Ellie Bainbridge (She/Her)
The Kerry Aylin Prize for Distinction in Printing
Glasgow/Liverpool based graphic designer interested in all things type and printing. My practice this year has mainly explored themes of nostalgia, with a focus on world-building and typeface design. I most enjoy utilising traditional graphic design skills and tend to use wit and narrative to communicate my ideas.
Shuggie Bain is a Man Booker Prize winning novel written by Douglas Stuart. The novel centers around Shuggie Bain, an effeminate boy who spends his 1980s childhood in poverty stricken Glasgow. The project was was commissioned by Picador to mark the publication of the novel in paperback with the intended outcome of a mural at the Barrowland Ballroom and posters around Glasgow, with a 6-sheet poster to run down Sauchiehall Street. Cobolt Collective were selected for the project and Jack Batchelor, a fellow Communication Design student, and I were brought on to produce the typeface to be used in the designs. With a 2-week turn around, we immediately began to research and found key phrases in the book that would inform our ideas. Throughout the book, Shuggie is referred to as being ‘no right’, a feminine presence in a very masculine world. After coming across the word ‘flourish’ in one of the our quotes from the book, we decided on the concept. The idea was to create a typeface that presents the concept of toxic masculinity and juxtapose it with the addition of flourishes, demonstrating the idea of something being ‘no right’. The flourishes enhanced the letterforms whilst also harking back to the idea of dance and movement, a common theme throughout the book.
This project was inspired by the talk ‘To All The Fonts I’ve Loved Before’ by Eric Hu. I decided to look back to my family history and create a typeface dedicated to my Grandad and his old fishmongers. The initial stages of this project were sentimental as I allowed myself to indulge in my childhood memories of both the shop and my Grandad. Collecting photographs and speaking to my mum about her memories proved to be emotional and encouraged me to produce a typeface that respected our combined memories, using the shopfront as a starting point. The type specimen borrows its visual language from the shop itself, including images of my family and pairing them with words and phrases relating to my memories, as well as including a poem written by my Grandmother.
Inspired by the concept of paper towns – a fictitious entry on a map used to help unmask copyright infringements – Fake Fans is a project exploring the tense football rivalry between two teams – Coulthard F.C. and Arundel Rovers – residing in the same fictional town of Wanhall. Originally, the project was light-hearted and comedic in nature, with pub brawls and frivolous arguments dictating the narrative and outcomes. To give the project some reality and context, I looked into the 3-day week of early 1974.
The 3-day week was introduced by the Government in response to the miner’s strikes and fuel shortages. The country was told to “Switch Something Off” and the working week was shortened to only 3 days, with many factories opening Thursday – Saturday. This led to the initiation of Sunday football as, although previously a legally religious day of rest, workers could no longer attend Saturday matches. The outcome is an archive of work belonging to a Coulthard F.C. supporter and relating to a particular match in ’74 – documenting the rivalry between the teams as well as hinting at the social context at the time. Drawing on satire and the tongue-in-cheek attitude of ‘70s lower-league English football, the project is an exploration of narrative and world-building.
Shuggie Bain – Flourish Typeface
Midway through the year, I was invited to collaborate with Cobolt Collective and fellow student Ellie Bainbridge to create a unique typeface celebrating the paperback launch of ‘Shuggie Bain’ (by Douglas Stuart), a brutal, visceral tale of poverty, addiction, and growing up queer in 1980’s Glasgow.
One of the most ubiquitous typefaces of the era was ‘Compacta’. It can be found everywhere across 80’s Glasgow, from the merchandise window in the Barrowlands to Anti-Poll Tax demonstrations in the East End. It presents itself as a ‘masculine’, geometric form, rigidly structured, threatening even. There was a relationship we wanted to explore there, it felt like it keenly mirrored the contextual gender politics that Shuggie—who is described as ‘no right’ by those around him—was living through. ‘What use is a soft boy in a hard world?’ One character asks. We wanted the typeface to reflect the break that Shuggie’s masculinity represents from the older, more toxic models of his selfish, absentee father, and how against all odds Shuggie manages to ‘flourish’ in a restrictive, disadvantaged and openly hostile environment.
A real turning point in the design process was the description of the ‘happy confident loops’ in his mothers’ signature. Agnes’ imprint is all across Shuggie, it’s where many of his defining qualities stem from, most importantly his pride and his determination to survive and succeed. It made perfect sense to introduce some of my own mother’s proud ‘flourishes’ into Compacta’s forms.
These letters are joyous acts of rebellion against their harsh, unforgiving roots; even as the bullies taunt him at his window, Shuggie still dances in his living room: ‘[…]