Paul McNeil: Machine Tools 27 Febuary RCA White City

Bio Studied at LCP (LCC) in the early 90s Now teaches there on BA Graphics Muir/McNeil

A body of typographic work aobut the way the roman alphabet relates to language. The nature of creativity as a curse, ore interested in an analytical, systematic way of working.

(insert book)

No longer at LCC! Part-time at UCA

Machine Tools

A sort of design that doesn’t work with clients, but instead with products that might be sold or used for clients. Machine tools are a cool category of engineering: things taht are used to make other things

Creativity (Fuck Creativity)

(orginator of lateral thinking) definition of the creative act

bringin into being something that was not there before this is arguably a dubious concept: more likely everything is a already there, we’re just transforming it. creativitiy has a way of conferring power/success/intelligence on people – creative people seen as on top of the pile at the heart of creativity is self expression: the independent genius individual this is something that’s deeply busried in our culture

shots of awe (jason silva 2015)

most people probs buy into this kinda shit

kanye 2009 i am gods vessel, but my greates oa in life …

all oof these are medaval notions – some idea that were separate from nature a notion driven by individualism adam curtis says: self-expression may well be the conformity of our time the ancient greeks had much more pragmantic views on this stuff: they had no words for an act of creation (except for poetry) — plat says that a painter only imitates in this ancient worldview the ablty to copy is a virtue, fabrication is held up, very little emphasis on original stuff

steve jobs (1995) the lost interview says that ideas are only the start of something he doesn’t deny that ideas have a purpose(, but he priviliges the process of analysing, building, making

system and process

generative, systems design daniel dennett: darwins dangerous idea (1995) the order of nature is design = order x time thats what you see in growth systems, mechanical systems, conways game of life (1970)

buddha machine (2004) all the thing does is arpreggio between 7 different notes – when you have multiple of them , they generate harmonies

is this music, is it intentional, doe sthe lack of himan skill/intervention alienating when you listen oto it

generative art

phillip gallanter (the theorist of generativity) he says that generative art is any art practice where the artists creates a systsem …..

generative – conditional - parametric =– systematic == interactive === evolutionary == emergent

generative design is in some ways similar to cooking – you define rules (like recipes) n let the prcess run

they are

  • simple
  • neurtal (tgere is variation)
  • reporducible – these things can be done again and agian and they#re the same and different

these are also the principles fromevolutio (above)

order x time

  • programme
  • algorithm
  • process

disorder x time

  • chance
  • error
  • collaboration

order and disorder

sol lewitt geometric structures e says working with a an is a way of aoiding subjectivity, it is also a way not having to design each piece of work often he would just send a plan for a work to a gallery

biran eno / peter schmidt oblique strategies (1975) was a set of cards designed for bands – each player would draw a card and would play according to whatever random instruction hey got – using chance in a beneficial way

emma thomas perfect machine (2002) principal at practice for everyday life

overprinted arrays of parallel lines – she’s trying to perfectly overprint the red over the blue - but because of the conditions in the room prooerties of ink etc this c an never be achieved so you get images

conditional design conditional design workbook a whole book of instructions each player has a different colour pen example: draw a perfect circle – you can’t do it but product is quite beautifyl (also collaboration comes into the picture here)

in a way, the most perfect order is mathematics – it’s a closed system

Terms of Reference

georges perec leads the notion of working with systems in defence of a the void (1969): there are two ways of getting water……..

in oter words, building a system (laying pipes) is as good as doing things by hand (carrying buckets)

it’s a novel without any e’s – a story, a narrative, but it constantly reminds us of its own materiality: language is stuff

william burroughs/brian guysin: cut ups

emmet williams four directional song of doubt for five voices (1957)

le corbusier chandigarh (1951) contemporary architecture uses generative systems all over the place, but you see the beginnings of it in the modulor he says the modulor is like a piano: it’s tuned but you have to be able to play it well

stravinskky: rite of spring bach (maybe well tempered clavier)

stravisnky say: the more constraints one imposes ..…the abrirariness …precision of execution

karl gerstner paintings carro (1978) v similar to albers all about the mathematics of colour 00 difference and similarity of colour

alan mccollumn the shapes project (2006) a combinatory system that allows for billions of different shapes

mark boyle tidal series (1969) he asked people to shoot a map wof the world his kids now go around to those places, take an 8ft by 8ft casting of the world it’s arbitrary but also real

susan derges ibbous moon cloud (2009) put photographic paper on the bottom of riverbeds – beatifyl work entirey based on rocess

john averill lottery cityscapes

john maeda floar (1997)

daniel rozin (2007) mirror

8vo flux posters (1998) had to design these posters without information – s made a system to highlight different semantic information with different colours

generative design creates consistency eithout repetition

lorenzo geiger world of violence

mevis and van deursen identity system for rotterdam (2001)

sea design /the field gf smith digital (2011) 10000 different paper packs for gf smith see also covers for eye magazine

karel martens drukwerk (2001)

daniel eatock pantone pen print (2007)


robert bringhurst: the solid form of langugage (is type) borges: the total library

gerard memoz: langugage in performance strucutre of the english monosyllable

idris kahn every page of the hoy koran (2004) photographs (typically books) and overlay every page over each other

alison turnbull spring snow – a translation (2002)

brookly superhero supply store (2009)

zuzanna lick emigre pottery (2005-7) designed all the typefaces in emigre kind of a typography of pottery

sheley jackson eh melancholy of anatomy (joanna water’s hip) (2003) you would go on a website, pay and get a word that you had to tattoo on your body – all of them put together would make a novel

paul elliman sirens taken for wonders (2014)


athe visual history of type (2010)

rev edward catich the origin of the serif (1968) kinesthisis: letterforms come from teh way the human bobdy works (serif in roman captials from a flick f the wrist with a broad bursh)

weingart says four typefces are enoug to address every proble#

(all of this is about type as form, but the more interesting part is)

type as language

we think of writing as secondary to speech (because the greeks), but really writing exists on a whole differet order

here’s some prhects that use typography on langugae

king seijong han’gul (1466) perfectly rational writing system – each shape relates to a position of your mouth when you make that sound

james pitman initial teaching alpphabet (1960)

locos (yukio ota) 1973 there are many pictogram communication , but th is probs the most complete one

paul ellima (1989) bits / found fount 1989 a set of objects that fit very specific rules

  • man made
  • fits in his mouth
  • an object but also an image of an object

Type as system

romain du roi (1692) people startng to see type as a pure system separate from the human body – made by a comittee that was tasked to catalogue everything, started with the typeace

firmin didot (1784) plaque decoupee universelle (1870) bayer alphabet (1925) a m cassandre (bfur) fregio meccano – nebiolo

the 20th centruy is full of these modular type designs, they died because printers didn’t want to use e,

wim new alphabet (1967) for the dot matrix printer

kare chicago (1984)

norm replica (2007) a typeface on a 100x100 grid (as opposed to the regular post script 1000x1000)

karl nawrot / radim pesko lyno (2010) forms that dont conform to systems


  • ursonate
  • henri micheaux (1963)
  • max ernst - maximiliana
  • distric 9 non-human script
  • alberobanana
  • norm: the things
  • ahn sang-soo: letterwork
  • xu bing: book from the sky

10 Projects

lupton: a natural history of typography typeface statistcs (about urw typefaces) core optica / core geometric 26 different weights (because 26 letters in the alphabet) 20 years of very methodical books about different formal aspects of the englih alphabet – upper/lowercase, punctuaation, average of different typeaces, sliced typefaces, symmetry funes the memorious