The Caseroom Press produce wonderfully eclectic and experimental books. They’ve received much acclaim and recognition over the years — in fact most of their site seems to have an award logo on each page — this includes a much-respected ISTD Premier Award for The Ghost in the Fog. I asked Caseroom members (and former tutors), Barrie Tullett and Philippa Wood, a few questions about their on-going experimentation and love for typography (oh, how the tables have turned)…
Tom Heaton: The Caseroom Press is obviously committed to experimentation and collaboration, how important are these qualities?
Barrie Tullett: The Caseroom Press gives us the opportunity to create work that has more flexibility and freedom than we would normally expect as freelance graphic designers — commercially our books wouldn’t be viable so this is our chance to, well, to be ourselves. It also gives us an opportunity to ‘do’ as well as ‘teach’, which in turn feeds back into the studio at the Art School.
Philippa Wood: Collaboration is a vital part of what we do, it enables us to produce work with people from a range of different backgrounds and specialisms; I think Barrie and I approach collaborations very differently, but both methods seem to work.
BT: Yes. Philippa’s collaborations end up as books. Mine end up as things on my to-to list.
BT: Actually, in some ways I think it’s the least experimental. It’s a book with all the book taken out. It was the result of working through a process rather than a series of creative decisions really, but the end result of that has become something quite special and it does reference all the things I’m interested in, from Concrete Poetry to Phase Music… I’ve been delighted with how well it’s been received. In general though, I think that the work Philippa does is far more exciting.
TH: Your irregular publication, The Case, has a different theme each issue. How are these selected?
BT: haha. The names are taken from things that are happening at the time; Frantic was the run up to a degree show at Edinburgh College of Art and the one thing the students didn’t seem to be was frantically busy, so it was an in-joke… Similarly Released was so called because it took me so long to do. Engaged took it’s name, and content, from a Degree Show. Liminal from conversations with John Stocker.
TH: What other publications have you got planned for the future? Or is that an “I’d tell you, but I’d have to kill you” secret? I understand there’s a call for entries for typewriter-based pieces.
BT: I would like to produce a modern anthology of typewriter art — Alan Barker, one of my Foundation Course tutors, gave me a copy of the Alan Riddell book years ago — which is an absolute joy and I’d love to put together an update to that, unfortunately it’s quite an ambitious undertaking and I need to find funding for the editing and production before I can move it on.
PW: I have various artists’ books at the planning stage, but I keep thinking of new ideas, so quite often books never get past being just an idea… I am quite happy to respond to ‘Call for Entries’ — that way I’m forced to produce something rather than just thinking about it (take note BT).
BT: Talking of producing something, I’d also like to finish a project I’ve been working on since my final year at Chelsea… I’d like to make the Case a less ‘ad-hocly’ publication, I want to write a book about the work of Andrew Restall, then there’s the projects we’re collaborating on with Jack Zipes… oh, and a book all about the relationship between Graphic Design students and drawing. Oh, and the book of Circle/Cycle poems that we’d planned ages ago.
PW: He’ll think of some more in a minute.
BT: Thinking… Then there’s the MerzBoxes and our first collaboration with Jack Zipes — which ran foul of some funding issues… So if anyone out there has deep pockets and an altruistic bent…
TH: Who/what was your first typographic influence?
BT: At Art School, HN Werkman. Then Emigre magazine. Oh, and Diter Rot. And ee cummings and… the list goes on.
BT: God. Me too! I’d sit and read it in bed when I was about 15! I can see Algeria now. And Shatter, Baby Face, Calypso…
PW: Arnold Bocklin!
BT: And those pictures of trees from the top. And the wee Mute Records guy.
PW: Letraset and Tony Hart must have been all you ever needed for an art education. Who didn’t send a picture in to the gallery?
TH: Who are your typographic heroes?
BT: That really is a huge list.
PW: That’s an impossible question. Or maybe a book?
BT: This one could go on and on as well.
PW: Prime marks where quote marks should be, monospaced type (especially italics), hyphens where en dashes should be, default tabs, bastardised type… all the usual suspects. Oh. Lowercase ‘i’s when referring to the first person. Like Barrie always says — ‘you’re important, so you should always deserve a big ‘I’.’
BT: Zoe Patterson, who I used to work with at Edinburgh College of Art hated people who didn’t kern the 1 and the 9 in dates. She’s going to be really pissed come 2019.
PW: Optima. Papyrus. 12 pt Times Roman on auto leading.
BT: Mis-used Prime Marks on TV programmes really bug me. Spoils my whole enjoyment of the programme. Honestly.
PW: Missing, or misuse of apostrophes.
TH: What is your favourite book for type education?
BT: Here we go. Actually I’ll keep it simple. Book Design by Andrew Haslam, although I’m quite a fan of Oliver Simon’s Introduction to Typography (Pelican books) published in the 50s I think. He wrote it during the Second World War ‘in moments of leisure’ — fighting one minute, sitting thinking about the finer points of text indents the next. Got to admire him.
TH: What is your favourite book for type expression?
BT: As a student project, the text from Flatland has been brilliant to work with (those who are reading this and have survived the project will now be groaning), but as a book of typographic delights — obvious things like The Bald Soprano or Double or Nothing (Raymond Federman’s Typewriter novel)… Actually I’ve just seen a really nice book on Abe, with some lovely experimental ideas, but I’m not telling you what it is in case you buy it before I do. But it’s from the 60s. Where are the most interesting modern experimental novels? Things like The Raw Shark Texts and The House of Leaves are hardly common. Perhaps the developments of text on the iPad and iPhone will lead to a different kind of reading and writing, one that throws convention out the window. Mind you I think you’ll need a new kind of reader and a new kind of writer for that to really happen. Perhaps a graphic designer who writes experimental fiction.
PW: Impressive: Printmaking, Letterpress & Graphic Design, published by Gestalten… oh and the current issue of Baseline (58, page 49 onwards). This is just a shameless plug…
Find out more about The Caseroom Press at www.the-case.co.uk