David Bowie – Letterform Live

Grafik bring you Letterform Live, in partnership with Monotype and the ISTD, a series of talks – all about type, typography, and the design process.

At each event speakers zoom in on a single letterform, exploring both its visual form as well as the story behind it, sharing their letter’s little-known secrets and reveal their personal relationship with the letter they’ve chosen.

This April’s Letterform Live theme celebrates the late David Bowie and those who were luck enough to work closely with him. Speakers included Jonathan Barnbrook, Tom Hingston, Morag Myerscough and Julian Morey.

Julian Morey

Morey kicked off the night with a light-hearted in-depth observation of a record, The Visitor, featured in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) which starred Bowie. From identifying the designer, to the typeface, and the image featured on the cover. The talk was intensely fascinating and for an object that only appears in the film for about a minute – quite impressive to what Morey had discovered. I shan’t share his story, as it is his to tell, and I hope he continues to recount his obsession at future gigs.

The man who fell to earth (1976)

Morag Myerscough

Myerscough delighted us with some nostalgic stories of her childhood and the music she listened to with her sister. The letter she had chosen to focus on was the letter ‘K’ featured on the cover of David Bowies Hunky Dory (1971). It was interesting to hear the thoughts of an artist who disregards all the house rules (like Bowie), experimentation with the letterforms, and her experiences with the popular rub-down type – Letraset.

Hunky Dory (1971) by David Bowie

Tom Hingston

Hingston kindly shared with us the story behind the video of David Bowie’s Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) (2016), from concept to creation. Showing us behind the scenes of how the elements, and tangents in the creative process, led to the final shoot – somewhere in south London with a big arse projector, smoke machines, and mysterious characters. The outcome is beautiful and fitting, inspired by 1930/40s film noir.

Jonathan Barnbrook

Finally Barnbrook delighted us with the journey to the creation of Black Star (2016), David Bowie’s last album released shortly before his death. Without knowledge of Bowie’s condition it seemed a fitting tribute, as it followed the subject of mortality. A coincidence some people cannot believe, as Barnbrook recounts many a time people have questioned him, such as relating the character code with special dates etc.

Barnbrook used Unicode Character ‘BLACK STAR’ (U+2605), an open source graphic language, and further made all artwork created as free to use under Creative Commons on bowieblackstar.net.

The broken up star shapes make the word ‘Bowie’.

Black Star (2016) by David Bowie