Computer Arts

Sony Music timeline

Young designer Alex Fowkes has created an incredible typographic timeline for Sony, including the names of nearly 1000 recording artists and covering 125 years of musical history

Sony Music's HQ in Kensington, London, is home to a new typographic installation by designer/illustrator Alex Fowkes. The young creative was responsible for covering 150 square metres of the wallspace in the building's central atrium with a timeline commemorating artists signed with Sony and its subsidiaries going all the way back to the founding of Columbia Records in 1887.

The text pays tribute to artists such as Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, The Clash and Michael Jackson, as well as various technologies that have been used to deliver music over the years - from wax cylinders to download. Musically, historically and architecturally, it was an immense project to put together, so Fowkes decided to rationalise his approach to choosing typefaces.

"I limited myself to around 50 typefaces, many of these then have various type treatments applied giving me at least four different feels for just the one typeface. That way I didn't get lost in hundreds of typefaces," he explains. "Some of my favourites have to be from Lost Type Co-op as they have a really varied batch and still retain a playful nature."

The planning of the artwork was based on his observations about the building and how it's used by employees. The centrepiece more or less surrounds the cafeteria area, where it can be appreciated the most. While plotting it out was daunting, the real hard work came in preparing the artwork and physically installing it. While he'd worked with adhesive vinyl once before, this was Fowkes' first experience of a project of this scale.

"To create all of the 54 1 x 2.3 meter columns took about four weeks," he says. "The 'weeding' is obviously the most laborious task, taking out all the inversions of the vinyl, picking out the islands and paying particularly close attention to detailed areas. Applying to the walls on site took one weekend - roughly 30 hours."

Fowkes continues: "I had my mock-ups and I had faith but I never really knew what the finished product would look like. The finish is definitely the part I'm most pleased with. I think if this project came around again I would really like to link up a story of typefaces through the decades also - so running through typical typefaces of each era."

Photos: Rob Antill | Video: Avenue Beech

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