Spring 2009

Paul Carlos

‘We have yet to scratch the surface’

Paul Carlos is a principal at Pure+Applied design studio, and teaches typography and publication design at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

On a recent trip to India, I realised that designers have yet to scratch the surface of how they can mutually and beneficially influence our environment(s). As the 21st century unfolds, designers will continue to bring their own personal, visual sensibilities to their work, but I don’t see a major movement in the near future that will galvanise the field.

Rather, there will continue to be a multitude of influences (cultural, technological, globalisation, craft, montage, DIY, experimentation, ornamentation, conceptualisation, vernacular, historical, etc.) drawing designers in various directions and creating unexpected intersections and amalgamations. This is what makes the design process challenging and worth pursuing.

These unexpected intersections are evident in Peter Bil’ak’s History and in Sylvia & Daniel Janssen’s Atlantik (both launched in 2008).

History does not slavishly copy a singular historic typeface but lets designers play with, recreate, or mix Classical, Renaissance, Baroque and Modern typographic styles. This is the ultimate revival typeface, since it provides thousands of options to create new types.

Atlantik expands the designer’s palette by reviving the often overlooked borders and ornaments that used to accompany every type specimen book. There are still thousands of these lost ornaments, waiting to be rediscovered and redrawn digitally.

First published in Eye no. 71 vol. 18 2009


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.