More than words - the ideas behind the type at what phil sees

In this post I’ll talk about some of my typography prints, the ideas behind them and also some of the different directions they took before getting to the final design. I’ll also talk a little about some old influences and how you can get creative with the kids. (Big or small). 


If I only had a brain.

So lets start at the beginning with the typographic print ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore’.

A tiny bit of background will help explain the key directions and ideas for this one.

I was creating and selling my black and white fine art photography prints which I love doing, but wanted to flex my graphic design and typography muscles. So I was stepping out from the black and white and entering the world of colour, ‘get the connection’.

From black and white into colour.


I’m also a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, so that idea combined with the copy line being ‘a personal twist on the famous line from the film’, felt like the perfect fit.

There is also a third layer to this design.

What are the other colours, and why are they circles?

The ruby slippers.


The colours represent the key characters in the film, the two red circles are the two ruby slippers, then you have the scarecrow and … well, you can work out the rest. But why circles, and why like that? Well, this represents what would be the most elaborate traffic light system there is! Ha. But it’s not so much the traffic lights, but what they represent. Stop, wait, go there is an order to the motions that allow you to go to the next step, stop at red, move on and go with green. This was telling me that I’m allowing myself to move forward with my ideas, my designs and what I do next. It was opening the door to my creative Oz.

The final design.

So that’s my insight into that piece. Right where to next Dorothy.



The trilogy in the making.

I couldn’t write a post about my typographic work without mentioning the gorgeous ‘kiss kiss kiss’, and the prints that followed.

I had an idea for a trilogy of prints, but never thought at the time that I would see it through. I didn’t even know if people would buy it.

I wanted to create a journey of one person becoming two, basically a relationship piece, but not totally obvious with it’s words and layout.

The first print is called ‘gorgeous’, because that’s what you’re thinking about each other, then there is the act of the kiss. Why 3 kisses? I did try the single word ‘kiss’, in landscape first actually, but there are a few reasons why that just didn’t work. The first being that the underlying theme for me was ‘connection’, this would link everything together, and secondly the font I wanted to use. It took me about 40 days and 40 fonts (ha, no sorry made that bit up!), it took me about 2 days and 40 fonts to find and work with what I wanted to say and how I wanted it to work. The ’s’ needed to sweep around itself but also be detached, the ‘k’ needed to be able to connect but not dominate and the ‘i’ to interlink.

The ‘k’, works beautifully because it doesn’t have the top half which you’d normally have on a lower case letter, and it meant I could have that strong key line going down the design, when I finally connected those 3 kisses together. I knew I wanted more than 1 kiss and actually the final number has a lot to do with design and layout. 2 kisses didn’t fill the page, 4 looked to much, but 3 felt right visually but also worked narratively.

So that was gorgeous.


The very popular gorgeous print, also now known as the 'kiss, kiss, kiss' print. 


Love was always on my mind while actually doing the gorgeous print, it's such a simple and strong word, it was the natural progression of falling in love ‘after those kisses’. Stylistically it was the same amount of letters and it meant I could continue with the idea I had in my mind.

I knew I could link the ‘k’ from kiss and ‘l’ from love together - it was a straight line, but would everything else work?  

It took quite a while but my idea of actually being able to ‘overlay’, the words worked.

Just over-laying them though wasn’t enough, people needed to see the connection between the first print and the second, this is why the words ‘kiss, kiss, kiss’, subtly sit underneath the love. Those words would be 100% black and the whole background a few percent lighter, so it wasn’t in your face, but enough to see it in the right light.

Which brings us all - together.

The final love print design.


This was really tricky to design and get right.

I actually first tried a few other words, even though I wanted to use ‘together’, as I didn’t know if it was right. I then spent a long time seeing if I could overlay the words ’together forever’ and link those two, but the balance and clarity was all off. I even thought about just repeating the words ‘forever’ like the first two prints, even though I didn’t want to do the same again. My head was spinning a little.

Initial ideas working with the type. 

Repeating the forever words like this felt like you were fading away, which was the opposite of what I wanted to say! 


At that point I actually walked away from it for a week, and worked on some other ideas, and Instagram story posts (yeah, they take time!)

Then when I was working on something totally different, I thought, yep that could work and got back on it.

