Love of typography & letterforms & poetry

‘Behold, love, death, again and again’

These are the words that leap out to me from the cover of Phil Cleaver’s beautiful typographic treatise. Is it a book? Is it a work of art? It’s a bit of both, a labour of love, years in the making.

You might know Phil as the designer of the annual 26 awards. He’s an award-winner himself; a graphic designer, author, lecturer and artist. His personality was formed in the labyrinth city of London, under the influence of punk, the far east, and some of the design industry’s most  influential leaders, including Alan Fletcher of Pentagram, and Michael Wolff at Wolff Olins.

This book was inspired by an experiment in metal handset type 43 years ago, while Phil was a student and prodigy of Anthony Froshaug at the Central School of Art and Design, London. Using four poems by Jessica d’Este, Phil delighted in a random, disruptive aesthetic which only paid a passing nod and a wink to the typographic rules and conventions of the day.

Writing in the book, Phil shares his love of typography which “stems from the fact someone has designed and drawn the most beautiful shapes of letter forms. These are visual symbols for sound, in a wealth of different styles. Like stars in the sky, there are hundreds of thousands to choose from and what we must do as typographers/artists is to arrange these gems into an order and the correct balance and alignment as we paint with white space. To me, typesetting is pure abstract art. Seeing type in this way allows me to set in many languages, from Russian to Chinese. I do a lot of typographic design using both Chinese and English text working side by side.”

As you’d expect, the four poems are beautifully set. But to make things more interesting, Phil used three different composing rooms in three different locations. Each with its own set of typeface designs, sizes and restrictions. Phil likes a challenge. Being told something can not be done is the fuel upon which his rebel-like talent ignites. One of his most quoted sayings is, “There are no rules, and if there were, I would only want to break them.”

Love of typography & letterforms & poetry is available in a limited edition of 50 from Phil Cleaver,

– Andy Hayes

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