Saturday, 6:09pm
22 May 2010

DIY design

The 9th annual St Bride Library conference, 27-28 May 2010

A lot of design that’s interesting, different – worth talking about – has an element of DIY, writes Rob Banham. Most obviously when designers become makers and take control of production, but also through self-initiated projects, by breaking away from the styles and conventions of the time, and occasionally even when design is done by people without any formal training.

The speakers at this year’s conference at St Bride will address these different DIY themes, kicking off with Michael Johnson (of Johnson Banks) asking some big questions about the future of design: ‘Can DIY replace the traditional push-me-pull-you of the client relationship? Are we at the beginning of a new age of craft-based, cottage industries, or is it a false dawn?’


Several speakers will talk about the craft elements of their work, including Tom Boulton and Theo Wang on their letterpress business (above), and Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck on some of the artists’ books that she has made. Martin Andrews will remind us that this aspect of DIY is nothing new – Rena Gardiner was writing, illustrating, printing and binding her own books in the 1960s and 70s – but there has certainly been a real renaissance of craft in design. But what’s the reason for this trend? Are people placing more value in the handmade - or is it just Photoshop fatigue?


Above: Linzie Hunter will be encouraging designers to ‘make time for play’.

Other talks will be on DIY resources past and present, creating new letterforms (and making tools for creating new letterforms), and the publishing of blogs, fanzines, books, and magazines. Self-publishing isn't new either, as Teal Triggs’ talk on fanzines will demonstrate, but it is experiencing a huge resurgence at the moment.

But why go to the time and trouble of self-publishing books, magazines and newspapers? Is there really a market for it, or are designers just selling things to each other?

Below: Kevin Braddock, Peter Lyle and Woz will be discussing how (and why) they made Manzine.


There will also be live demonstrations of letterpress, cutting letters in stone, calligraphy, and the magic of the risograph. And if that’s not enough, then we also have one of the biggest names in the world of design, and a man who created a whole new design movement – Wolfgang Weingart (below).


For further information, or to book tickets, see the full programme on

For more on Wolfgang Weingart, see ‘Inspiration’, Eye 42 and ‘World of signs and pictures’, Eye 37 and ‘Back to basics in Basel’, Eye 58.

See also ‘Character studies’, Eye 73, about Michael Johnson’s self-initiated ‘phonetic typeface’ project.

See the Eye events page for information about more graphic happenings.

Eye 75 is a typography special issue, featuring illustrative type and lettering, calligraphy, type on the Web, a profile of Anthony Burrill and Mark Thomson’s Reputations interview with Peter Biľak. You can read a selection of pages on Eye Before You Buy on Issuu. Student subscriptions are half price,

Eye magazine is available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and back issues.