Saturday, June 23, 2018

Oscar Wilson and Simone Hodgskiss: Hand Lettering and Typography in Graphic Design

Oscar Wilson and Simone Hodgskiss are contemporary designers who are both from small studios that work heavily on hand lettering. Wilson, an experienced designer who has done both spacial design and also two dimensional design, had been given several awards for his work since opening his studio in 1996. After graduating in 1994 from University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, he moved to London to work with Advanced Graphics London. Finding initial inspirations from late 70’s / early 80’s BMX and skateboarding cultures, Studio Oscar was established, creating graffiti based art for its first decade. Heavily influenced by pop culture and music, Wilson mainly does graphic works based around hand drawn letterforms and typography. He has done animated work which featured in advertisements for Guinness, Levi Strauss, and Puma, as well as large scale hand painted graphic pieces for Fosters Ice, Timex and on set for Danny Boyle’s movie The Beach, showing  his experience in many aspects of design. On the other hand, Hodgskiss has done more local work for advertising in tourism and product packaging design, working solo in her studio in Cape Town. Born in South Africa and raised in Australia, Hodgskiss flew to London to work under Draft FCB, establishing her own studio under the stage name Pearly Yon in 2010, the name being inspired by her grandmother who told her that “whatever you do make sure you do it properly”. Completely immersed in illustrations, most of Hodgskiss’ work consists of hand drawn illustration in the style of line work and symmetrical, almost geometrical shapes. Hodgskiss has designed product labels, posters, and corporate identities with handmade designs, showing high levels of skill in her field despite its smaller audience. I will be comparing and contrasting Wilson and Hodgkiss, both having worked with advertising and handcrafted design, to understand the importance of type, lettering and illustration in media and advertising. 

Oscar Wilson's pin design for Brinkworth's 25th birthday party

Studio Oscar has recently designed spaces for events, combining interior design and 3D graphic pieces to create interactive and mood defining environments. Pins designed by Wilson in conjunction of his work designing a branding that was incorporated into the space and mementos for Brinkworth’s 25th birthday party in 2015. The type used for the branding was handmade, using geometric shapes and sharp edged letterforms that created a futuristic mood for the party. Another space designed by Wilson was for Nike 1948, London’s retail installation in 2009. The open space was given a court-like feel with its floor being made by 100% recycled rubber sport surface. Its modular shelves imitates grandstand and stadium seating, adaptable for change of arrangement according to the sport being referenced. A neon installation referencing Nike 1948’s new location hangs in the middle of the room, showing off Wilson’s inspiration of electro and futuristic aesthetics.
Launch film for Wilson Brothers 'Raise your Game' retail installation at Nike 1948 store. from Wilson Brothers on Vimeo.

Pearly Yon’s product label design for Bonnie & Clyde Gin

Pearly Yon’s hand drawn illustrations, in contrast to Wilson’s bold works, are often cozy and traditional. Her detailed works are often printed onto smaller surfaces, such as her tea cup inspired cushion designs. The intricacy of the patterns and the various line treatments are tied together with one or two solid colors, creating interesting traditional accents for the house. She also has done illustrations for various occasions, such as T-shirts, exhibitions, articles, and event posters. The designer’s work for a Belgium micro distillery was hand lettered from scratch, having influences from postmodernists. As Eskilson mentions in his book Graphic Design, a New History (2007) , “The stylistic conventions of postmodern graphic design include mixing diverse type sizes and weights, overprinting, cluttered pages [...] and some cases an embrace of general messiness”. Design website Dotago Blog mentioned in their article Typography in Advertising Design writes that “a striking image is great at catching viewers’ eyes, but since it’s an ad, it needs to have all the required text crammed into the composition, as well”, which Hodgskiss successfully did, complimenting information with her illustrations.
Oscar Wilson’s advert design for Virgin Money

Guillaume Apollinaire, Calligrammes, 1918

Oscar Wilson’s advertising ranges from spatial to surfaces, and one of his most recognized two dimensional graphic pieces is his advert series with Virgin Money. The use of ribbon to create the type refers directly to Dotugo Blog’s article, where it states that advertising design should “Say a lot of interesting things, or boring things, displayed in an interesting way”. The use of the ribbon is cleverly used with the phrase “Banking With A Bit of Wiggle Room”, the ribbon creating wiggles in a clearly spacious area. Although used in a different way where the image creates the text, the concept is similar to the Futurist movement, where text was treated to create images that evoked the emotions of the text. Guillaume Apollinaire did as such with the poem Calligrammes in 1918, where an image is created using the text instead of a body of text arranged according to the paper’s margin. Wilson’s vector projects using type to create images of figures - most notable being his portrait of Donald Trump made with phrases that he often uses - has psychedelic influences from the 60’s, showing Wilson’s strong influences from pop culture, both from recent and past trends.

