Trent Bucknell is a student at the Academy of Design in Melbourne. His work (particularly a recent project 'sense & type' is a wonderful intersection of analogue and digital type technology.


Hi, Trent Please tell us a little about yourself...

Hello Nicole.  Well, I am 19 years old and a little bit of a type fanatic. l just love having fun making, creating and exploring. Oh and I like to make dad jokes but I will spare you of them today.

How and when did you become interested in studying design?

My interest in design came largely from the problem that I liked to always be making but was not very good at art because I got lost without a set problem to slove. Design gave me the goals and problems to try solve which I really liked as I get to come up with the most exciting ways to solve problems of all types and size. I am very grateful on how supportive my high school was for the kids that liked to create like myself as they really gave me the push that I needed to fall down this exciting rabbit hole.

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What about Type, calligraphy and/or Lettering specifically turns you on/excites or interests you?
 
My mother did calligraphy when I was a kid so we had lots of calligraphy and pens stashed away. When I was 16 I found all of my mother's calligraphy books and supplies and she showed me how to use them all, it was also around this time as well that I started to be fascinated with sign painting. So from year 10 onwards I have been drawing letters and experimenting all different methods of creating them. I really love that type is always around you and that you can get inspired from everything and anything. I love that you can find patterns in everyday life and use them as a base for a font. The best thing about type to me though is that no matter where you are you can create type, the next time you are at the beach try and find all different types of sticks and stones and see the effects on thewords you try to create, it's one of my favorite things to do.

One of your lecturers is Dr Barry Spencer (AKA Speculatype!). I think you're immensely lucky to have access to such progressive thinking in your course! What has Barry (or your program at the Academy) taught you about the potential of typography?

YES, I DO! Barry is one of the most inspiring teachers and humans that I have been extremely lucky to cross paths with. I remember sitting in his class for the first time and getting more and more excited as Barry explained what he did and what we were going to get to do in his class. I had never really got to talk to someone else that was so interested in type so I was super excited. Barry has given me a whole new way at looking at type and has boosted my level of interest in type to a whole new level, the work he creates is amazing and at a level like no other. I really am very fortunate to having him as a teacher.

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Tell us a little about the Sense & Type project brief... What problems were you looking to solve?

The brief that we were giving was to explore and express an emotion and sense though typographic means. We had to choose a subject matter from are chosen combination, come up with an event based onthat combination then design a font and then use that font in a poster/website and banner ad. I chose happiness for my emotion and smell for my sense, this lead me on a journey from fart-proof underpants (my thought was people are happy if they can't smell farts) all the way to the letterpress. The reason behind my choice of the letterpressas my subject matter was that I know that the smell of the ink gives printer around the world great happiness.

I love that you began with an analogue analysis of different type genres and classifications. (That is the way I learn about type - by redrawing letterforms I like the look of to try and understand what makes them great!) What did you learn about the geometry of letters through this process?

Thanks its one of my favorite things to do. I found this process to be extremely helpful in getting a feel for how my type should flow and it made me pick up on little fun bits from the different type that I could then try and incorporate into my own work. I had a rough idea in my head of where I wanted to go but I felt that by analyzing a wide array of type that it would only benefit my work.

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When you set out to drawing Buck as a sans serif, you astutely pointed out that the system is modular and that 'Letters are just a big jig-saw puzzle.' How did you go about defining the kit of parts (or the jigsaw modules) you used to build your alphabetic system?

Yep, it sure was just one big jigsaw puzzle. Well I started by making a grid system for all the letters to be built from then I made the H and the O. Once I was happy with where they were at I chopped them up and started to form the rest of the letters, there was tweaking need for each letter but the basic form was set straight from the H and the O. I found this was a really neat way of forming the base of all the letters quickly and with ensuring they all looked like a family.

Once you had the sans serif nailed you added two further versions one bracketed and one unbracketed serif and then started to develop the type into functional fonts in Glyphs... Once there you note that it was easy to further expand the family using automation to create the rounded versions. What did you like best about working in glyphs? What surprised you about the glyphs software?

