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Nerds of a certain age, rejoice! GamesMaster is back after almost twenty-four years, with a considerably longer running time and considerably fewer nob jokes. What’s more, the legendary Sir Trevor McDonald has succeeded Patrick Moore as the computerised couch potato, the titular Gamesmaster.

There isn’t much more to this little experiment; struck by once again seeing the lovely gothic ‘M’ which has ever adorned the GamesMaster logo, I fancied playing with some similar letterforms. Nerds rejoice once more.

After the usual dithering to start off, it was quite fun trying to create a harder, more angular counterpart to the the traditional flourishes of old English lettering – though, on some occasions, it might have helped to actually deviate from my beloved grid. They look quite brutal and industrious. It may be worth a full-on revisit at some point, perhaps attempting to introduce some curves and arcs.

By the way, the first episode of new GamesMaster is pretty good! Having been let down by so many of these big comebacks, I wasn’t expecting much at all, but they’ve actually done a fine job of not tampering with a winning formula and maintaining the delightfully cringeworthy spirit of the original. Whether such a show needs to exist in 2021 is perhaps up for debate, but there are only three episodes in this series so I say just enjoy it while it lasts!

It’s decidedly less spiky than my last typographical effort, but not completely without a point – well, one hopes.

This was another speedy task, with only a couple of hours to make an alphabet. Don’t let my enthusiasm fool you; it remains a fun and invigorating challenge. With those time constraints in mind, I tried to stay simple and decided to create letters on a 3×3 grid, connecting pieces together. I set myself one rule: that each character should be diverse enough to accommodate at least one of each piece – a straight, a slant and a curve.

The result is a hybrid face of both smooth and rigid forms, and hopefully that’s enough to carry it. The systematic nature meant that the project lent itself to the iterative process, with pieces being substituted in and out and creating recognisable variants. Then, it was just a case of choosing my favourite. But I could have sat switching parts for much longer than I did. As fun as that would be, having the time limit makes everything more immediate, quite literally.

As my favourite school calculator used to say, it’s hip2b₂.

Back to lettering. The old faithful.

It’s somewhat traditional at this stage for me to moan about not having done much lately, but this seems to have been a particularly long dry spell, with nothing really working out for what felt like months. I feel weird when not creating anything – it’s unnerving. Last week, though, something fun and game show-y came along, which was nice – but that’s another post for another time. Tick tock.

Getting rather desperate, I turned back to my rope letters from 2019 and decided to try and convert them to barbed wire. It turned out to be reassuringly simple, just requiring adjustments to the spline rotation and the addition of the “barbs”.

Though I started in 3D, I found myself moving to 2D aswell. A very quick attempt at making a barbed wire brush in Illustrator yielded these developments. It seems to have become more scraggy than I originally intended; almost like thread, or lightning on the black background. But still, fun to explore and yes, something has emerged at long last.

And that’s a suitably inviting message on which to end.

In a previous lettering post, I mused on the idea of taking sharp, industrial forms and giving them a Gothic influence. That’s how this succeeding project began, but, as you can probably tell, I ended up in quite a different place. Maybe I’ll revisit that someday.

This time, I ended up with circuit boards after discovering a ready-made model of one in C4D. They are fascinating to look at, with their intricate tracks within a city of components – even now, there’s a futuristic feel about them. Perhaps a touch of retro-futuristic too, as I remember marvelling at the board from our original ZX Spectrum as it sat broken in a container for years.

I ripped the bump map texture from the 3D model and started cutting it up into letters; not much to see there originally, so I started cutting my own letters. using the board as a guide. That’s how the header came about. The Photoshop threshold effect gave it a nice printed edge, which I thought an interesting juxtaposition. Furthermore, it pushed me back into my favoured position of monochrome goodness:

Though, I did pull myself away momentarily to try and give the impression of a letter-shaped tracking.

Eventually though I returned to the threshold effect, but using green! I worried that black and white tracks to this extent might become migraine fuel for you (and me). The letters are also inverted to help with contrast.

I suppose the next step (or likely the first step for any logical human being) would be to actually create a circuit board layout with the corresponding letter imprinted on it, rather than overlapping textures in the shape of the letter. It’s worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot. But I do think what we have here is a nice novelty. With my time so much less than before, I’m quite happy for anything to jump out in an evening, like this has.

