZ


Recently, you posted an image of Super Tipo Veloz on Instagram. I am so jealous! Super Tipo Veloz was a huge inspiration for me when making LetterMaker.

Tell me about working with Super Tipo Veloz. What challenges did it present? What joys?

Super Tipo Veloz is a brilliant invention. I think that the type is very intelligent, and moreover, beautiful. It mixes logical, module construction with expressive calligraphy. It was typography created in an era of scarcity of typographic material in Spain after the Civil War. It allowed printers to create typographic illustrations without having to make an engraving or drawing. But it’s name is deceiving. It’s not super fast (Super Veloz), to work with it is very, very slow. Its composition is complicated by the large number of spaces it needs to adjust. See Roberto's lock-up on press here

Still, we’ve managed to do several things and the result is spectacular, fun and cool.

Recientemente, publicaste una imagen del Super Tipp Veloz en Instagram. Estoy muy celoso Super rápido tipo fue una gran inspiración para mí al crear LetterMaker.

Háblame sobre trabajando con Super Tipo Veloz. Que desafíos presenta? Que alegrias?

El Super Tipo Veloz es un invento genial. Me parece una tipografía muy inteligente, además de bella. Mezcla la racionalidad de la construcción modular con la expresividad caligráfica. Se trataba de una tipografía creada en una época de escasez de material tipográfico en España después de la Guerra Civil. Permitía a los impresores crear ilustraciones tipográficas sin necesidad de hacer un grabado o un dibujo. Pero su nombre engaña. No es Super Veloz, trabajar con ella es muy, muy lento. Su composición es complicada por la gran cantidad de espacios que necesita para ajustar. Puedes ver el "lock-up" de Roberto aquí.

Aún así hemos conseguido hacer varias cosas y el resultado es espectacular, divertido y fresco.

C3gR6obWMAA3SgJ copy.png

"[Super Veloz] allowed  printers to create  typographic  illustrations without  having to make an  engraving or drawing.  But, its name is  deceiving. It's not  super fast to work  with, it is very,
 very slow." 

To my surprise, I received one of Roberto’s Super Tipo Veloz posters in the mail. The typography is set with immense skill and the impression is perfect. Bravo!

Finalmente, cual es tu letra favorita? Porque?

Me gusta mucho la letra "R" y en cuanto a tipografías, me sorprendo con las más clásicas como Garamond o Bodoni. Me imagino las limitaciones de la época en las que fueron creadas y me resulta asombroso que se hayan creado letras tan perfectas. Para mí, las mayúsculas de la letra Futura son lo más cercano a la perfección.

And finally, what is your favorite letter? Why?

I really like the letter “R” and in terms of typography, I am surprised by many more classics like Garamond or Bodoni. I imagine the limitations of the time when it was created and I find it astonishing that such perfect letters have been created. For me, the capital letters of Futura are the closest to perfection.


To see more of Roberto's work, visit:  
Puedes ver más del trabajo tipográfico de Roberto, visita:

http://familiaplomez.bigcartel.com/artist/roberto-gamonal


Translated from the Spanish by Kelcey Towell, with help from Elizabeth Ruvalcaba. 

Designersblock 2016

Kelcey Towell

 

"I feel like a kid again."

 

This past September, I was fortunate enough to participate in Designersblock, as a part of the London Design Festival. The event itself took place in the OXOTower in London's Southbank District. This year's event included four floors of fresh talent in the form of graphic design, illustration, product design, jewelry design, industrial design, furniture, lighting and everything in-between. 

From young folks to seasoned industrial designers, exhibit-goers seemed to find joy in LetterMaker's simple forms. Below are a few shots from the exhibition. 

LetterMaker was enjoyed by all!

Check back for images of LetterMaker crowd-sourced creations!

LetterMaker's Grandparents

Kelcey Towell

One of the great inspirations for designing the LetterMaker was my granddad's collection of stencils. As a part-time draftsman, he would use these stencils to inscribe everything from blueprints for a golf course to addressing an envelope. He was the kind of man who would write letters against a ruler — the bottoms of his letters would flatten out a bit at the baseline. His discipline, meticulous nature, and desire for consistency — traits he no doubt learned from his Air Force days — guided his daily life and work.

The following images are scans from his original toolbox.  


This particular stencil, the "Speed-O-Print 3/4 Inch Plain", got me thinking about stencils and their individual modules as efficient tools for creating letters — particularly the O, P, Q, R section of the alphabet. Speed-O-Print Co. likely wanted to streamline the efficiency of lettering with the stencil and they probably wanted cut down on the length of the stencil, so they chopped up these 4 letters and made modules instead. This allowed the letterer to create all the letters they needed with a simple selection of shapes. 

A vector rendering of the O, P, Q, and R section.

My granddad even kept the accordion-folded guides that came with the stencil. These guides offer tips and techniques for making a variety of letters — everything from how to make an 8 to "How to get bold, shadow and other unusual effects".

From a designer's perspective, this is a fascinating, historical look into how stencils can and were used to create lettering. From a personal standpoint, these sheets of plastic and folded papers are immensely valuable. They not only were possessions of my granddad, but they're heirlooms that represent both his character and his craft. 

Letters in London

Kelcey Towell

I am honored to announce that LetterMaker will be featured in an exhibition hosted by Designersblock London as a part of the 2016 London Design Festival.

Image Courtesy: http://www.verydesignersblock.com/work/london-shows/

Image Courtesy: http://www.verydesignersblock.com/work/london-shows/

Designersblock, an organization that hosts annual events showcasing the latest and greatest in graphic, industrial, architectural, fashion and conceptual design, has been hosting productions across the globe for nearly two decades.

Image Courtesy: http://www.verydesignersblock.com/work/london-shows/

Image Courtesy: http://www.verydesignersblock.com/work/london-shows/

This fall, LetterMaker will be in attendance at London's Southbank Centre to host a participatory space where festival-goers can create letters, compositions, systems, and maybe even an emoticon or two. 

As September approaches, check back for updates and news! I can't wait to see what people create!

Album Abstract

Kelcey Towell

WORKSHOP AIGA Student Conference 2016

lettermaker_AIGAStudentConference2016

Recently, AIGA St. Louis invited Jim Walker and I to participate in their annual Student Conference. As former co-chair of the AIGA STL Student Conference, I know firsthand how valuable these experiences are for young, idealistic designers, so I’ve made a habit of giving back wherever possible —whether participating as a guest critic for seniors at local universities or meeting with students about their careers and future pursuits. This year’s Student Conference was held at Maryville University, just a short drive from downtown St. Louis.

Album Abstract was a conditional design exercise focused on making album art. Students were restricted in the materials, methods, and time they had to produce a complete album presentation. The jumping off point? To respond to a song through color, texture, and form. We provided a wide array of colored papers, markers, and scissors, introducing each one at different stages.

Students began the exercise exploring with color, listening to the entire song, and reacting creatively through color in response. With their color palettes decided, we guided the students to experiment with making tangible patterns. Using the LetterMaker they focused on rhythm, pattern, and texture to develop their creative expression. Finally, students pulled everything together by containing those colors and textures into form, organizing their piece into a fixed space.

Results were varied, but each student was able to respond to these conditions in under 45 minutes and produce a considered piece of album art. Our hope is that they impose these types of conditions in future work and learn the value of such processes in making.

Selected Songs:
"The Sticks" by Budos Band
"The Yaba" by Battles
"Blue in Green" by Miles Davis