by Stephanie McNicol
Craig Ward is a British-born designer and art director. Now located in New York City, Craig has been recognized with multiple awards for his designs and art direction which include: ADC Young Gun (2008), recipient of the Type Directors Club Certificate of Typographic Excellence (2009, 2014) and the Communication Arts Award of Excellence (2014, 2015). He is known for his often creative and scientific approaches to design solutions. Ward has worn many hats in his career, including artist, author, art director, photographer, designer and contributor to several design journals. However, he is best known for this pioneering typographic works.
He currently works out of his studio in North Brooklyn named. Word are Pictures. It also happens to be the name of his portfolio website that he originally used to showcase his experimental typographic and letterpress works. His studio space offers a unique space for him to experiment with photo and video shoots, and installation that features many of his typographic expressive works.
2003 to 2007 were considered Craig's "letterpress years". He was inspired by constructivist type assemblages of words and type. He often works using the letterpress which included type that reflective his own narrative. These experiments evolved into creating pieces such as the typographic map of New York City and a map of London. He enjoyed the printing process, as he was able to produce unexpected results. He believed that these distortions were difficult to control and allowed the elements to play on the page in unexpected way. It was his love of letterpress that lead to his involvement in creating a custom typeface for Christian Dior to celebrate the first release of their first new perfume in ten years. He named it NM Serif and created a poster with the typeface to send to his clients, so they could have a tangible feel for the elegance and structure of the typeface.
In recent months, Ward has collaborated with biochemist and photographer Linden Gledhill to create something truly unique when it comes to experimental art and bringing it to letterpress. Craig and Linden have developed a set of glyphs using magnetic fluid ink.
The “typeface” is called Fe2O3 (Iron III Oxide) Glyphs. Iron III Oxide is a main component found in ferrofluid. Ferrofluid is a liquid that becomes strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. The results create a very unique form, or glyph, that can be manipulated and then vectorized on the computer. The process is beautifully simple: first ferrofluid is placed between two glass plates. The ferrofluid is then subjected to a magnet that spins horizontally and vertically. The results are as Ward explains, “a library of complex hieroglyphics – each one as unique as a snowflake – that call to mind both indigenous markings and symbols from science fiction.”
Once the glyphs have been finalized, Ward creates a vector of the shape to convert to a working OpenType (.oft) typeface, as well as, a polymer plate. The ink for these prints have been made using a mix of black pantone ink, and ferrofluid. The reasoning behind this says Ward, is that “the printing medium dictates the form of the glyphs, as opposed to the other way around.” A genius way to bring the project full circle and a testament to the detail in which Craig Ward puts into his work.
The juxtaposition: the old system of letterpress with a mix of modern, scientific technology makes this project one that stands out as far as experimental type is concerned. Craig Ward is certainly a designer that brings the fine arts back into design with his personal projects, and is a true pioneer in experimental typography. For a look into the collection of his work I encourage you to visit his website at wordsarepictures.co.uk.