New Ltd Edition Prints from Seb Lester

Posted in Art, Illustration, Printmaking, Typography by Design Robot

“Passionate about letterforms.”

For those of you who have an avid interest in creative typography, Seb Lester should need no introduction. Indeed, Seb’s prints have been briefly featured on this website before, and it’s highly likely that you have admired his work without even knowing it.

Trained in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martin’s, Seb now works as a type designer, illustrator and artist in London, creating type illustrations and typefaces for some of the world’s most prolific companies. The CV of brands touched by his creativity reads like a who’s who of household names such as British Airways, Waitrose, The Daily Telegraph, H&M, Barclays, Apple and Nike. I could go on…

Infact I will go on because the list is impressive… Penguin, Cadbury, Liberty, Macy’s, Ikea, AT&T, The New York Times, Business Week, Faber & Faber, Arjo Wiggins, Field & Stream Magazine, Victoria’s Secret, Ministry of Sound, Maui Longboards, Oprah Winfrey Magazine, AARP, Maxim (USA), Wired (UK), Entertainment Weekly, Red Bull, Intel, The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and J.D. Salinger’s final reissue of The Catcher in the Rye.

When he’s not working on client projects, or being interviewed by the BBC about the typography of movie posters and the like, Seb Lester creates limited edition art prints such as his hugely popular and collectable “Home Sweet Home” and the cleverly invertible ambigram “Blazing”, available exclusively from Pictures on Walls, the website known for publishing genuine Banksy prints.

With the release of his brand new set of posters, Design Robot caught up with Seb Lester to find out more about his work, his designs, and his inspiration…

 


DR: Seb, your distinctive typographic style has become hugely popular and many of your previous posters sets quickly sold out. Can you tell us how you developed them?

SL: I have to say I’ve been really amazed at the response to my work. The very first poster ‘Mightier’, sold out, along with several of the other prints. Thanks to anyone reading this who has bought one by the way. I greatly appreciate it.

I think the high water marks in my previous prints have probably been ‘Blazing’ and ‘Flames’. One of the common denominators in those prints was choosing to limit myself to two lettering styles. Balance, harmony, grace and rhythm are the cornerstones of beautiful lettering. The received wisdom is that it’s much easier to create such things working with a limited palette of lettering styles.

I guess it’s because of my design background that I always write a brief for myself before I start a print — a distillation of everything I want the print to say and do. I always try to aim as high as possible. Shoot for the stars and you might hit the ceiling, as they say.

You’ve certainly aimed for the stars with your new prints; ‘Dreams’, ‘Stars’, and ‘So Much To Do’. Is there one particular print which has stretched your creativity?

Dreams:

‘Dreams’ is probably my most ambitious print to date. With ‘Dreams’ I really wanted to push myself creatively and technically to produce something showy, intricate and hopefully beautiful. In the brief for ‘Dreams’ I established that I wanted to draw inspiration from some of the most accomplished lettering in history, but produce something that feels modern and relevant today. I love letterforms and I want to attempt to express that — to design something that hopefully demonstrates a passion and flair for the subject, versatility and craftsmanship.

In ‘Dreams’, you have used more typefaces than in your previous work. Can you tell us a little bit about the faces you have developed?

With ‘Dreams’ I wanted to try something else, to push the boat out somewhat and develop something more complex, so I developed five lettering styles for this piece. The designs for the ‘Destiny’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘We Shape Our’ text would be classified as cursive, flourished, formal scripts. It’s hard to beat this style for sheer unadulterated beauty. To my mind it’s the most aesthetically pleasing classification of all. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s also the most difficult Latin style to draw. The curves, fine hairlines and flourishing in formal scripts leave very little margin for error.

The five lettering styles I developed are, as always, drawn from scratch. I was inspired by some of the finest lettering in history but aimed to produce work that looks contemporary, stylish and relevant today.

And what inspired the contrasting faces used for ‘Beauty’ and ‘Believe’?

I love strong contrast in design and I wanted to create some bold display styles to act as a counterbalance to the scripts. There are two condensed display faces in the piece. ‘Believe’ is essentially modern, with echoes of the mid 20th century. It also draws from some exquisite decorative work I saw on 18th century pistols in The Wallace Collection in London. ‘Beauty’ is based on a gorgeous 19th century Stephenson Blake display face, that I modernised and embellished with swashes and a starry sky.

Aside from elegant typographic design in your work, part of the beauty and appeal of your art posters is the attention to detail paid to the print finish and materials used. Do you enjoy this technical aspect?

Yes, I always try to seek out the best possible materials for a print, and found some amazing papers and inks for ‘Dreams’, which is available in two editions. The first is a glossy metallic black ink edition of 100 on Plike art paper. The second is a bigger scale edition of 100 on Gunmetal Mirri paper. Finishing touches like these can make all the difference, and I’m thrilled with the results. Photos really don’t do the prints justice!

Tell us about the two limited edition posters which accompany ‘Dreams’ in this set; ‘Stars’ and ‘So Much To Do’.


Stars:

A quote by a man who needs no introduction, Vincent Van Gogh. The words had an immediate resonance with me and I knew I had to do something with them. On close inspection you’ll see the lettering I developed is made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny stars. This print is vvailable in two colourways.


So Much To Do:

This old proverb certainly struck a chord with me! I found a delightful 19th century display face that I knew I wanted to use. I wish I could credit the designer but I have no record of who that is. The letters’ warmth and character lend themselves well to this piece and look really sumptuous in metallic gold. The Peregrina paper is a ruby red or deep crimson, depending on lighting.

 

You’ve worked on some very exclusive brands. How important do you think it is to set yourself personal projects alongside corporate client work?

I created ‘Dreams’, ultimately, because I wanted to challenge myself. I’m fortunate enough to have been a type designer for ten years drawing corporate typefaces and logos, such as the recent development work on the logo for Liberty London, commissioned by Dave. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work on this project given the heritage and prestige of this luxury brand. I thoroughly enjoy such projects, and hope to do many more, but pieces like ‘Dreams’ present creative and technical challenges that rarely exist in corporate environments. This can only be a good thing in terms of personal progression.

And finally… what’s next in the world of Seb Lester?

There are also some exciting projects on the horizon. I’d like to have a solo show in London next year of limited edition prints and original pieces. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to make a living doing what I do. I hope to continue to try to create the most beautiful letterforms I’m capable of producing, and apply them to the areas of art, design, and illustration that interest me most. If I can do that in a focused and intelligent way, I’m hoping the rest will take care of itself!

To find out more about Seb Lester, check out his website at seblester.co.uk or head on over to our friends at I Love Typography and read their interview from 2008. You can also follow Seb on Twitter – @SebLester

About Design Robot

Design Robot spends rather a lot of his time researching and searching the web to find examples of highly creative work and play in all types of design, photography, art, typography and more.
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