As for why I chose the name Computer over Circuit, Circuitry or something more relevant – eh. At least I got a few more unique letters out of my choice.

It’s that rare time once again where I can actually sit down and cut some letters. I feel like every time I moan about not having the time for it, but I suppose it  at least makes me enjoy the process a little more.

Anyway, this time – and for whatever reason – I went for a fusion of steampunk and industrial forms. Indeed, ‘fusion’ ended up being the operative word for this project, as I then began cutting the final alphabet up and, well, fusing them together (in Photoshop, and quite badly… but it, er, adds a slapdash charm to the thing, right?). I do like to do this, although my tutors back in the day would probably have considered it indecision or a lack of confidence. They might have been right, but oh well! It enables alternatives to be substituted in, and I don’t really see that variation as a negative. I even ended up with a gothic-tinged M made from a B and two overlapping As, which you can see in the gallery below. These are the fruits of the iterative process. Perhaps I could attempt an ‘industrial gothic’ face in the future?

Lots of bulky, rigid slabs here with some Channel 4-esque blocks thrown in to make these weird letter machines, but I did make a conscious effort to try and include some rounded forms for appropriate letters, something I was initially going to avoid. They are probably the weakest of the set, but forcing myself to try was better than chickening out, and the S actually turned out alright.

It was after all this smooshing and fusing that I came up with the name: Bits + Bobs…

..but don’t let the cutesy name fool you; they can still look rather brash when blown up. I even tried linking the forms up to create a more literally mechanical feel.

Well, if I routinely complain about not having the time to do this more often, then I surely finish with a comment about how fun it was. But it’s true! Once a semblance of concept emerges, the time just flies by.

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It’s time for another look at lettering, and high time too, as I haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I would’ve liked this year; I wanted to fit in another Twenty-Six Spins but that doesn’t look likely, sadly. It will happen, though. When you least expect it. Consider this a warning for shoddy Photoshops and even shoddier wheel puns.

I was looking at quick, flowing forms and somehow came to ropes. I thought it might be interesting to try and model a rope in 3D. So that’s what I did. (It wasn’t that interesting, really).

Surprisingly simple it was, actually, done in a couple of minutes by sweeping a flower shape along a spline and having it rotate along. It does seem to lose something on longer forms, as you might be able to tell. It’s a bit ropey. I also wasn’t entirely sure about the texture that I made, so I went back to black and white to try and mask that as much as possible. It’s quite unusual for me to start with colour or texture then work backwards, especially with lettering; I’ve learnt over the years that the gold is always to be found in the simplest forms, and that, unsurprisingly, seems to be true of this exercise too. That’s where the hallowed Threshold filter comes in. Even the textured renders look much punchier in simple monochrome, I think.

I did attempt some knots, as you can see here with a couple of alternate forms. I’ve never been good with tying even the most basic of knots, so maybe that’s why I largely steered clear of this. They’re even harder with splines! I imagine there are plugins out there which can model such a thing with just a click.

And for all my slamming colour earlier on, I did throw a few letters into Photoshop and give them a paint job; kind of fun, I guess, but I might be saying that to the happy colours themselves rather than the letters.

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Well, that ties it up for now. This experiment might knot be for everyone, but it was once again fun learning the ropes. Hopefully next year I’ll not be roped into other things, and shall be able to do a little more in this vein.

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Pixel art is going to be big for me in 2019. Just before Christmas, I was snapped up to work on a game firmly rooted in this retro aesthetic. My role there is mostly to create individual likenesses for the cast, but I thought it would be beneficial to take a step back and, in my free time, look at some broader arenas. Hopefully, I’ll pick up a few tricks along the way.

With the pylons going up on Sunday, I thought a general industrial theme was a good place to begin. The quick pipe lettering above was not only an excuse for more letters but a warm-up tiling exercise. Tiling allows for quick and clean creation of environments. Most platform games of old used this technique for their scenery.

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These crates and barrels were mostly studying texture and dithering.

