Cryptic Clara and her Search For Clarity

Barry Spencer
Dec 13, 2016 · 3 min read

By Dr Barry Spencer

Within this text lies the key to decoding my cryptic artwork. A few subtle clues are riddled throughout the information, so attention to detail is important for decrypting the letterforms.

The first person to decode the type and tell me how I created the letterforms will be rewarded. Good luck!

The Natural Order…

Clara is a typeface that is specifically designed to be challenging and against the natural order of things. However, from experience I know that it’s considered a great sin to sever the ties to the existing Latin alphabet in this way, even when born from twisted typographical fun and entertainment.

Letterforms like these are prime to invite adverse reactions from those prone to more traditional perspectives of type design because making shapes that are intentionally hard (or near impossible) for people to read adds another level of abstraction onto the already abstract Latin forms that we have become familiar with in our daily lives. Essentially, this makes them lose their purpose – communication. However, what if this was the intention from the start? Does that re-imbue the shapes with an assigned purpose? The challenge of decipherment.

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Divided Time…

In my work I enjoy the challenge of pushing my perception and understanding of letterforms. I constantly try to advance my knowledge (and appreciation) for the potential of letters every day, in each and every project I create. However, I did not arrive at this approach overnight.

My letterforms started out as small experimental deviations away from the existing shapes and these small changes led to larger and more experimental trials, before finally moving into far removed speculations that explore what might happen if we follow more extreme and unusual ideas.

This led to the completion my doctoral thesis “Speculatype” in 2014 and I have spent the last couple of years divided time between a mixture of three things: creating, writing and teaching (with public speaking and workshops thrown in for good measure).

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Out of Our Comfort Zone…

My argument revolves around our ability as designers and creatives to explore our professions and outcomes more than what we might think possible. Creatively, we have the ability to question the status quo and the existing understanding of what we do and make.

Asking, “what if I did it this way instead of this way?” is a simple question that leads us to try new things and allows us to potentially innovate. Removing ourselves from the comfort of doing things the same way as everyone else (which might be considered another “sin”), challenges us in new and interesting ways.

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Because We Can…

If there is something to take away from this text and the connected artwork, is that our creative gifts should be seen as a prized possession. It is not an easy thing to go against what we see as the “right way to do things”, we fear the “wrong” because it does not always lead to success and more often leads us to failure, ridicule or simply dead ends.

Be brave in what you do and how you create. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried. Existing letterforms, design and art will not go away, so it is not going to destroy the world you take the time to have a play.

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