I’m pretty sure this has never happened to me before, and it’s unlikely to happen again. I’d just treated myself to a copy of new book, entitled ‘Alphabets: A Miscellany of Letters’, and was idly flicking through its handsome pages. It’s a charming, quirky compendium of applied letterforms, arranged in themed chapters — B for ‘Bestiary’, F for ‘Found’, H for ‘Hand’, J for ‘Journey’, and so on. It features games, posters, signage, packaging, furniture… in fact, virtually anything’s considered fair game so long as it references the alphabet.
And there, staring back at me on page 56, was something that looked decidedly familiar. A poster I’d worked on with the great Derek Birdsall
back in 2004. You could have knocked me down with a feather (shaped like a letter f, perhaps). Our effort was based on the letter i, and featured in a exhibition at the British Library organised by 26. Originally, it was printed on a reflective surface, so that people would see their faces in the poster as they read the text, picking up of the idea of I as shorthand for identity.
Here’s what some of the text in ‘Alphabets’ says about the poster: “Birdsall is an influential book designer who, therefore, works closely with letters in his day-to-day work. Davies, a writer, has contributed works of fiction and non-fiction to a variety of publications, and his humorous interpretation of the letter’s history is characteristic of his work. The letter is given a pompous voice and lists its many uses in language and technology, drawing attention to its strong aesthetics, which make it suited to graphic art.”
After I’d recovered from the surprise, I felt pretty pleased with myself. But on reflection I thought, shouldn’t someone have at least asked first?