The idea I was working on when I started to overlay the text. This text idea never went any further.


It didn’t flow straight away and getting all the letter spacing correct took a while, but it started to feel like it was working. I wanted the circle on the ‘g’ and on the ‘r’ to represent the two people, so tried a few different variations. Making them different colours, overlaying additional circles, but it was making it all far to confusing. The idea was strong enough in itself, I didn’t need additional layers.

While creating this print I imagined the words continually moving into each other, what the final design shows is a stop in time as they start to interlink and overlay. I used to produce quite a lot of motion graphics for videos and tv, so my mind was already seeing how that would work. This is why there’s a symbol underneath, I thought that was so strong it actually made everything end perfectly. To me it represents a parent kneeling down in front of a child, which in turn represent new life as the story will continue beyond the parents meeting, thinking each other is gorgeous having that kiss, falling in love and staying together.

Really pleased with the final design of the together print.


Megamix time.

I don’t think I should write that much about all my other prints, you’ll be here for days. So I’ll try and speed things up a little.


Naughty Ghost

The story of a kid ghost who’s just learning how to go Boo, normally ghosts just say Boo ‘with two O’s’, but this ghost was brimming with confidence and thought he could do more than everyone else. So he went for a long Boooooo. Not only that, but the more he did it the better he got, this is represented by the thickness / weight of the font as it gets to the end, thin at the start as the ghost starts it’s Booo and bold at the end!

Fonts are broken down into weights (how thick and thin they are - normally listed as thin, light, regular, bold, heavy, words like that). This font has seven weights, so I was actually trying to create an idea where I could use all the weights in one design and for it to make sense.

This is why naughty ghost was born!



Big Hug

Using the same bold curved ‘Boston’ font, I wanted to create something very simple and direct. The colours were key with this design, it needed to feel warm and cosy. The copy line for an Instagram story post actually came before the print, as I wanted to give someone a ‘big hug’, and that was that. I tried a few different design layouts even trying to be funny and have a tiny hug in the middle and call it big hug, but if you didn’t connect the print with the title it didn’t really work. I also went for an even bigger hug word which bled off the sides of the page, that actually looked ok (I used that in a story post), but felt it was to concept heavy and not what I set out to create. It’s purely the word hug on page, I wanted it to be direct and simple for people to read and take in.

Initial ideas for big hug, this colour scheme did then become the 'wonky' print as I really liked it. 


The final 'warm' big hug print. 


Fun concept.

Although I see a lot of my work as fun and playful, they don’t really have fun quotes. The Rock____________Scissors print, maybe?

Open secret is my only current print that falls into that category.

I was seeing all these wonderful images of peoples gallery walls, and imagined the perplexed burglar as he was pulling each one down trying to find the safe. You know, like in the movies.

This is a great example of what I was thinking. The image here is from the wonderful Lisa Dawson who's gallery walls are legendary on Instagram. If you don't follow her then use should @_lisa_dawson_ . I'm so please to say that she has two of my pieces on her walls. Here she has the black and white photography print bullitt time which looks great. Click here to go to that image on the site.


So this concept was born out of that image in my mind.

It was very much about the copy line, the font needed to be clean and straight, I just filled it with concrete to ‘reinforce’ ha, the message.

Concrete text will 'drill holes', along with that lipstick number. X. 


The finishing touch came from adding the safe code on the front, like the owner had written it in lipstick to make it easy for them. Sealed with a kiss.

And then I thought - this is digital printing, I can make each print have it’s own unique code making it even more special, and we can’t all have the same safe codes can we!

 The final design.


To serif or not to serif, that is the question. ha.

This post isn’t about understanding the reasonings between a ‘serif’ font and a ‘sans serif’ font, maybe I’ll do that another time. But I do want to talk about the fonts that I love which then highlights the style and direction I take.

Here the serif font is Times and the sans serif font is Helvetica.


All through my college years and teachings I fall into the ‘sans serif’ camp, fonts like Helvetica, Futura, Gill Sans, Frutiger are a few I could mention.

