Interview with Chai-Lin Lin for the Baseline blog, discussing her ISTD project ‘Adrian Frutiger: A Life’s Work’.
The first time I heard of the Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) was when I discovered the very first issue of a magazine called Typographic in the library at London College of Communication. Then afterwards my tutor Tony Pritchard introduced us to the ISTD Student Assessment.
Approaching the project
I would say it was quite straightforward at the research stage but I also tried to extend the focus and to dig into the subject as deep as I could. For example, the project is about Adrian Frutiger’s life and work, so my research not only covered his typeface designs but also his background and people who had influenced him, such as his teachers Walter Käch and Alfred Willimann, Emil Ruder, Jan Tschichold, his colleague André Gürtler and so on. Then behind all his professional work Frutiger also loved abstract subjects on wood carving, and had admiration for nature forms, which most closely reflected his personality and his aesthetic. Furthermore, I also researched and analysed the traditional type specimens from the library and the latest web-based type specimens on how they represent type designers’ ‘work’.
Coming up with a concept
I found typeface designers generally kept a low profile; type specimen is probably the most direct and common way of showing their works, and only few type designers have monographs to represent their stories. The concept of this project aims to combine the best of both and bring to the reader’s attention the uniqueness and characteristics of his typefaces in hopefully an approachable fashion that appeals beyond the academics.
What was ‘detailing’ in the project
Balance. I think the detailing of this project is that I tried to bring Frutiger’s aesthetic and his design processes to the readers and balanced with my personal creativity rather than making a completely new visual work. It included the considerations of paper, format, layout, typographic display and colour. I wish the outcome has the accurate voice – neither too loud nor too timid.
The educational value of this project
I think it is valuable for students to take part in the assessment. Students can learn a great deal from research, experiment, discussion with other people and really focus on typographic details. Because of the high standard of the assessment, it made me push myself further and I have learnt a lot during the process and also learnt from some mistakes.
Passing the ISTD assessment
I am very proud of being part of the Society and to have such a great opportunity of meeting many fantastic people. Having passed the ISTD assessment means a lot to me, especially I am from Asia where the language system is completely different from English and I have been fascinated by western typography for a long time. It also gives me more confident in dealing with typography. I will continue to learn and to push my boundaries.
London College of Communication, London University for the Arts
International Society of Typographic Designers, ISTD, the professional body for typographers, graphic designers and educators.
The ISTD student assessment scheme, started in 1975, is cited as a model of academic thoroughness and professionalism. Unlike many others, the scheme is not a competition as it considers the holistic achievement – not just the final outcome. The overall design process of research, reflection, strategy, design development, technical and production specification is assessed by teams of practising designers and educators. Students who are successful in the scheme are offered membership of the Society.