28 June 2012
They work with words
Fraser Muggeridge, Modern Toss and OK-RM have devised a series of typographic spreads exclusively for Eye. More information here.
Fraser Muggeridge, Modern Toss and OK-RM have devised a series of typographic spreads exclusively for Eye. See the following pages for the fruits of their labours: the principles of typography; the perils and pleasures of punctuation; and an exercise in cross-Channel translation
Fraser Muggeridge studio
Fraser Muggeridge studied typography at the University of Reading (where he is now a visiting tutor), then went to work with Sara Chapman at ‘the letter g’ in 1998 before leaving to set up his own studio in 2001. Muggeridge and his colleagues, Sarah Newitt and Stephen Barrett, share a pared-down aesthetic, in which colour, paper stock and format play as important a role as typography. The result is an elegant portfolio grounded in fine art, from artists’ books and gallery catalogues
to posters, invitations, experimental novels, websites, record covers and the odd film title. The studio’s clients include Tate Publishing, Whitechapel Gallery, De La Warr Pavilion and Art on the Underground.
‘One of my early aims was to find clients that understood what I was trying to do,’ says Muggeridge. ‘That was actually quite hard – because our work is almost “boring”. Some people really don’t get it, and say to us “Can’t you design it a bit more?”’
The ethos of the studio, he says, has always been ‘to prioritise artists’ and writers’ content over the imposition of a signature style’.
Muggeridge co-curated ‘The Form of the Book’ conference at St Bride Library, London, in 2009 (and with Sara De Bondt designed and edited the accompanying The Form of the Book Book). He is also a member of the 2010 d&ad graphic design jury. An exhibition ‘Designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio’ takes place during March and April at kaleid editions (an artists’ book project space in London). Muggeridge’s new Typography Summer School, which aims to introduce graphic design graduates to ‘live typographic projects’, complete with ‘actual briefs, real clients and real budgets’, will be held in London this July (typographysummerschool.org).
Modern Toss was founded by Jon Link and Mick Bunnage as a mischievous website in 2002, since when it has grown into a publishing empire whose tentacles reach every corner of contemporary life, from newspapers to tv. You can buy Modern Toss prints, books, greetings cards, t-shirts, bags and tea-towels. Modern life provides a rich vein of subject matter, brought to life in cartoon series such as Home Clubber (for the Guardian Guide), Drive-by Abuser and Mr Tourette.
The first printed editions of the Modern Toss comic acquired a cult following after their publication in 2004. Marketing experts at Waterstones suggested they ‘stick a spine on it’, and their books (five to date) became best-sellers. The series was adapted for broadcast on Channel 4 in 2006 and 2007. They turned Work Experience, another regular Guardian cartoon into a thirteen-minute short for e4.
Bunnage is a journalist who worked on Arena and Loaded, and before that played bass for the band Deep Freeze Mice. Link studied graphic design on a two-year hnd course at Barnet College in north London.
Before working together as Modern Toss, Link and Bunnage worked together on the ‘If biscuits were people’ feature for Loaded, where Bunnage was a contributing editor and co-founder and Link an editorial designer. They explored the theme of ‘experimental violence in the workplace’ in the Loaded cartoon strip ‘Office Pest’ from 1997-2001. Link was part of the launch team for Hot Dog and creative director of Jack, both launched by James Brown’s company ifg, which Link helped set up in 1999.
‘The only bit I never liked about graphic design,’ says Link, ‘was being commissioned by other people. That’s probably where Mr Tourette comes from and why a lot of designers like him.’ The typography of Modern Toss is there ‘to serve the joke,’ says Link. ‘If any of it starts taking over, it gets slapped down and set in Times.’
Oliver Knight and Rory McGrath studied graphic design together at the University of the West of England and set up OK-RM in 2008 after six years of independent stints for London and New York studios, as well as intermittent collaborations. Their work, which has been primarily for the arts / culture sector, continues to grow out of this longstanding collaboration – intuitively and in conversations. This unconstrained base provides room for a project-specific approach and a highly varied output. ‘It’s about making something really expressive of the project’s logic using limited means,’ they say; ‘it’s about being modest, accurate and truthful’. In pursuit of the play of logic and illogic behind language, OK-RM recently initiated ‘In Other Words…,’ a series of self-published projects ‘that celebrate and explore the English language – its ‘complexities and intricacies’ and ‘its relationship to culture, politics and identity’. (See also Jane Cheng’s article ‘Lost for words’ on the Eye blog.)
OK-RM collaborates with a close community of specialists: programmers, printers, curators and architects. Recent projects / clients have included Gasworks, Artangel, the Barbican Art Gallery, and the b+p Type Foundry (See Eye 68). Current projects include a new identity for Rivington Place, a book for Imran Qureshi published by Raking Leaves and work for the Public design festival in Milan.
Knight and McGrath characterise their methodology as ‘highly rational, appropriate and provocative’.
‘All of our work has a strong sense of purpose,’ they say. ‘We identify a project’s key point and exaggerate it to create magnified clarity.