 I’ve used Helvetica and Futura a few times, but I’ve mainly opted for using a font called Boston quite a bit, which is a little different. It’s slightly softer with the curved edges and works for a lot of what I want to create. You’ll not find any script fonts within my work though, as it’s not who I am as a designer, it’s not my style. The gorgeous, love and together prints needed a certain style and look to be able to visually create what I wanted, but still sits within a classic approach.

I might go a little further afield with prints like wow, but that’ll probably be it. If you like script fonts then sorry.


Playing with type.

I remember as a kid loving a ‘smile’ poster in the dentist, it had the word smile written inside an open mouth ‘funny that - being in a dentist’ ha.

It was very crude, kind of hand written letters that made the word smile, but it made that connection between the letters and the word it was saying, to visually create what that word actually does. ‘Smile’. I was really fascinated by that, I was reading the word ‘smile’, and seeing a ‘smile’. Sounds so simple, but I hadn’t seen it before.

I went home and started to draw various words to see if I could make them into what it was saying. ‘Brick’, made out of bricks, a rainbow with a rainbow inside it, all basic stuff, but it was making me think more about what I was writing and drawing.

A kid tracing over some brick wording I printed out.


You should do this with your kids next time they’ve got the paper and pens out, try to think up a word and see if you can turn it into it!?

The next stage would then start to think about an action and a word and see if you can combine them, for example the word ‘yum’, with a bite taken out of it. This could be their first steps into becoming a graphic designer!

So yes, smile.

That had always stayed with me for some reason. I’d done a design similar for a client logo about 10 years ago, things were a little more refined then to when I was 7 years old!

So when it came to creating a new version as an art print I could work on it even more.

I loved the lower case ‘Boston’ font anyway and had already used this on numerous prints, so that was my starting point to see if it could work. I saw straight away that the curvature on the ’s’ and ‘e’ would symmetrically play off each other once I cut into the letters, just giving you that little curve at the corners of the mouth, perfect. And that was it really, it took a little while to get the curve right, but the concept, idea and direction were all in place straight away. Sometimes designs can take ages, but this didn’t take long at all, saying that I did know exactly what I wanted to achieve. That helps!

From a drawing as a kid, through to the latest smile design that became an art print called 'a simple smile'.


Don’t let dyslexia hold you back.

This isn’t about my prints, but after writing that section about seeing the word smile and creating ideas with your kids it made me think I should talk a tiny bit about my dyslexia. This, like for so many people is something I’ve had to work with my whole life, I really struggled at school and used to just stare at my paper just thinking about how a word I’m trying to write actually started. I was really bad with my ‘b’s and ‘d’s, I used to always get them the wrong way round. I still remember quite vividly sitting in a room by myself with a large sheet of tabloid newspaper the teacher had given me. I had a yellow pen for ‘b’ and a red pen for ‘d’ and I had to read through the pages colouring in the inside of those letters with the right colour. With a hopeful outcome that this would drum it into me. It didn’t and I still continually got it wrong for many years.

I remember it well, colouring in all the 'b's and 'd's. 


I also used to hate reading out in class, my stomach would just turn inside out when my name was called, we used to start on one side of the class and work our way around, with me wishing that the bell would go before it came round to me.

But in the end it didn’t stop me with what I wanted to do, hell I’m writing this blog and I’ve spoken in front of many, many people.

I still have trouble with words, yes autocorrect helps (sometimes), but if you physically can’t construct the first few letters to even type it into google and hope it fills out the rest, you’re buggered.


Ideas, Ideas, Ideas.

Everything starts with an idea, and if you’re anything like me you’ll need to get it down before you forget it, and ideas can pop up at any time! Well they do with me. So I always have something with me were I can write it down, or type it in.

The start of sketching ideas down.


At my desk there is a note book and pen, this is full of scribbles, words and outlines for ideas - I go through so many of these. It’s traditional and old school, but I like it. When I’m not at my desk it’s all digital with my phone on the go (notes is by far my most used app, outside of Instagram!) and my iPad and pencil on the sofa. 


The end.

So that was a little insight into some of my typographic art prints, and actually a little more about me. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say. All these prints are available on the site, and go and get those pens and paper out and get creating with the kids.


Also, on a side note, if you want to get to know ‘me’ a little more, then please go and check out my other post that talks about my background, influences and phobias! (Click here)


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