Pearly Yon’s product label design for Hamilton Russel Wine Estate

Alphonse Mucha’s poster design for the French Commerce Ministry exhibition, 1904

Hodgskiss’ work with Hamilton Russel Wine Estate is decorative and lacy, using winding type that has heavily curved serifs. She uses light colors and a golden tint, with illustrations of animals and floral patterns in the background. Her type, curved shapes, and framed composition reflects works of Alphonse Mucha from the Art Nouveau movement, and his works with posters (see Figure 6). In the 1904 piece, a similar type style is used, in which the main title is blocky with curved accents, and its containers curved and is harmony with the composition of the woman. Many of Hodgskiss’ works are as such, where details and patterns are organic but so symmetrical they’re almost geometric, showing Hodgskiss’ strong attention to detail. As Hodgskiss describes it, her works are vector-based line work. “I'm strongly influenced by the old and ornate, which comes through in the use of borders and patterns in my work”. Her Gypsy Folk Tales work with gallery Blankspace shows her influences from traditional and intricate styles of patterns, and her illustrations influenced by Russian and European style drawings. This mixture is tied together with modern style compositions of symmetry, block colors, and different line treatments to divide foreground and background.

In conclusion, Wilson and Hodgskiss create two very different style of works using type, however both handmade. From these two designers, we can see how type can be treated differently and give different effects in accordance to their audience. Either spacial or on paper, how the design is able to present its concept is of most importance. Both use two-dimensional and three-dimensional elements in their designs when needed; Wilson in installments and vectors, Hodgskiss in illustrations and gloss-prints. A work by Hodgskiss for a Thai restaurant using illustrations proved how culture is often crossed over to communicate to people of different cultures. Wilson’s works with creating type using images often crosses over many cultures by translating language into image. As Eskilson mentions in his book, “One of the greatest challenges facing designers who work for corporations with a global reach is the need to integrate Western styles within a diverse set of cultural traditions” (2007). Being able to reach out to global audiences using lettering and typography is one of the reasons typography is a great design element that should not be overlooked. Quoting Ellen Lupton, “Hand lettering is [...] the basis of many digital typefaces, but there is nothing quite as potent as the real thing.”


Camara, Eva Minguet., and Josep Maria. Minguet. 2010. Illusive Advertising. Singapore: Basheer Graphic Books.
Carter, Rob, Philip B. Meggs, and Ben Day. 2007. Typographic design: form and communication. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.
Eskilson, Stephen J. 2007. Graphic Design, a New History. London: Laurence King.
Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs History of Graphic Design. Hoboken: Wiley, 2012.
Lupton, Ellen. 2004. Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Carson, Nick. "7 Talented South African Illustrators to Watch – Computer Arts." Design Indaba. Accessed June 23, 2018.–-computer-arts.
KIN. "Pearly Yon's Folklore Illustrations." KIN. July 9, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2018.
"Pearly Yon." Pearly Yon. Accessed June 23, 2018.
“Typography in Advertising Design.” Typography in Advertising Design,
"Studio Oscar." Studio Oscar. Accessed June 23, 2018.

Image Sources
"World's Fair, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904 Giclee Print by Alphonse Mucha at" Wichita State University Posters for Sale at Accessed June 23, 2018.
"Studio Oscar." Studio Oscar. Accessed June 23, 2018.
"Pearly Yon." Pearly Yon. Accessed June 23, 2018.
"Cours De Fran├žais 1ES1 2016-2017." Pas Dhistoire Sans Go RSS. Accessed June 23, 2018.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


And I wish we wouldve bought our own fireworks, stopped at the highway and lit them up, cheered happy new years, here's to a better 365 days, but instead we were tired in the car, out of things to talk about, and he wouldnt say anything to me, and no one replied when I wished them happy new years, and it was awkward when I skipped "Bad Day" on the radio, because I didnt want to start the year like that, but no one cracked a joke about it, and I guess I was too sleepy to say anything too, and as much as I would like to say 2017 started off great because I spent it with these people, those are all lies, I started 2017 with an anxiety attack, and let's hope the next 364 days will be better.