The Typographic Hub

NOTE: This event is now closed

Type Tarts | Birmingham

1st December 2011

Since 2009 we have been inviting designers, artists, illustrators and photographers to have some graphic fun to help raise the profile of the St Bride Library, London.

St Bride is the world’s foremost graphic arts library and a rendezvous for all those involved in contemporary graphic communication. It is a place where anyone with either a professional or passing interest in design can meet and where all aspects of the craft can be studied. It is also a place of inspiration that has encouraged many designers, motivated generations of students and stimulated numerous authors. By participating in the type-tart project creative individuals from around the world are helping to maintain this vital and invaluable resource.

The brief invited designers to anthropomorphize either a typeface or a letter of the alphabet and produce a card to promote its ‘personality’ and ‘services’: the entries were to be based on the tart card genre. Tart cards are the means by which London call-girls advertise their services; Step into almost any central London phone box and you can contemplate up to 80 cards inviting you to be tied, teased, spanked or massaged either in luxury apartments or the privacy of your own hotel room. So pervasive are the cards, and so striking is their design, imagery and copywriting they are now regarded as items of accidental art and have something of a cult following. Once on the periphery of design, the cards have influenced the work of many mainstream artists including Royal Academician Tom Philips and Sex Pistols designers, Ray and Nils Stevenson.

We were curious to see what would happen if the genre was placed in the hands of the graphically literate. However, the Type Tart Project was not about designers creating cards for prostitutes; it was about designers being inspired by the genus of the tart card and applying it to a typeface. The vocabulary we use to describe typefaces is very anthropomorphic: all fonts have a ‘face’, a ‘body’, they have ‘arms’, ‘eyes’, ‘legs’; we give typefaces names and bestow them with characteristics to which we have an emotional response. By default, therefore, a typeface may have a sexual identity, and it is the eroticism or quirky sexuality inherent within a typeface that designers were asked to portray.

The project was therefore about creativity, design and type, about visual and verbal wit. It was also about having some good, straightforward fun – and in the process hopefully making more people aware of St Bride Library.