SPENCER FENTON — Interview
Spencer Fenton was founded by Haakon Spencer and Matthew Fenton, two British designers who live and work in London.
Hello Matthew and Haakon, how are you?
Good, thanks, we are currently in the US, having moved the studio here for the summer.
Can you introduce yourselves?
Sure, we are Haakon Spencer and Matthew Fenton, two British designers who live and work in London. We worked both independently and collaboratively since meeting at university and decided to start a studio together after completing an MA at ECAL in Switzerland.
At this time we are primarily graphic designers, art directors and type designers although we are constantly questioning those roles and trying to shape new possibilities for ourselves.
Where does your interest in design come from?
We both realised quite early on that we enjoyed creating images and were naturally drawn towards the creative disciplines, it just so happened that design became the most tangible way for us to combine lots of our interests and engage in something creatively fulfilling at the same time.
How did you come to start up the studio?
We both initially worked for other studios but often collaborated on projects. It just seemed like a natural progression to work for ourselves, it allows us more control over the work we are making, for whom we are working and the way we are working.
Can you tell us more about Verities Magazine?
The magazine is an arts and culture publication, with an interest in anthropology. Each issue is a curation around a chosen theme, combining different viewpoints across the fields of art, design, literature and politics into one discourse with the objective of creating a type of cultural snapshot of a topic and time.
For us, the magazine was an attempt to create a publication that resisted commodification and placed value in the content and ideas. As designers we are very interested in the juncture between design and culture so mediums such as the magazine are perfect. It allows us to play an active role in the creation of content, design and collaborate with an interesting network of people at the same time. In 2017 we will be creating the next print issue of the magazine as well as considering how it lives digitally.
You are working on the launch of a new type foundry called British Standard Type. What can you say about it?
We came to type design on the cusp of a large proliferation of the knowledge and the technology. There was an opening up of the discipline which allowed graphic designers and typographers greater access. We are part of that and want to be part of the conversation moving forward.
We have always considered that letters, the smallest unit in our toolkit, are an essential part of our work. Having the ability to draw type from scratch is a creative freedom we enjoy and over time we have found ourselves designing bespoke typefaces for many of our projects. At this time, our objective is to simply make typefaces that designers want to use, and to consider the context in which typefaces are being used and viewed today.
We are very close to finishing two typefaces which we have been working on for some time, we’ll launch these along with the foundry later this year.
A designer that you admire?
There are many, and each for different reasons, not only due to their work but also their attitude and approach. We were fortunate enough to have had François Rappo as our tutor during our studies at ECAL whose influence has been invaluable. In terms of our contemporaries, we’ve always admired the studio Mieré und Mieré, its ability to traverse, cultural and commercial fields and still remain relevant is impressive.
Outside the confines of graphic design, design groups such as Parley and Assembly are making ethical and socially aware design projects relevant like never before, this is inspiring and raises questions of how we can take influence ourselves.
Is there a book which opened your eyes about design?
Tricky question, so many books have been and continue to be an inspiration to us and our practice. It’s not possible for us to decide on one definitive book so we’ve settled on a form of text that opened our eyes about design and that is the manifesto. It is somewhat of a cliché perhaps but the manifesto’s of artists and movements remain captivating and inspiring to us even as we grow as designers.
At present, as we are travelling there are only so many books you can carry, we are currently reading Otto Friedrich Bollnow’s Human Space and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.
The last word…
Thanks for taking an interest in our work.
Projects by Spencer Fenton, “Artificial Nature” with Daniel J Benson. Interview: Dennis Moya and Tiffany Bähler, 11.16 ©LIGATURE.ch