Kate Vasey Article By Kate

Nowhere Exhibition X The Northern Block


The Northern Block were invited to attend the ‘Nowhere’ exhibition held at Custom Lane in Edinburgh. The exhibition was created by Blueroom Collective, who are Edinburgh based and specialise in graphic design, design education and their associated creative practises. The show featured popular type families by The Northern Block, including Typold, Stolzl Display, Scriber, Loew and collaborative type family Ovink by Sofie Beier. It featured experimental visual communication in typography experiential design using these typefaces and were showcased in a range of media, including editorial work, digital prints and vinyl installations. I spoke with Creative Director of Blueroom Collective, Chris Hughes to find out more:

Hello Chris, thanks for speaking with me today. Let's begin. What was the concept behind the ‘Nowhere’ exhibition?

Hi Kate. It's no problem. All our work has a political angle. We felt the ‘Citizens of Nowhere’ ideology, and Brexit in general, was something that was worth exploring and commenting upon.

'How Did We Get Here' using Stolzl Display & 'Below The Fold' by Daniel Plunkett using Typold Bold.

How did you first come across The Northern Block?

As a collective with a minimalist approach, we want our projects to have a certain kind of visual cohesion. So using fonts from a single foundry seemed like a good idea. I’d seen a nice project that used Hapna Mono, and Typold had just been released, and we picked up on these via social media.

What was it about The Northern Block that made you to reach out to us?

We liked your modernist approach to type design, and your geographical location.

'State Of Britain - Walk, Line, Fish' by Alex Gunn using Ovink Regular.

Why did you specifically choose The Northern Block typefaces; Typold, Stolzl Display, Scriber, Loew and Ovink for the exhibition?

We like geometric sans serifs, but were really bored with Avenir, Gotham and Montserrat, so Typold and Loew felt fresh. Stolzl Display was ideal for the vinyl cutting due to its great angles, and Ovink had some nice curves in the ends and a loose, soft feel. We were also looking for a font that could be broken up into separate pieces with an industrial feel, and still retain some legibility, and Scriber worked perfectly. We drew up a shortlist and those won out. Everyone in the group has different things they want to work with in terms of typefaces. These fonts felt robust.

'Prospetive' & 'Disorientation' by Stephania Quattropani using Loew Extra Bold.

All of these typefaces are very different to the other, how do they fit the theme of the exhibition?

We have found that once you choose the font to fit the concept, the connection to the theme naturally emerges during the execution.

'Recto/Verso' by Stefania Quattropani using Loew.

How did you incorporate these typefaces into the exhibition?

We each took a different typeface and developed those into the work, using the font’s best attributes to push the concept. Scriber’s stencil cuts were ideal for being broken up into discrete pieces, it was used on '34.8%' by Rumana Sayed. 34.8% refers to the ratio of female politicians in the Scottish Parliament, and Rumana wanted a way to show how the statistic reflected a broken aspect of the system. Typold’s Swiss attributes made it perfect for working exclusively in lowercase, and the softness in Ovink worked for the more minimal copy pieces. Stolzl was perfect for the vinyl lettering, and the M was our favourite glyph. Loew is just a great powerful design, great for single glyphs and editorial work. We used the space in Custom lane to assign work in each font a certain location. 

The opening night had a brilliant turn out. How did you feel with the overall outcome of the exhibition and how it was received?

We exhibited in Berlin in May, but unfortunately not all of us could get to that show. It was a success though, and contributed to us winning the Designer Award at the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards, so our profile had been raised considerably. Edinburgh has a sizeable design community and designers love looking at type. The venue helped as well - Leith is the centre for the creative community in Edinburgh. The work was shortlisted at the Creative Edinburgh Awards.

That's great news, congratulations! How was the feedback overall from those who visited the exhibition?

We had a great response, and the most common feedback was about what can be done with just type and no colour, and how connected everything was visually.

Why do you think that is?

Nobody else is doing it in quite this way, it isn’t as easy as it looks.

Do you have any other plans to use The Northern Block typefaces in the future?

Our new project includes designing a broadsheet newspaper - so we need a decent serif for the body copy and will be looking at Northern Block for that.

That project sounds very interesting. Hopefully we can collaborate in future. And lastly, do you have anymore exhibitions in the pipeline?

We've just moved into a new studio which has its own event space, so we'll be running our own shows, including an opening event probably in early May. We are also planning to make the space available to other visual artists for talks, exhibitions and networking events.

That sounds very exciting! Thank you for answering my questions Chris and good luck with the new studio.

Anytime, thanks Kate.

We were delighted with the overall outcome of the exhibition and to have our work featured in such a creative and interesting way. It was great to see such a big turnout of the opening night and seeing so many of you appreciating our typefaces as much as our type designers have enjoyed creating them. We would like to thank Blueroom Collective for the opportunity to display our typefaces in their exhibition.

The Blueroom Collective's new studio is opening on May 3rd, click here to book your tickets.

To view the full Nowhere exhibition on Blueroom Collective's website, please click here.

tweet share pin