6 September 2018
‘XXX’ marks the spot
Letter Exchange, a network of professionals in the lettering arts, type design and typography, is to host a conference in Cambridge in October
2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Letter Exchange, the organisation for professionals in the lettering arts, and to celebrate, we are hosting a conference in Cambridge, entitled ‘XXX’, writes conference organiser Mark Noad.
‘XXX’ [named after the Roman numerals for 30], with its accompanying exhibition and other activities, is our chance to show a wider audience what we do and why we do it. From the outset, Letter Exchange’s members have included many of the leading practitioners from all fields of lettering including calligraphy, letter cutting, type design and graphic design.
Speakers include calligrapher Luca Barcellona, lettercutter Nick Benson, type designer Matthew Carter, designer and writer Catherine Dixon, lettercutter Paul Herrera, graphic designers Morag Myerscough and John Morgan, calligrapher Brody Neuenschwander and lettering artist / sculptor Julia Vance.
Top: Nick Benson.
For the past 30 years, Letter Exchange has been actively encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas and approaches to keep contemporary lettering fresh. Through events such as ‘XXX’, publications and the work of our members, we have been at the forefront of lettering practice, creating works that inspire and influence the way we communicate in the 21st century. We make words visible.
Regardless of medium or technique our members have a focus on the letter itself, and on sharing experience and expertise. And while we champion and nurture traditional lettering crafts, our skills evolve to reflect contemporary practice. Although letters may be familiar and everyday, their origin and creation is unfamiliar and to a certain extent mysterious. Lettering – for everything from memorials in stone to typefaces on your phone – does not appear spontaneously, fully formed. It is crafted to work for specific purposes. The hours spent on each individual letter are informed by years of learning the craft skills used to create it.
A selection of works from John Morgan, Brody Neuenschwander, Luca Barcellona, Nick Benson, Julia Vance, Paul Herrera and the late Ian Hamilton Finlay, all featured in ‘XXX’.
The conference epitomises what we are all about and brings together some of the very best letterers from North America, Europe and the United Kingdom for a celebration of lettering in all its diverse forms.
Catherine Dixon’s covers for the Penguin Great Ideas series.
In addition to the programme of talks, there will be other events and activities including a workshop with Luca Barcellona (already fully booked); calligraphy, lettercutting and letterpress demonstrations; a performance / installation piece by Brody Neuenschwander; a panel discussion with Letter Exchange members recalling their experiences working with artist Ian Hamilton Finlay; type-themed walks around Cambridge including a bespoke Ghost Signs walk from Sam Roberts; screenings of the films Pressing On and Adrian Harrison’s 94 [8000 One-Offs] about MuirMcNeil’s covers for Eye 94 and visits to local libraries and studios.
Passing on our skills to the next generation of letterers is one of the founding principles of Letter Exchange. As part of the conference, we will be holding a seminar on the current state and future of lettering education featuring, among others, the founder of the European Lettering Institute Lieve Cornil.
With ‘XXX’ and its associated workshops and exhibitions we aim to bring an understanding and excitement about contemporary fine lettering to a wider audience and inspire the next generation of letterers. This is a unique chance to see some of today’s finest lettering practitioners at the same event.
The conference will be held at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, from Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 October 2018. Tickets are available here.
Mark Noad, designer, Letter Exchange committee member, London
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