Seb Lester – Monomania

Published:  May 18, 2011
Seb Lester – Monomania

desktop asked typographer, Seb Lester to share his thoughts on the industry.

My name is Seb Lester and I’m a typaholic – a type designer, typographic illustrator and artist based in London. I’m giving a series of talks this year, where I will be talking about my work.

Neville Brody has got a lot to answer for. It was his book, The Graphic Language of Neville Brody, that triggered what was to quickly become my passion and obsession with letterforms. It started with logos, but I quickly progressed to typefaces. By the time I got onto my degree course, I was adamant about focusing on the alphabet. But the monomania paid off and fortunately, by the time I graduated, my typefaces were being used in big advertising campaigns and by prestigious magazines like Rolling Stone. It was a very exciting time for me and I went on to work as a type designer at Monotype for nine years before leaving in 2010.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve branched out into typographic illustration and art. I’d like to acknowledge Si Scott, a past speaker at Semi-Permanent, as being one of the main reasons I started thinking about doing so. He was at the forefront of the current wave of typographic illustrators. I had done some typographic illustration in college, but seeing the success he was achieving with high profile advertising campaigns made me think about branching out from pure type design.

One of the fascinating things about letterforms for me is the dazzling variety of ways a given letter can look. Typefaces are a bit like human faces. They’re broadly similar in terms of structure, but the aesthetic possibilities are infinite. I find it quite magical that letterforms have a DNA of sorts that means an expert can trace their origins back to 18th century England or 16th century France. The Latin alphabet is one of mankind’s most beautiful and profound creations. It’s shaped our world more than we can imagine.

I am hardly alone in my fascination for and appreciation of the alphabet. Typographic illustration is very popular at the moment. An optimist may say this signals an increased appreciation of letterforms as things of great beauty in their own right. A pessimist may say it’s just another passing trend and in a few years type and lettering will be much more in the background.

I guess time will tell. I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’d be doing what I’m doing whether it was fashionable or not. I think there will most probably always be an appetite for new and bespoke letterforms, whether it’s in the form of typefaces, prints or something else.

From desktop magazine.

Image copyright Seb Lester.

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