Friday, 28 November 2008

Under pressure...

It has been a bit stressful over the last few weeks. A clerical error at work resulted in me being overpaid by nearly a full week’s wages. As I cannot afford to simply give them the money back, I have to work additional hours to repay the money.

With having 3 assignments running simultaneously as well, I’m finding it a bit of struggle to get the balance right between my time at work, self study time and just general “me” time.

Being referred on assignment A2 hasn’t helped either, which has resulted in even more work to do. I felt a mixture of emotions when given my grade and feedback. On one hand I was happy that the reasons for my referral were more for formatting mistakes than errors with the content of my report. On the flipside I was equally annoyed and frustrated with myself for not spotting these errors prior to handing in the assignment. I guess the moral of the story is to ensure that I leave more time for proofreading assignments prior to deadline day to (hopefully) avoid another referral in future.

On the plus side, I am enjoying the new assignments A3 and A4. The lectures we’ve had on how grids are used in design and the lectures on Typography have proven both informative and interesting. I must admit though I’m not looking forward to the tests on typography terminology and font identification as I tend to panic and forget everything in exams / tests.

I’ve also found the example exercises on designing page layouts using InDesign invaluable too. I really struggled to get my head around InDesign when we were inputting assignment A2 onto the assignment template as I’d never used it before. Admittedly these exercises are completely different to merely entering information into a template, but I feel that I now have a much better working knowledge of this extremely versatile programme.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Fear, tragedy, are all that lie ahead?

Well you could be forgiven for thinking that after the presentation by Dave and Craig of the Design Mechanics . They painted a grim picture of the reality of being in the design industry. From stories of difficult client’s complaining about the design of padlock hasps to personal heartache and near bankruptcy, it almost made me think twice about my chosen career path.

I was also a little taken a back to discover that designs are expected to be produced within hours of receiving the briefs and that several projects can be on the go at any one time. I expected a relatively quick turn around in the design process, but was thinking more in days and weeks not hours.

I’ve never been the quickest worker, preferring to mull over design briefs / assignments for some time before actually getting stuck in. Clearly this is an area I will need to improve upon if I am to make it as designer, though at least I’ve discovered this now whilst we are training rather than find myself out of my depth within a professional studio.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however as Craig and Dave both provided several amusing anecdotes of life in the design industry as well as some great advice which echoed what we’ve already been taught. The key message that I took from the talk was that in order to be a success you need to be strong willed, business minded, focused and flexible with a good work ethic not just creative. It was also reassuring to see someone like Craig who confessed to having no previous background in design proving that with hard work and focus, you can achieve your goals.

All in all I found the visit very interesting and informative and would hope that there will be more opportunities to interact with industry insiders in the future.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

An Introduction To The Mistral Font

The Mistral font family1 was designed by the French graphic artist Roger Excoffon for the Fonderie Olive type foundry (later taken over by Linotype) in 1953, with the Amsterdam Type Foundry also releasing a version in 1955. It is a casual script with long descenders which increase the sense of motion and the lower case letters have been carefully designed to connect on a line.

The Mistral Font
Excoffon’s vision2 when designing Mistral was to create the “handwriting of the man of the twentieth century”, “A modern handwriting perfectly free, uncodified, and spirited” which would bring a greater vivacity into French typography. To achieve his vision, Excoffen based the Mistral Font Family3 on his own handwriting style and named it4 after the strong, cold winds on Southern France.

However technological limitations at the time meant that the Font has a “heavy” look which looks like it has been written with a brush and paint rather than pen and ink.

The International Typeface Corporation (ITC) rectified this by releasing a reinterpretation of Mistral5 as Mistral Light as well reinterpretations of Excoffen's Choc and Banco font families. Designed by5 the late Phill Grimshaw, Mistral Light sees the weight of the font uniformly reduced with the weight of the thinner strokes then increased so that they didn’t disappear when reproduced at smaller sizes.

Comparisson of the Original and the redesigned Mistral font
As you can see in the above comparative image, the result is much closer to Excoffon’s vision. In redesigning Mistral, Grimshaw overcame another obstacle. Being a script typeface, Mistral cannot have an italic which is often used to show emphasis. To counter this Grimshaw designed a new set of small caps in the same weight to be used for emphasis though the original, heavier font could also be used.

Examples of the usage of the Mistral font can be found in abundance in shop signage in small cities in France as well as in Montreal as illustrated in Mistral In Montreal.

  1. Mistral (typeface), 08/05/2008,, Accessed on 04/11/08
  2. Soar, 2004, Excoffon's Autograph,, Accessed on 04/11/08
  3. Mistral (typeface), 08/05/2008,, Accessed on 04/11/08
  4. Mistral: About this font, Accessed on 04/11/08
  5. Dreyfus, Roger Excoffen,, Accessed on 04/11/08