“You know you’ve made it when you’ve met the Chuckle Brothers” Andy Altmann on The Comedy Carpet

If graphic designers often feel that their work isn’t appreciated then I can’t begin to imagine how typographers feel.

This is something that It’s Nice That could be bringing to an end with their current typographic window display in Selfridges. With a brief of “Words, Words, Words” It’s Nice That set about displaying the ‘fun and eccentricity’ of the English language by creating ‘The Word-A-Coaster’ amongst other wonderfully creative and interactive displays.

As part of this Words, Words, Words season, It’s Nice That were asked to host a number of talks at Selfridges. Various typographers, poets or general creative types have spoken, however the one that particularly interested me was from Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates.

Altmann began his talk, as Fraser Muggeridge did incidentally, by talking about Herbert Spenser. This instantly caught my attention as he was the father of one of my tutors at uni and so his work, I feel, somehow has more relevance to me. (I’m not entirely sure why, but it does.) So anyway, this instantly pleased me and as his talk progressed I realised that I had been guilty of the very thing I started this blog post about.

I had seen Why Not Associates and Gordon Young’s work before and was aware of The Comedy Carpet in Blackpool but pretty soon after he started talking about their collaborative work I realised I had never really understood it, or taken the time to understand it. The Comedy Carpet is 2200m2 of beautifully designed and kerned type with quotes from over 1000 comedians. It contains over 160 000 granite letters and was created out of 230 concrete slabs. And all I had done is written it off as a nice bit of design.

When Altmann disclosed that he and Young did all the research themselves for the carpet, and each quote was designed based on past comedy posters from different periods, with the correct typefaces to match each period, the monumentality of the task really became clear.

This all gave a lot more propensity to the anger felt when the council recently destroyed part of the carpet, just 5 months after its unveiling, due to its close proximity to tram lines – a detail that you would think could have been considered before it was made. Perhaps demonstrating that a lack of typographic appreciation is, and will always be, inevitable? I really hope not.

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