Typography artist Simon Stratford likes creating designs that have a backstory.
His font Mind the Gap was made with stencils and spray paint, as an ode to his “love/hate relationship” with the daily commute. Hitchcut is an nod to Hitchcock and the movie poster for Vertigo. And he created the font Before Breakfast was created – well, in the ten minutes before breakfast.
Simon says he’s always been fascinated with typography. He’s also a fan of making celebrity comparisons for his fonts; he describes Little Wonder as ‘more Bill Murray than Kanye West’, In the Wood as a slightly spooky, ‘Marilyn Manson than Marilyn Monroe’, and Munky as ‘more Jeff Bridges than Adam Sandler.’
Typography inspired by music and lyrics
One consistent source of inspiration for Simon is music. His portfolio is filled with designs inspired by bands, songs, and lyrics: font styles inspired by album artwork, messy typefaces to match musical moods.
Here’s 5 fonts from Simon’s portfolio, and the creative musical inspiration behind them:
1. Fake Empire
Inspired by: Fake Empire, The National
This font was inspired by Fake Empire, a song by rock band The National. To create it, Simon started from the basics: paper, glue, and scissors. “It’s the old punk ethos of learning 3 chords and forming a band – but with fonts,” he wrote. The end result is intentionally imperfect.
2. Mr. Blue Sky
Inspired by: Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky
Even if you missed Mr. Blue Sky in the 1970’s, it’s gained recent fame for its spotlight in the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. And for good reason – it’s catchy, upbeat, fun. The font matches this vibe – as does the artwork created to showcase it (below).
Inspired by: Balham to Brooklyn, Turin Brakes
This retro, nostalgic font has many influences: American neon signs, pop culture, and nostalgia. “I got the name from a Turin Breaks song,” says Simon. “It seemed like the perfect fit. The two places are so contrasting, Balham, London to Brooklyn USA. Also my favourite drinking hole is in Balham.”
He even created a short After Effects animation for this font:
4. Gilly Script
Inspired by: Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie
“Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly” is a lyric from Ziggy Stardust, a song by David Bowie – and the inspiration behind the Gilly font. It was designed on an iPad Pro using Procreate.
Inspired by: Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
Grungy, messy, bold – Atomic Dustbin was named after an English 90’s indie band, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – a band that Simon was “never really a fan of”. Staying true to his celebrity comparisons, he says that “if this font were a celebrity, it would be more Kurt Cobain than Justin Timberlake.” There is no lowercase option.
A few more fonts by Simon – and the inspiration behind them:
- Troupe – inspired by old posters and letterforms
- Tuck – a school-themed font created using a real chalkboard
- Western Grit – based on old Wanted posters
- Circus Freak – a chromatic circus-inspired font
- Petit Jardin – a delicate font inspired by the French phrase for ‘small garden’
- Bangers and Mash – another ode to breakfast food
- Gods Own Junkyard – inspired by the story of Chris “The Neon Man” Bracey
- Gently Script – named after a poem by Dylan Thomas
- Not my Type – a font created with a real typewriter