HOW PUNK CHANGED TYPOGRAPHY
Typography is so much more than words on a page. Words come to life, create a mood, tell a story, evoke a reaction, even influence. During the 1970s, the visual landscape underwent a revolution. After centuries of classic styles and the rigid Modernism, Punk exploded onto the scene. It may have seemed like youthful rebellion but this anti-establishment movement was a reaction to Britain’s political and social unrest of decades of post-war austerity. In the UK, in 1975 the onslaught of The Sex Pistols marked a new era of music, fashion and design.
British artist Jamie Reid gave punk it’s iconic typographic look. He developed the ransom note style of cutting up newspaper print and pasting it back together. Breaking down the rigid type format matched the anarchic ethos of the movement perfectly. His most famous works are The Sex Pistols’ only studio album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, which was extremely controversial at the time. He also did the artwork for the singles “Anarchy In The UK”, “God Save The Queen”, “Pretty Vacant” and “Holidays in the Sun”.
We may now have become accustomed to this form of graphics in typography but in the 1970s the visual effect was shocking. It had such impact that, 40 years on, the association today is still rebellious and the branding remains subversive and raw.
On November 15th at The Museum of Brands in London, typographer and graphic designer Sarah Hyndman, author of Why Fonts Matter (https://typetastingnews.com/book/), will be giving a talk about the power of Punk type. Hyndman delves into the science and art of fonts, unearthing their personalities and promises. She conducts numerous studies into the reactions fonts evoke, using her audiences to test out the theories, as seen in her TED talk “Wake up and smell the typography”. She viscerally brings the impact of fonts to life. She cites Punk as a pivotal point in typography and the beginning of DIY immediacy.
“It was completely new and innovative but there have been a few times in history where type has been ripped out of the grid and spilled across pages quite loosely and emotionally, such as the Dadaist and Futurist periods,” she says. “But whereas before, revolutionary graphic posters would have had quite aesthetically beautiful typefaces, with punk it was clashing and obnoxious.”
The DIY method adopted during the Punk era found a way around commissioning a typesetter which was time-consuming and costly. Hyndman adds, “They didn’t sit there and spend hours choosing the perfect cut of Helvetica – it was the anti-Helvetica.”
A decade later, the Apple Mac brought in a new era of access to type, design and innovation, but the Punk years broke all conventions.
Never Mind the Typography. 7pm,15 November
Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, 111-117 Lancaster Road, London W11 1QT.