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You can’t spell industrial without corrugated iron:

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If I’ve learnt one thing from my work so far, it’s that size really doesn’t matter. Working on a small grid of pixels can be just as time-consuming as the most detailed sketch – sometimes more so, as I start to panic about the sharpness of certain edges, the pallette, and whether I should introduce more colours or even reduce them. Hopefully these are the sort of hurdles that will be overcome with just making as much stuff as possible. Saying this about time, perhaps the two industrial stations below could have done with a little more TLC, but it’s a start:

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pixelpractise-industrial04Once the pixels start to look happy (and like things) it’s quite a lot of fun, and the time whizzes by. Like the web address says, onward I go!

electric-recharged-2-02I’ve been in a typographic mood of late – even more than usual. It’s most welcome. Even so, this was a bit of an impromptu jolly; I was playing with a face I cut several years ago now, long before the days of this blog. It was called Electric, and this is shown in orange above. Inspiration came from the frontage of a rusty, run-down electrical shop in Norwich; it bore lettering of a slender form with enormous, authoritative slabs – delightfully retro-futuristic and, as such, most appropriate for a store likely still selling VCRs and 8-track. Them’s the future.

The blue counterparts were made this evening – essentially, I was curious to see what would happen if I were to reverse the thickness of each character, across the entire alphabet. It does look rather more burly, doesn’t it? Some letters were scuppered slightly – particularly Q – but overall it seems a worthy companion.

It’s quite fun using the two in combination.

The simplicity of both faces means you can do virtually anything with them. They can be warped, scaled, squashed, or pulled however you want, and still look pretty stable. Such versatility can come in handy when you have a specific message in mind.

I did also experiment with Illustrator’s ’rounded corners’ feature, which somehow managed to make the lettering even more delightfully retro:

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Ah well, nothing spectacular but just a bit of fun. I’ve been so woefully unproductive this year, I’m going to jump on any burst of inspiration that I can!

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Who needs rationale when it comes to making letters? I certainly don’t! The most fun lettering exercises, as I doubtless say every time (sorry) are the ones where you just run with something and see where it goes – it’s all about that iterative process, as one wonderful man always used to say.

And so, eyeing a coat hanger and seeing that its lines and curves could easily be bent into several letterforms spiralled into an afternoon of work. That’s an achievement in itself at the moment, regardless of the result. Thank you, coat hanger – potential there was! I ended up with a veritable wardrobe full of alternatives:

The process, there. Having sliced those up in Photoshop and Illustrator, they were a bit rough and ready, so I had a go at refining some of the stronger ones. Among my favourites are probably the M, W and E, who came out of the closet looking quite bold and trendy. I did enjoy using the hook for slimmer, twisty forms too, though, as you can probably tell.

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Well, it gave me something to do with my Sunday! I wonder if there are other objects lying around that I can subject to similar experimentation…

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Of course A would be chosen for the final letter! Coupled with the return of Geometric, more messing with shapes beckoned. Wanting to mark the finale in some way, I started off thinking about something suitably jubilant – a geometric firework display, perhaps, or game show glitter…

…but that rather quickly fell by the wayside, as it didn’t come together quick enough. Maybe an upward triangle with sunny colours could be seen as positive enough in its own right? Yes, let’s go with that.

Blending the above developments somehow resulted in this fierce eye creation. A for angry, I suppose! Perhaps he’s miffed that the series is coming to an end? Anyway, it’s something quite peculiar, and it’s geometric. That’s good enough for me.

***

That’s it, then: twenty-six letters and more than 420 developments (!!) later, here we are with our rather repetitive alphabet. Generally, I think the wheel behaved itself. Some themes evaded the flipper, though; I would have liked Gothic and Speccy to come up. I’m alarmed to discover that my name is apparently no longer valid. We’ve skipped, among others, an E, N, and the beloved W. Let’s not joke about the lack of D.

Of course, that’s the very nature of the wheel. Chance. If I’m to do this again, I may only choose the theme at random; at least then there would actually be twenty-six spins! We shall see. But, whether you have a super-exciting wheel to spin or not, I cannot endorse the random element enough; it not only enabled me to create by eliminating the awkward dithering stage altogether, but often demanded fresh approaches or a reconsideration of old ones. Results vary, naturally, buy today’s concluding letterform is a prime example of an aesthetic which probably wouldn’t have happened outside of the series. Prospects abound with challenges like this. Give it a whirl and see how you fare.

Until next time, it’s been fun. Here are the fruits of the last few weeks’ labour: