26 / British Library

In its first major project, writers’ association 26 got together with the British Library for an exhibition about the alphabet.

Illustrating the Alphabet paired 26 writers (in our case, Mike) with 26 designers, and invited each pair to create a poster about a particular letter. The results were as diverse and intriguing as you’d expect.

We thought X would be an ideal choice of letter, given how much there must be to say about it.

Well, be careful what you wish for. There turned out to be so much to say, Mike and his design partner Thomas Manss were flummoxed for some time about what to do with it.

The breakthrough discovery was that X isn’t really a proper letter, in many ways. It stands for other collections of letters, like ks.

In that way, it became a sort of spectral letter, with no form of its own. Instead, it’s made up of its own meanings and associations.

That led to the idea of writing ten (X) stories from the history of this remarkable letter, and create its form out of them.

It was a typographical nightmare, but it worked. (And appeared in the D&AD Annual for its typography, quite rightly.)

The original poster hung as a huge banner in the space above the British Library café. Download a PDF (2.1MB).

It also appeared in the accompanying book, which included a chapter from each pair about the creative process behind their poster. You can order a copy on Amazon.

 

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