Invitation to the first FiFFteen exhibition, LCC, London, 16 Nov – 17 Dec 2004

FiFFteen at London College of Communication

Banners at FiFFteen, London College of Communication. On the high wall, left, are Erik van Blokland’s randomized type specimens. The quality of the banner production improved over time.

Display featuring Berlin design group eBoy

Display featuring Dutch type designer Fred Smeijers

Production. Marina Chaccur, Clive Bruton.

Clive again, in the company of JM and Erik Spiekermann


Travelling exhibition to celebrate 15 years of FontFont (and FUSE)

• • •

In early 2004, Joan Spiekermann Sargent invited me to curate, in collaboration with Erik Spiekermann, a travelling exhibition to celebrate 15 years of FontFont. Neville Brody was to curate and design a companion show about his experimental font collection and magazine/poster series FUSE, published by FontShop in the early 1990s.

I was still living in Gent, Belgium, and travelled to Berlin several times throughout the summer of 2004, staying at Spiekermann’s guest apartment opposite the United Designers studio in Motzstraße. or at a friend’s apartment if that one was taken. It was the beginning of my love affair with Berlin.

Preparing the exhibition was quite an adventure, as nobody had much of an idea what it should look like. Being somebody with encyclopedic ambitions (see also: Dutch Type and other books) and a playful yet practical attitude, I began collecting material, and inventing assignments to make sure the whole thing would be full of material, not just a collection of printed panels. I hoarded books, brochures, posters, and a wide variety of FontFont-related objects. I invited Erik van Blokland to design type specimen banners using his random text generator, which he’d used before to make type specimens for my FontShop Benelux magazine Druk. And I commissioned the Dutch-American duo Strange Attractors to create an animation using as many FontFont typefaces as possible. This resulted in Little Yellow Writing Hood. Watch it on YouTube. I also included entertaining short videos from FF designers LettError and Hans Reichel.

Erik Spiekermann art-directed the many panels which were designed by two or three (freelance) designers working at the United Designers studio, where I closely collaborated with them rewriting texts and doing image research. My insistence on including showcases to exhibit that collection of objects resulted in the design of a vitrine element by Paul Weihe, a very young intern at Erik’s studio. Erik’s main instruction concerned the material: “Corrugated, corrugated.” The corrugated paperboard worked, but proved very cruel to all of us during the production stage.

Erik arranged the first of a long series of venues: the first edition of the exhibition was to be installed by the FontShop team at the Royal College of Communication in London. The production week in London was hell. I’m exaggerating. It was a new experience for everybody involved, and it was an interesting but stressful time. Having the panels printed was expensive, but easy. But nobody had given the production of banners and cardboard elements much thought, so we had to figure that all out while working on-site. We’d been promised the assistance of a number of students, but most soon disappeared as soon as the hard work began, except one: energetic and dedicated Brazilian student Marina Chaccur, with whom I struck a lasting long-distance friendship, and who later became a very active member of ATypI.

Fortunately I’d sensed that some production bottlenecks might be ahead, so I’d convinced FontShop to hire a kind of executive producer-cum-handyman; and I (or Erik?) had talked London type geek Clive Bruton into being that person, a task he performed admirably at a ridiculously low pay which he’d set himself. Being one of the curators, building the stuff wasn’t really my task, but as time was tight, I joined the small FontShop team. The exhibition was ready about 5 minutes before the opening. Of all the little mishaps that happened along the way, the most painful one to most of us was the sharpness of the freshly cut corrugated paperboard: at the opening, we happily clinked our glasses with bleeding hands.

Curated by JM and Erik Spiekermann
Designed by United Designers Network (Richard Bull, Paul Weihe, and others)
Banners by Erik van Blokland

Curated by Neville Brody
Designed by Research Studios

Premiere: Royal College of Communication, London, November 2004
Produced by Clive Bruton, with JM and the FSI team
From early 2005 onwards, the exhibition travelled to Berlin, Valencia, New York, Helsinki, Antwerp, Goa, and more.

Catalogue to the exhibition (to be added)
Complete video of Little Yellow Writing Hood