interview with graphic designer gareth hague




gareth hague is a graphic designer who co-founded the london-based studio alias together with david james in 1996. since then it has become known for producing original typefaces used by the likes of PRADA, another magazine and the london olympics 2012 among others. gareth told designboom more about some of his early influences and his approach to designing new typefaces.



DB: what sparked your interest in design and typography?
GH: I have always been interested in art and design. I remember going to the tate as a 12 year old and looking at record sleeves and how they connected with the music – for example OMD, joy division or ian dury. after leaving art college I started working with david james designing record sleeves, typography and type design just seemed the process, not a specialization or add-ons. we drew logos for bands, then started to develop those into typefaces, and we developed that way of working into magazine and identity design.




2012 olympic games london typeface





2012 olympic games london typeface




2012Typeface_Velodrome_© CrystalCG
2012 olympic games london typeface




DB: how do you justify the time and cost of designing a new typeface to the client?
GH: the value of having a typeface that is unique is that it expresses and extends the unique, specific values of a company to all aspects of its printed and digital material. it clarifies this message to the reader, and in the context of a focussed, clear design direction it does this consistently and appropriately. for example, for a fashion company it reinforces the idea of being tailored, crafted, and special, of an identity thought about and thoroughly conceived at every level.


an example of this in action is our typeface for the 2012 olympic games – it identified everything from track numbers to magazines to stadium screens as part of the games. our typeface for PRADA extended that company’s iconic logotype into a full typeface, keeping its eclectic spirit and making that distinctive and expressive design available for impact display use.




hunter gather typeface




hunter gather typeface and logotype



hunter gather typeface – applied to carrier bag




DB: what influences your work more; contemporary trends or historical preferences of your own?
GH: my designs express my own ideas, experience and skills. I start each project from a position of difference to avoid being similar to existing designs. from that starting point, I design type that’s based on the specific needs of the project and to express and explore my own ideas at the same time.



DB: what mistakes or ‘traps’ should be avoided when designing a new typeface?
GH: what is important with any creative endeavor is to express a personal point of view – the thing that makes you different, that makes your client come to you and not someone else. so, I think the most notable trap to avoid – especially when learning – is making your design look too much like other designs, whether historical reference point or current trend. make a focused, defined, original idea an integral part of the process. think about how, where and why the typeface will be used and build what it looks like out of that. thinking in terms of ‘text’ or ‘headline’ isn’t enough – think about the content about the kind of text, or headline, and how your type will express or clarify that content.





PRADA typeface




PRADA typeface




PRADA typeface





DB: have you ever been impressed or upset with how someone has used your typefaces?
GH: I’m always interested to see how my type designs are used, but I don’t worry too much about good or bad use, that’s out of my control. of course, I enjoy seeing them used well, or for interesting projects.



DB: which letters do you find the most difficult to design?
GH: it very much depends on the parameters of the design, sometimes these fit some characters better than others. more often than not the start character might be an a, s or g, as they have complex shapes that are interesting to me. in some cases the idea for a design will start with a particular character or word and is developed from that.






PRADA SS2011 invite





Sabre_Typeface Type_GarethHague
sabre typeface





DB: what techniques or tricks have you learned over the years that help you when designing typefaces?
GH: it’s not a trick – there aren’t any short cuts or quick fixes – just a desire to do better next time, and a belief that you can. the best thing anyone can learn is to have confidence and belief in what you do. that doesn’t mean you stop learning and developing, but being an artist, craftsman or designer is a fantastic opportunity to make your mark on the world. whatever kind of work you do, to have a body of work that expresses your point of view, that combines your skills and experience, is a big and exciting challenge to strive for.





another magazine logotype




title page for another man magazine




DB: what do you think are the most interesting developments happening in your field?
GH: there are technical advances, whether in type design software, the development of formats exploring multicolour designs, or the increasing ease of testing and use of web format fonts. I focus on the quality of the idea and drawing of the design, whatever format it is in and however it was designed.




ball typeface

‘salacious brew’ label for 100/100 beers




DB: besides your work, what are you passionate about and why?
GH: way beyond everything else, I am most passionate about my family. I am a collector, I have an interest in the things people throw away, whether carrier bags (I have a big collection), club flyers (I have a collection from 1980s and 90s acid house and from the hacienda nightclub), fruit wrappers or sugar cube wrappers. I am interested in music design, whether it’s from factory records or do-it-yourself ‘amateur’ designed logos for heavy metal bands.



DB: what do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
GH: that life is short, to believe in yourself and go for it.



DB: what’s your personal motto?
GH: no mottos, just getting on with it.