I have been sketching out ideas for the next installment of my book series for some time now and have come to a few good points on which to start. The first is the development of an entirely new asemic script that will hopefully guide the direction for the whole piece.
Let me share my thinking and some of my process with you. I have created several asemic writing systems before, each from very different starting points; the first was an automatic, handwritten script, developed over years of filling up pages in dull meetings:
This led to the development a set of formalised glyphs, based upon a jaunty 45° angle directly lifted from the hand written script:
These two variants were the initial inspiration for the first book ‘Four Fools’ and were used throughout:
As I was putting the finishing touches to Four Fools I decided to continue to develop the theme and aim for a series of four books. Not long after the first book was published and began to sell, I began to think about how the next book might work and I decoded to introduce some different writing systems, glyphs and symbols. Rather than begin on paper I set out exploring early ideas on screen. This one was inspired by old punched tickets:
Encouraged by this, I began exploring some more geometric, grid based linear forms that seemed to suggest a numbering or accounting system:
Whilst exploring the geometric grid ideas, I introduced a line weight difference favouring the horizontal strokes which led to this:
The gridded forms had worked well, but were visually repetitive, so I elected to take a less rigid approach. I still retained the geometric shapes, but began to formulate a ‘kit of parts’ approach that yielded something a little more natural that what I had produced previously:
I was pleased with this but also felt that it had some more to give. It was some time after whilst working on another project that I hit on the idea of converting this ultra geometric style to something that appeared to have some history. After failing to apply any convincing roman serifs, I tried the ‘old typewriter’ treatment, using some hi-res samples from a 1920 document and a huge amount of cut’n’paste, as well as too many hours of PhotoShop editing:
All of these were used in the second book ‘Pabulum’ along with the first two and a fair bit of brushwork. This was even used the cover!
The next one was inspired by more Arabic structures and was originally a lot more complex than this – which was illegible at the sizes needed for book print, so this is a a highly simplified version that I think I will continue to develop at some point:
The more observant amongst you may have spotted that this also occasionally appears in the blog header…
Whilst I am very pleased with Pabulum, I feel that the next one needs to be simpler, with fewer scripts, and explore some more formal compositions and approaches. I also want to focus on the flow and texture of a script rather than add more grid based glyphs.
This brings us up to date. I have decided to develop another script – to me meaning something derived from the hand written – so I started filling sketchbooks again but found myself struggling to move away from the style I used originally. In order to find new inspiration, I tried using different media. Whilst this gave me some interesting and ultimately useful results, I was still no further in establishing a starting point.
Over the Christmas period I had downloaded a number of iPad drawing apps, some free form and some grid-based and a rather basic calligraphic one called Sketji by Aerfish. This is a simple tool – imagine a large Chinese calligraphy brush loaded with black ink:
Well this works just like that. A fast movement creates a thick stroke and slowly create a thin one. Refreshingly, this is all it does; no unnecessary bells and whistles, in-app upgrades or special effects. It does allow you to save your images though and gives you the option of high or low resolution too! I absolutely love it! It is an excellent tool for my purposes and I have wasted no time putting it to good use:
These were placed into Adobe Illustrator and converted to paths using the livetrace tool:
I started by using these as templates to see what the raw lines would look like, and ended up just focusing on a line and ellipse. The grid was created at a slight angle – just 5° from vertical to prevent me from exaggerating further as I wanted something much more subtle than my original 45° script. I kept the ellipse at the angle I drew it:
Though I was happy with the angle I was concerned that the ellipse was too condensed and would be problematic at small sizes. With that in mind I placed a smaller ellipse inside aligned to one side to really force the issue. The positioning was arbitrary here – I just wanted to look at the proportions and be able to visually gauge when I thought that a balance had been achieved:
After a fair bit of nudging and tweaking, I thought that the bottom middle was looking somewhere comfortable for development. The next stage was to make a proto-glyph; something to push around further and try a few diversions…
These simple structures will allow me to consider a range of structural and compositional factors. They may or may not be recognisable by the end, but right now they are like single celled organisms emerging from the primordial soup with only the faint whiff of evolution in the air.
My first port of call is the quality of line, as previous experience has taught me that this can have a profound influence on everything that follows (the first script was originally developed as a monoline and worked well until the moment I changed the line weight and style – pretty much every glyph was manually then adjusted by hand!) The standard calligraphy brushes in Illustrator are useful to start with to check out variations in width and angle of stroke:
But is is when the options palette is employed that the style can be adjusted exactly to where you want it. These settings give me a semibold stroke, decent visual definition in the stresses, as well as a friendly, brush-line roundness to the terminal of the stroke:
Then I did a scaling test along with a narrower 10pt stroke. This showed some areas that will need attention, especially at the points of convergence where the curves meet the upright strokes, but I am getting a good feeling about this:
I’ll keep you posted…