Best Typography finalist: Alan Deare

Best Typography finalist: Alan Deare
Question and answer with Alan Deare, typography finalist in the PANZ Book Design Awards

Designer Alan Deare, from Area Design, features twice on the PANZ Book Design Awards shortlist in the Best Typography category for his work on OnSong and Hunter from the Heartland. We had a chat with Deare about his typography and its role in good book design.

Interior of On Song

Were you clear from the outset what direction you wanted to take the typography for this book?

With OnSong I could see the type pretty much straight away, more of a magazine-style approach, a play on a popular cultural reference.

Just as the pop song is a distillation of traditional musical forms – so the magazine is with literature. We went for a boldness and simplicity, the killer hook and the repetition – just like a pop song's intro and chorus are all about getting attention and sticking in the brain.

Futura was an obvious [font] choice because of it's bolder weights and geometric forms such as the 'o' which linked to the graphic-quality of the disk on the cover and the formal structure and simplicity of the pop song.

With Hunter from the Heartland, we knew the type had to convey something about Cameron Petley, the peoples' Masterchef favourite from a few years back. 

Interior of Hunter from the Heartland

A big bloke, a hunter who creates an intriguing blend of food from old school provincial through to artful cuisine. I could see this guy with big hands fiddling with microgreens! That drove the typography, thick and thin, chunky but delicate. When we found this woodblock-style type, it felt perfect. It felt like tramping boots or four wheel drive tracks in the mud and Ralph Hotere –​ encompassing a lot about Cameron.

The intros and method were set in Eames Century Modern, which is Cameron's voice, fulsome and friendly. Ingredients were set in a more structured, technical way, again playing with formal and informal juxtapositions and a nod to the predominantly male audience.

How important do you think typography is to book design?

I think it is very important. It creates a conceptual link with the content and helps you read, navigate and feel at ease within your book. 

It adds another level of enjoyment. Even if you don't notice the type, that can be part of how the design was considered.

What’s a book that inspires you with its treatment of typography?

Locally, probably Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance. A lovely, mix of hand-drawn custom type (inspired by Maori craft which was in turn influenced by the early European settlers), set against the formal qualities of the 'colonial document' (main body text). This was one of the first times where I thought there was such a thing as 'New Zealand' design. 

I've always enjoyed Sarah Maxey's typography in Rosemary McLeod's Thrift to Fantasy too.

What’s more important, restraint or boldness?

I think restraint can be boldness. I see boldness as an attitude, a commitment to a strong concept and following it through – even if that idea means setting a small block of six-point type on an empty page.

For more information and to check out the full shortlist, visit the PANZ Book Design Awards website.