London: Signs and Signifiers


By coincidence, two of the projects I was working on in the summer are released this week. First up is London: Signs and Signifiers, a collection of Nico Hogg’s photographs of the streets and architecture of London’s East End. I’ve mentioned Nico’s photography before as his pictures have been used on several of the albums and singles I’ve designed for Keysound Recordings, some of which are featured in the book. This is being published as part of the Keysound catalogue, with a launch event taking place today (the 8th) at the Doomed Gallery, London. See this post for details, and a link to download a free chapter.


Nico’s work is notable for the way it avoids the stereotype of the style of urban photography that presents deprived or run-down areas in grim monochrome. Nico doesn’t avoid the decay—there are shots of burned-out flat-blocks, and a chapter devoted to the recent Tottenham riots—but the colour in his pictures shows a different side to these areas of the city.


My design for the book follows the minimal approach I’ve used on the Keysound albums, organising the information clearly and giving the photos as much room as possible. The font used for the titles and chapter headings is Transport, the typeface designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert used on roads signs throughout the UK.


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Recent signals


Signals (2014): vinyl front cover. Photo by Nico Hogg.

Seeing as my design for the recent Signals album by Wen has been deemed one of the best covers of the year so far I thought I ought to mention some of the other albums I’ve worked on over the past few months. I tend to give the most attention here to my book designs and illustrations but I’m still working on music releases, albeit with less regularity.

One reason the book work receives more attention is that there’s more of my input involved. Almost all these recent releases have begun as picture selections from the artist which it’s been my job to work into a printable form then place the relevant information in a suitable typeface. This isn’t to downplay the work involved: the careful placing of type becomes more critical the more the design tends to minimalism, and even the best photo can be ruined by clumsy typesetting or an unsympathetic typeface. The challenge of working in a more minimal direction can be a refreshing one when much of the work I do tends to visual excess.


Signals (2014): vinyl labels. Photos by Nico Hogg.

Wen’s album for Keysound Recordings is a collection of dark urban rhythms for which Nico Hogg provided some suitable views of nighttime London. The numbers on the vinyl labels are lift buttons from a high-rise block, while the abstract scene below is a photo of the Thamesmead housing estate.


Signals (2014): CD interior. Photo by Nico Hogg.

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