Design on a comedy stage

Talks for Nerd Nite London...

I was the first graphic designer to speak at Nerd Nite London, a night of entertaining and informative 20 minute talks on niche subjects, at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green. I’m a forager for information so my talks start with something about which I know nothing and set off on a voyage of nerdery to find out more. So far, I’ve done six talks:

Grawlix – the curious story of sweary type

“Could we have some sweary type?” is the best question I’ve ever been asked in a briefing meeting. Looking into symbol swearing, I discovered that it has a name: Grawlix. Or does it? I set off to find out more, via cartoon history, scholarly spats, operetta, translation, a sitcom, country music, signage, AI, fonts and a hellbox.
See the Bowen Craggs project that inspired the talk here. And more on the hellbox on the blog.

Where it’s @

At. Surely, that’s all we need to know about the @ sign. But my twirly quest included Strudel, snail poo, Roman history, bad calligraphy, typewriters, urban regeneration, CB radio, the invention of email, Japanese emojis, Morse code, US sporting fixtures, gender neutrality, urban regeneration, internet cafés, a museum object and a very strange baby name.

2B or not 2B – the secret life of pencils

Starting with the question, “How do they get type that small onto a surface that narrow?” I took note of pencil history, via sheep marking, cannonballs, a blunderbuss, pencil wars, dizzyingly-complicated grading, artisanal pencil sharpening, surgery, voting, space, the Harley Davidson of pencils and a mediaeval rubbing-out experiment.
A short version of this talk was created for East End WI and the talk has been reprised for Bow Geezers.

Where’s Ethel? Lost letters from the English alphabet

Hunting for eight letters that used to be in the English alphabet but aren’t any more involved peering at runes, Anglo-Saxon poetry, a pub crawl, broadcasting pronunciation, sniggering Victorian schoolchildren, ancient plumbing, typographic jellyfish and maps of Iceland.

Apostrophes: from Greece to greengrocers

Apostrophes are the subject of many grammarian debates. But what are they? Why are they that shape? And what do greengrocers have to say about them? I went shopping for stories and came back with Greek theatre, bad calligraphy, technically-unreadable surnames, an 1840s rant, a Wild West of street names and Hell’s Angels.
See my booklet on the talk here.
A short version of this talk was created for East End WI.

&? Everything I didn’t know about ampersands

My first talk goes back to Bowen Craggs, whose brand identity features an ampersand. It was fair, then, to assume that I’d know all about them. But I knew one thing. Which turned out to be wrong. So I set off to explore everything I wished I knew – via letter cutting, the 27th letter of the alphabet, Pompeiian graffiti, ancient Greek shorthand, Irish parking signs and a mountain.
An adapted version of this talk was created for Bruce Castle Museum, featuring some of its objects.

If you’re interested to discuss talks or some bespoke nerdery for your organisation, do get in touch.