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A steady hand and the patience of a saint

We see a lot of student portfolios here at Design Bridge – some good, some less good, and some that are plain brilliant. Just a few weeks ago, Executive Creative Director of our Amsterdam Studio, Claire Parker, rediscovered her first physical student portfolio, and it inspired her to write a post for Amsterdam Ad Blog all about it. Here’s what Claire had to say…


I recently rediscovered my student portfolio, covered in dust under my bed at my parent’s house. First of all, a portfolio, not a digital but a physical, black, with handles, A1 portfolio (you can see it in the photo above). Unzipping it was a window into the past. I was transported back to college, all those hours spent refining and finessing an idea, meticulously drawing, sticking and cutting, carefully mounting and placing each individual project inside it’s own plastic wallet. There was almost a reverential way to how devotedly we would curate and compile our work, the attention to detail and effort it took to bring a concept to life.

Here are a few photos from my portfolio:




It was a strange realisation, the career I began nearly 30 years ago was so much more tactile and craft based, it had a slower pace, time to consider and adjust, to live with the idea, think about how you wanted to bring it to life. Most strikingly though as I looked at the hand drawn typeface, the entire Baskerville family drawn out at 70 point – how had I had the patience and calm to steady my hand and a Rotring pen to create that?

To have the idea was most important but the ability to bring it to life back then took a different skill set, patience being the primary one – nothing happened quickly, no quick change in font, size or colour. You had to be sure, and committed to your choices when you sent out for type, as well as having a very steady hand when it came to assembling your final work. The pens, inks, papers, films, scalpels, French curves, tape and Letraset are a thing of wonder when you first start designing, what student entering into an art supply shop didn’t linger longingly over the rainbow displays of markers, or covet owning a burnisher rather than having to use a ball point pen to rub down dry transfers? These accoutrements lent graphic design a sense of craft — traditional methods practiced on the board gave you a feeling of mastery of the materials, quite different from the way we work today.

Letraset2 Claire for Amsterdam Ad Blog

Admittedly it was then a love-hate relationship, as the mastery took time and there was no ‘undo’ command to get you out of a fix. Designers of a certain age will remember with warm nostalgia a true brand icon of their formative creative years – Letraset, perhaps because it represents this kind of hands-on work we no longer do, perhaps simply because it conjures up that more innocent age, when things took time.

Claire Parker for Amsterdam Ad Blog

Letraset Claire for Amsterdam Ad Blog

Caught up in my reminiscing of all things retro, I spoke to an old college friend who now lectures on our degree course. I shared my discovery of a portfolio of memories as well as multiple sheets of Letraset and my much-prized burnisher! He in turn shared a piece of work from one of his students, Neil Bennison, who to celebrate the approaching 60th anniversary of Letraset decided to create a short animation as a tribute to the forgotten art form of dry transfer lettering, and the company which helped to bring typography to the main stream. Some brands are just inextricably infused with nostalgia. Letraset is one of them. The sheets of film, rubbed with the end of a pencil to give way to beautifully formed letters – as long as you had a steady hand and the patience of a saint. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did – and I must confess, as much as it holds fond memories I’m pretty happy with my Mac.

The original article was published here at Amsterdam Ad Blog. A special thanks to Gali for taking the beautiful shots of Claire’s portfolio work.



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