Call Us: +44 (0)203 488 0774


Crafting letters today

Thursday 20 May 2021
Four images showing examples of lettering

About this event

In a world where we spend so much time staring at things on screens, it is all the more important to be reminded of our physical place in the real world. Craft skills and the objects made by craftspeople offer one such reminder. Pip Hall and Erik Spiekermann both work with letters that are physical objects in the real world. Pip works cutting letters in stone, and Erik is currently involved in letterpress printing. Both will be telling us about their work.

The craftsman’s realm is far broader than skilled manual labor; the computer programmer, the doctor, the parent, and the citizen need to learn the values of good craftsmanship today. The result of physical work, made from things which have passed through many hands, is imbued with its process. It carries a message beyond the mere practical application. Without our hands, our brain does not work properly; in English we call it “coming to grips with something”, in German the
word is “begreifen”.

Pip’s talk will explore contrasting approaches in lettercarving for poetry. Over the last fifteen years Pip has worked on many public art projects in collaboration with poets. These poetry commissions are in rural and urban settings, and the approaches to designing their letterforms and layout have varied. Some projects (and poets) allowed for considerably more freedom of expression than others. Pip says ‘I have learnt a lot from working with the poets, not least why I instinctively use expressive forms in preference to neutral shapes when drawing letterforms.’

In Erik’s studio p98a they call their craft Post-Digital Printing or Hacking Gutenberg. They develop new production methods (laser plate maker, electronic layouts, new distribution channels) to bring historical printing presses and other related machinery from the analog into the digital age. Apart from the hardware, they aim to maintain expert knowledge and professions otherwise threatened by extinction.

About our speakers

Pip Hall studied typography and graphics at Reading University, and developed her love of lettering with the city’s fabled publisher Two Rivers Press. Her desire to make things led to working in stone and for the past 16 years she has lived on the edge of Yorkshire Dales in Cumbria. Pip is one of the country’s leading letter carvers. Her work includes architectural lettering, commemorative and celebratory garden sculpture, and relief carving. Her public art commissions include Stanza Stones in the Southern Pennines with Simon Armitage, as part of Yorkshire’s Cultural Olympiad, and installations with poets Carol Ann Duffy, Kate Bush, Jackie Kay and Jeanette Winterson along the Brontë Stones trail. More recently, Pip has been extending her illustrative skills into the field of lino-cutting for wallpaper and fabric designs.

Erik Spiekermann‘s graphic identity and design work has been a distinctive part of the visual landscape since the 1970s. As founder of MetaDesign and Edenspiekermann, he gave a defining look to Berlin’s public transport system, Deutsche Bahn, The Economist and companies such as Audi, Volkswagen and Bosch, among others. His work has been recognized with Europe’s most prestigious design prizes and honours, including the Royal Designer for Industry title from the Royal Society of Arts. FontShop, the first mail-order distributor for computer fonts, can be traced back to his creative initiative, as can numerous typeface designs, such as ITC Officina and FF Meta – both of which are now classics on many hard drives. He is the founder and lifetime member of the Typographic Circle, past president of the ISTD and has received lifetime awards from various US, British, and German institutions. To this day, he remains a central figure in the German and international design scene. After retiring from active business, he now runs an experimental letterpress workshop in Berlin under the motto »Hacking Gutenberg«.

Register for the event

This talk is free for SDS members. For non-members, the ticket cost is £10 per person. To join our Zoom talk, please get in touch with our administrator Kate at for the event link, ID, and password.

Not a member, unable to join us for the live-streamed event but would like to watch it at a time convenient to you? We now offer the option to watch the event recording on a time-limited basis for the cost of a £10 ticket. Please email Kate at for more information.

[Note: this event will be recorded and available to paid-up SDS members via our Talks Archive within a week of taking place.]


Via Zoom


20 May 2021 18:00

Price : £10.00

Already a member? See details above for booking details.