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"ECAL" Tag

Syndicate of original and contemporary typography

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Typeface as Program: Applied Research and Development in Typography
Designed by David Keshavjee and Julien Tavelli


The book “Typeface as Program” is a book about the graduation project of David Keshavjee and Julien Tavelli. They graduated at the ECAL/University of Art and Design [x] in Lausanne, Switserland.
The first thing you will notice when you see this book is, of course, the cover. As seen in the picture, this cover contains the colours red, white and black. I think this, and the typeface on the cover appealed to me the most at first sight. It also seems like a book that makes you move closer, because you see the cover but you cannot read at first side what is written on the cover, because it’s vertical. You also do not yet really understand what it is about and what you will find inside. As the title is situated very small in the left corner, it draws you come closer. When you read it, Typeface as Program, more questions pop up. What is this book about? Why did they situated the words like this?


When you open the book you’ll see a very outstanding orange colour which I really like.

front page

Next you will see the table of contents and introduction. What I don’t really like about that is that it’s vertical written, so you have to turn the book which is not very practical. It does look nice.

What I already mentioned in the beginning, is the typeface. If you actually start to read this book you’ll find out the whole book is about this typeface and how they developed and produced it.


A view into the book about their graduation project


The size is a little bit smaller then A4-size, which I also like because it fits easily into my bag, and A4 mostly doesn’t. The cover is soft but not too soft. The size and the material makes the book approachable because it is not too big and heavy to open it.

The book is representing the graduation project of Keshavjee and Tavelli collaborated by other people. The project “Creating tools, Using tools” earned Keshavjee and Tavelli the Federal Design Grant in 2009 [x]. This project is realised by several steps. They decided to develop their own tools. First they programmed a script that could automatically generate character sets based on a group of specified variables. Then, with the digital font they created, they made wood types and an automatic layout tool.


Pictures of the handmade woodcuts they made for their typeface


By combining these tools, they printed the posters seen in the beginning of the book. Using a digital font and manual wood types, they wanted to contrast different kinds of typographic languages.
In the result you can see the programmed randomness. Their type design is impossible to regenerate with either only traditional- or digital methods. The typeface was based on the idea that the, let’s call it, “DNA” was only containing the letters “o” and “n”, and from those two letters on they built the complete Latin alphabet.


The typeface is called “Programme”. Primitiv is the first version, which was automatically generated. Its very light, almost like a sketch with a skeletal structure. Later they made more calligraphic cuts. In the typeface it’s possible to see marks made by pen, brushes or computer. The typeface looks, even though its automatically generated, almost like an old typeface.


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Programme, 2009, Keshavjee&Tavelli’s typeface they made as a graduation project


After their graduation project they, of course, didn’t sit still. They continued a lot to work in an experimental way combining different tools and using them in a twisted way, to try to reach an innovating and interesting effect. Seen in the catalog “Acid Test”, their first experiments with chemical products.


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Acid Test, 2010, in collaboration with Tatiana Rihs and Körner Union


In this book, they tried to work completely manual, without computer but with for example tape, razor blades, acids or brushes. They were trying to understand better how colours on colours overlay and how chemicals would react on other material. “Les impressionists Magiques” is a final product of the best outcomes they got by using these new tools, shapes and gestures. They try to see the good also in “mistakes” and unexpected surprises. It marks their work. They push tools to their boundaries and use them in a wrong/different way to get new results.


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Maximage Formula Guide, 2011


They made several more catalogs, booklets, posters for festivals and record covers. Also, they work a lot in collaboration with other artists. Their latest is “The Most Beautiful Swiss Books of the year 2013”. Again they combined new methods, for example all the parameters in the book are changing all the time. Furthermore are some pages glossy and some aren’t. I think this is an innovating view on typography to use subtle and original gestures. They also used different screening types. This all comes out in a book full of varieties [x].


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The most beautiful Swiss Books, 2013



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La Grida Loca (2010) is a short booklet for graphic design students. It is about common mistakes and solutions for graphic designers and it also contains designer tips — in collaboration with Körner Union.



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Untitled, in collaboration with Körner Union and Tatiana Rihs

Rietveld library catalog no : 757.3 kel1


Research David Keshavjee & Julien Tavelli

Sunday, March 6, 2011

David Keshavjee (born 1985) and Julien Tavelli (born 1984) are two Swiss graphic designers/typographers, they both studied at Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL) They where one of the winners of the Swiss Federal Design Award with their graduating project, ‘Using Tool,’ in 2009. They just made a pedagogic booklet at the Federal Office of Culture in New York, Acid Test. In collaboration with Körner Union and Tatiana Rihs they made offset cmyk experiments. Later they printed a reproduction of that handmade booklet, “Les impressions magiques“. They are part of Maximage Société Suisse, an exploration in the field of emotion and technology.

Their Using Tool project is, I think, the most interesting thing to discover about them, it explains a lot about how they work and how their poster series for music concerts where build up. The posters where published in Wallpaper and in the book ‘Typeface as Program,’ witch was published by Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL) Especially the last one is very related to their process and what they are designing. They also explain in this book how Keshavjee and Tavelli approached their works by using half digital half manual tools during the process.

They started in their design process of the posters by first programming a script, inspired by a workshop of Frederik Berlaen on ECAL, that could automatically create a system of characters by using the already by Keshavjee and Tavelli designed ‘o’ and ‘n.’ Those two are the essence of the typeface, so with this characters the script is able to create the other characters of the alphabet. Keshavjee and Tavelli like to keep the random and uncertain factor in this system and in their font by giving the computer the control of the typeface. I think the script also helps them to design the first layer of the poster, the digital printed part, the black thin lines. When their computer created the characters they use a machine next to the computer that cut the letters out of a 2mm thin wooden plate what is still very raw then, but they do the final touch by hand. After they manufactured the wooden characters they cut pieces wood all the same size to glue the 2mm thin wooden characters on it. After they did this crucial step, they can think and work with the spacing of the letters, and build up the composition. The last step for them is to combine the background layer and the composition of the typography, the wooden characters into the final poster.

I think with the combination of manual and digital processes that are repeated at each step, from the production and application of the typography until in the composition and final print, Keshavjee and Tavelli create a refreshing and inspiring result of the raw woodcut with the smooth digital print. They work according to the principle that the means influence the form and that new forms of expression in graphic design can be created by combining different tools. These ideas are applied to the poster series as well, it’s the essence of their project. The posters are also published together with the thoughts about this series and an interview where they explain more in the book, ‘Typeface as Program.‘ There is also an interesting article on about the swiss designer thoughts of typography by Cate McQuaid.

For me they work a bit like typographic engineers I would say. They really are working with developing scripts and systems to help them approach typography in another way, not very usual and practical way, but an interesting one. You could think if you read about how controlled they work in a way, that they are probably to much controlling their work. But their prints are very open for unexpected accidents within its system, there is a lot that can go wrong, all trough this process the accidents are creating new opportunities in the creative process of their typographic experiments, that’s a good value of their work I think. They also always start projects by experiments. It could be interesting to learn and see more of the projects of David Keshavjee and Julian Tavelli, and see how they treat their project during the process of designing typography.

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