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Designer Simon Johnston on Factory Records, Q-Tips, lawyers, self-destructing magazines

Simon Johnston with his work "Investigation" at the "PAGES" exhibition opening. Photo: Chuck Spangler

Students recently packed an overflowing Los Angeles Times auditorium for 3×3*: Type Guys, an event that featured three presentations and a lively Q&A with three individuals that have crafted the way we see, understand and interact with typography.

Previously we shared highlights Kyle Cooper‘s and Jeremy Mende‘s presentations. Today we focus on Art Center’s own Simon Johnston.

Johnston was educated at Bath Academy of Art in England and the Kunstgewerbeschule, Basel, Switzerland. In England he founded the design practice 8vo, as well as the influential typographic journal Octavo. Since relocating to Los Angeles in 1989, he has run his own design office, Simon Johnston Design, with a particular emphasis on typography, especially book and catalog work for museums and galleries.

Johnston has taught typography and design at Art Center for 20 years. He is currently faculty director of the print area of emphasis in the Graphic Design department. In addition to his teaching and design practice, he works on his own art and photography projects.

At the event, Johnston touched on a variety of topics, including the importance of typography, working with some of his idols and the minefield of registered trademarks.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

On typography:
There’s an old joke: It’s the scene of an accident, a crowd is gathered around an injured person, and from the back of the crowd a voice is heard, “Let me through! I’m a typographer!” Typography may not be a matter of life and death, but as visible language, it is the key means through which we communicate as a society, and as such it’s the spine that runs through the body of graphic design practice.

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