Rian Hughes: Device Fonts

Rian Hughes is a man of many sides. Comic book artist of 2000AD fame, accomplished illustrator, graphic designer, type designer, “prolific rummager” and most recently author of a book entitled “Cult-ure: Ideas Can Be Dangerous”. Hughes’ talk today at TYPO focused on the later, offering a thought-provoking 45 minutes on the concept of culture, and how (for better or worse) it shapes our perception of the world.

Rian Hughes, photo © Jason Wen
Interestingly, the motivation to produce of the book was born out of a close brush with fate aboard a flight on route from Moscow. After the hydraulics on the plane failed, Hughes, contemplating his own mortality, thought “… what was that project I never got around to?”. An hour and a half later when safely on the ground, the seed for ‘Cult-ure’ was born. Drawing from a vast collection of scribbles and notes in his box of Moleskines, Hughes started work on the book.

“Culture is roughly anything we do and monkeys don’t”

Visually, Hughes described the book’s design as a reference to a manifesto, bible or other “source of authority”; using gilded edges and an authoritative typographic style. Beginning with the quote, “culture is roughly anything we do and monkeys don’t”, Hughes took the audience through a selection of topics from the book.
Ranging from the simplification of symbols, to the theme of resonant objects (the idea of an object having it’s own meaning, plus it’s cultural baggage), to the human skill / need for pattern recognition (Hughes provided the example of the famous ‘face on Mars’), the talk was fantastically thought-provoking. Perhaps the best snippet from the talk, was Hughes concluding response to the question “How do you kill an idea?”. The answer? “Have a better one”.

Rian Hughes

Dividing his time between illustration and design, Rian has provided design, custom type and illustration for advertising campaigns, CD and record sleeves, book jackets, graphic novels and television. Notable works include the animated on-board safety film for Virgin Airlines, a collection of Hawaiian shirts, a range of watches for Swatch, a BDA International Gold Award winning brochure for MTV Europe’s Music Awards penned by Alan Moore, and numerous comic book logos for mainstream comic publishers DC Comics and Marvel. He releases his font designs through his own label, Device. Recent publications include Cult-ure: Ideas can be Dangerous, Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s, and Yesterday’s Tomorrows, a collection of his comic work which was recently launched at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and is now available in paperback in the US. In his current Book »CULTURE: Ideas can be Dangerous« Rian is turning to the processes underlying design and communication in general, and how it in turn affects the social culture.

By Paul Woods