Legibilitator (yes, this is a word of fiction), speculator and doctor, Barry Spencer likes challenges - after all his is a speculative type designer who often makes letters that may or may not look like letters.Based in Melbourne, Australia, Spencer -currently a university lecturer and freelance designer- has thoroughly researched, explored and played with the Latin letterforms throughout his career. This task of his has allowed Spencer to reach a point where he has fundamentally altered the way that he creates, perceives and understands the shapes of the alphabet.
Looking through Spencer’s portfolio we are welcome to follow the many visual avenues that he has taken over time with some leading to further exploration, some inducing confusion and some purely undertaken just for fun. Clara, his latest typographic challenge is pure joy.
Clara began life as a challenge from Spencer’s former student Riley McDonald to create something typographic for his magazine “PRJKTR” based in Geelong, Victoria. “With the issue revolving around ‘SIN’, I decided to create shapes that pushed my ‘sin’ of letterform speculation to a new level” says Spencer.
Utilising grid 17 from his own #100daysofspontaneous project, Spencer tried to compose shapes that elevated the obscurity of some of his typefaces and added an element of cryptography to them. He then put together a cryptic artwork using the letters for people to try and decipher -after all Clara is in search of “clarity”.
This typeface of his goes “against the natural order of things” by twisting and pushing the constraints of the Latin alphabet. Looking to engage with the audience and challenge them further, Spencer provides subtle clues within the text that hinted at how he created the letter. So the question is, are you ready to decode this typographic challenge? Let Barry Spencer guide you though in the text below:
"Within this text lies the key to decoding my cryptic artwork. A few subtle clues are riddled throughout the information, so attention to detail is important for decrypting the letterforms.The first person to decode the type and tell me how I created the letterforms will be rewarded. Good luck!
The Natural Order…
Clara is a typeface that is specifically designed to be challenging and against the natural order of things. However, from experience I know that it’s considered a great sin to sever the ties to the existing Latin alphabet in this way, even when born from twisted typographical fun and entertainment.
Letterforms like these are prime to invite adverse reactions from those prone to more traditional perspectives of type design because making shapes that are intentionally hard (or near impossible) for people to read adds another level of abstraction onto the already abstract Latin forms that we have become familiar with in our daily lives. Essentially, this makes them lose their purpose — communication. However, what if this was the intention from the start? Does that re-imbue the shapes with an assigned purpose? The challenge of decipherment.
See Artwork 1
In my work I enjoy the challenge of pushing my perception and understanding of letterforms. I constantly to advance my knowledge (and appreciation) for the potential of letters every day, in each and every project I create. However, I did not arrive at this approach overnight.
My letterforms started out as small experimental deviations away from the existing shapes and these small changes led to larger and more experimental trials, before finally moving into far removed speculations that explore what might happen if we follow more extreme and unusual ideas.
This led to the completion my doctoral thesis “Speculatype” in 2014 and I have spent the years since divided time between a mixture of three things: creating, writing and teaching (with public speaking and workshops thrown in for good measure).
See Artwork 2
Out of Our Comfort Zone…
My argument revolves around our ability as designers and creatives to explore our professions and outcomes more than what we might think possible. Creatively, we have the ability to question the status quo and the existing understanding of what we do and make.
Asking, “what if I did it this way instead of this way?” is a simple question that leads us to try new things and allows us to potentially innovate. Removing ourselves from the comfort of doing things the same way as everyone else (which might be considered another “sin”), challenges us in new and interesting ways.
See Artwork 3
Because We Can…"