Creative trends September 2015: Type, texture, textiles and animated embroidery

Find out what’s hot in art and design for the month ahead


There’s a myth within the creative industries that August spells a slow-down and that everything restarts in September, but the pace of creativity hasn’t slackened off since the spring – and isn’t likely to before Christmas.

One area being particularly bountiful currently is the world of typography. Considering nearly every designer works with type at some point, use these just-launched experimental, thought-proving or just plain fun projects to rethink a conventional approach to the written word.

Take the ongoing collaboration between design studio FIELD and foundry Monotype, Type Reinvented, which comprises three screen-based installations that explore how type will evolve to stay relevant to the social media and technology of the future. The first Sensual Energy is a motion-controlled piece that allows users to float and drape typefaces commonly used in the fashion industry around a screen filled with billowing fabric.

Glyph.Index explores how typefaces travel internationally, as it is made from a Unicode glyphs in Noto Sans, the only typeface that caters to the glyphs of every global language.


The third project Responsive Energy uses type to create a percussive and textural generative artwork. Note that each of these installations were launched at very different locations (France’s Le Book, Serbia’s Resonate and Cannes Lions), and were tailored carefully to resonate with the audience of each (the fashion-savvy, international technologists and advertising professionals), something essential when planning your own site-specific installations.

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News and politics can be a rich source of inspiration for your creative projects, even when working with type. Slovenian designer and CSM graduate Emil Kozole’s Project Seen is a typeface inspired by the terrifying mass surveillance programmes undertaken by the NSA, and leaked thanks to Edward Snowden in 2013.

The typeface automatically redacts the trigger words that the NSA searches for when examining electronic communication for potential threats, starting a conversation about just how observed we all are, and potentially allowing users to avoid detection. It’s an excellent marriage of technical challenge and conceptual interest – perfect territory for a meaty university project.


Considering how many briefs involve type, it’s surprising how often we resort to hand-drawing or constructing letterforms digitally. While studying at ECAL, Terkel Skou Steffensen (now of studio Made By Who) wanted to rethink ways of creating lettering (largely for use as house numbers) and developed an alphabet using clay extrusion, a cheap process of pushing a material through a shaped hole, often used to make bricks.


The results, which have just been photographed by Clément Lambelet are incredibly graphic, and would be excellent for an identity or poster project. Food for thought for anyone interested in experimenting with textures and lesser-known 3D processes and incorporating them into 2D graphics.

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For other exciting text and craft crossovers take a look at graphic designer Nick Reeve’s phenomenal wedding suit which was lined with text messages sent between him and his bride when they first started dating.


Also combining the digital with the physical is new fashion concept Abstract_, which creates pattern from data received from type-strokes and facial recognition software when users enter text into their online order form. Whether textiles, posters or print projects, customisation (now so easy to do due to digital innovations) is a great way to engage users. Take note surface designers, or anyone selling direct to consumers.


Embroidery itself is having a renaissance this summer, both in commercial and more leftfield projects. Penguin's soon-to-be released Penguin By Hand series, which features re-designed covers for six of its titles, feature four embroidered works, including cross-stitch, patchwork and free-hand stitching.

This is the embroidered cover for Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love.

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The embroidered cover for Kathryn Stockett‘s The Help.


The embroidered cover for Sarah Blake‘s The Postmistress.


On the other end of the spectrum, Elliot Schultz’s embroidered zoetrope (above) captivated the internet earlier this month. The project, created while a student at ANU School of Art uses a strobe light, turntable and embroidered 10” circles to fully emphasise the craft of animation. No matter how long the handmade look has been in fashion, energy intensive projects never fail to impress.

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Ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors ground up rocks and plants and daubed them onto vertical surfaces, the human body has been a huge concern for anyone working in visual culture. This summer the body is again at centre stage. At London’s Flowers Gallery, The British Figure explores contemporary artist approaches to the human body, a lot of them quite macabre or uncompromising, from photographer Nadav Kander’s corpse-like contortions and Ken Currie’s glammed-up putrefying faces to the sumptuous fleshiness of Ishbel Myerscough’s nudes.

For another event that really rethinks how the body can be used as art, check out Live Archives, a group that puts on exhibitions of fashion designer’s pieces (last month Yohji Yamamoto) using living models. Be sure to keep an eye on the next installment of this surreal and innovative way to exhibit clothes – also an inspiring example of rethinking the gallery as a static space.


Using the body in image-making itself is also on-trend this summer. Take Alexander Khokhlov and Veronica Ershova’s project, which used models and body paint to visually illustrate a number of optical illusions and scientific ideas, such as Newton’s cradle. You can see from their ‘making of’ video just how painstaking the process is – documenting your creative ventures and sharing that with the final output is something to bear in mind if working on any labour-intensive piece.


Lina Viktor, who was responsible for the artwork of South African musician Petite Noir's just-released debut album, is another artist who often uses the painted body (hers and others) as part of her image making, often working with Klimt-like golds, painted masks and even marble textures.

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Lina’s work is so powerful because it obscures and deforms parts of the face and body while also beautifying them. This contrast between attractive and unsettling is incredibly striking. If you’re wanting to experiment with this concept, block colour (both in body paint and background) is essential for making this sort of visual look slick, and not too much like a four-year-old’s birthday party.


However, if you do happen to be working on commissions aimed at children this month, take a look at these two exceptional projects which combine inspiring and friendly illustration with a challenging environment: the hospital. First up, Stephen Smith AKA Neasden Control Centre was commissioned by Vital Arts to create a series of environmental graphics for The Royal London Hospital’s children’s dental ward.


Here Smith has struck exactly the right balance between fun and not too cutesy. Another excellent element is the colour palette which was developed in a collaborative process with the hospital, meaning that the new visuals blended with the existing medical equipment.

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Up in Sheffield, Nick Deakin similarly created enjoyable, welcoming graphics for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, commissioned by The Children’s Hospital Charity’s arts programme Art Felt.

Here Deakin focused on creating something modular, so that it could be used in different areas of the space, and tried to develop visuals that would help children get through potentially worrying experiences by providing interesting, non-cliched imagery to spark their imagination. Facilitating invention in others is an excellent principle to have to have front of mind whatever you’re working on this month.