These new styles were something that I wanted to create from the start but I was worried about what the outcome would be like if I jumped straight to a serif style. I wanted that strong base system before I made it detailed. I had never used Glyphs before this project and boy oh boy do I love it! Glyphs made the process of bringing my font to life super easy for a beginner like myself. The rounded version of Buck came out of me playing with the program and seeing what it can do for a while, I was just pushing every button and watched what it did to my type. The best thing for me about working with Glyphs is how user-friendly it is, I felt like anyone if could have a play if they wanted and fall in love with type but at the same time a professional could also execute a perfect font to the greatest detail using the same tools. Glyphs made me excited with the possibilities for progression that it offered.

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You choose the bracketed serif version of Buck for the scanned experiments... What about this style did you gravitate towards? Why this version over the other three?
 
The reasoning behind using the bracketed version of Buck was for readability reasons. My thoughts were that with the stretching of the type in the scanning process the letters on each line may become indistinguishable, the thick serifs would work as anchoring points and help to break up the lines.

With the scanning and digital distortion you noted 'Slow and steady wins the race!' this is a great insight into how far you can push the distortion before your words and letters no longer are readable as type. How did the speed and movement affect the legibility?
 
The scanning of my type was a complete luck of the draw when it came to the legibility. This randomness made the process very fun, though I never knew just how far the type was going to be pushed. Though my experiments I found that doing certain movements lead to greater legibility whereas other completely removed legibility from the equation and the type became more of a mash of forms and texture. The slow and controlled movements compared to fast and violent ones created a much more legible result which I decided to run with in the end.

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You also said the outcomes you had the highest hopes for rarely turned out as you expected and that the process 'flipped' on you! Can you tell us a little about how the typeface behaved unexpectedly?

Yes, well as I was saying before the way you moved it really affected the legibility. When I began I thought that I had to make ruff with the movements for it to give me cool results but though playing I discovered that this was not the case at all. When you moved fast the typeface would become jarring and illegible but when you slowed down the distortion created a relaxing wave effect on the type, which I greatly preferred.

The outcomes for this project are outstanding! Congratulations on how it turned out... If you were doing this project again - what would you do differently? Or how would you expand/add to it if you had more time to develop the project?
 
Thank you very much, that means a lot. If I were to do this project again I most defiantly would experiment with printing it as playing with letterpress is something that I really wanted to do. I want to smell the ink and feel the sense of happiness that it brings to letterpress operators around the world.

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Beyond the Sense & type project - in your broader design work - Do you have a particular medium or tool for design (analogue or digital) that you gravitate toward or enjoying working with most?
 
I try to play in both realms in my work as I feel that they both can help each other grow the work to new levels that one medium on its own could not. Though my work at Spike Creative I get to play around a lot with all different types of printing methods such as gold foils and all other fun stuff in commercial work that we do. I really like the effects that printing can offer your work, the different effects really bring your work to life. I feel that there is only so much depth you can get on a screen and sometimes you need that tactility to make you stop and enjoy great design.

As we draw near to the completion of your studies what are you next steps career-wise? What does your dream job (or enterprise if you’re planning on creating your own business) look like?

At the moment I am working as I freelancer for a design agency called Spike Creative well completing my studies, they have been extremely kind to me and been mentoring me and showing me the ropes since I was in year 10. They are a lovely bunch of absolutely killer design talent! My dream is to run my own little agency one day and just have fun creating work that I really am passionate about. I also want to be able to do what Spike has so kindly done for me and help young designers get a feel for the industry and help them grow because it really has been the best opportunity for me and I want other to have this opportunity. The more people we have excited about design the better!

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Thanks so much for answering these Q's Trent but before we sign off... How can people get hold of you (or follow your work?!)
 
Thank you Nicole, it has been a pleasure. You can get a hold of me on Instagram @trentbucknell, I am also on Dribble as Trent Bucknell.