Going Gone Gorilla

After being lettered, the Bristol Zoo gorilla was coated with a heat-sensitive black paint which turned transparent at 19°C, so the lettering became visible during the day and vanished at night

Tom Lane and Ged Palmer have bagged silver and bronze awards in the applied graphics and ambient categories at the Fresh Digital Awards for 'Going Gone Gorilla', a life-sized gorilla statue that they customised with hand-drawn type. The prize-winning primate formed part of Wow! Gorillas, 60 artist-designed gorillas produced to celebrate the 175th birthday of Bristol Zoo. In a last-minute call, Lane was asked by Bristol communications agency 375 to create a gorilla that would highlight the threat from the illegal bushmeat trade, with a design based around traditional butchers charts showing animals divided into various cuts.

With only two days available for the project, Lane turned to fellow illustrator Ged Palmer. The pair got to work with their marker pens, sketching out sections of the gorilla and then hand-lettering facts about the bushmeat trade in a range of lettering inspired by their mutual love of vintage type.

Tom Lane feels that the urgent timescale spurred him and Ged Palmer on: "It really was a burst of creative energy. It feels honest. We couldn't tweak it, hit Ctrl/Cmd+Z or rearrange the composition."

Lane admits that the gorilla shape wasn't the easiest surface to work with: "Drawing and kerning type by hand is hard enough, but doing it upside down or on your knees when someone else is rocking the whole surface by drawing on the other end was a challenge for sure," he says.

After two demanding 12-hour sessions, the gorilla was ready to be let loose onto the streets of Bristol. There it stayed for 10 weeks, before being auctioned in aid of Bristol Zoo's gorilla conservation work and Bristol Children's Hospital, raising £5,000.