Project diary: Time for Some Action

When the Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication asked Australian designer Darren McPherson to participate in a travelling typographic poster show, it was the perfect excuse to return to the kind of self initiated project that gives him the creative freedom he thrives on.

Working on personal projects has always been a passion of mine – away from client briefs and the stresses of gaining approval. Self-initiated work allows me to experiment and get back to working a bit more physically. The idea of being creative to please no one but myself has always been appealing – although often hard to make time for.

I was looking for a reason to get back into my personal projects when I was emailed by a member of the Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication asking me to participate in a travelling typographic poster show in China.

Figuring out what I want to say is the first step. I’m constantly writing down significant phrases I might be able to use

They explained the purpose of the exhibition: ‘to encourage new and innovative typography design, promote the international exchange of typography design ideas and cultural experiences, and to inspire new typographic approaches.’

I took inspiration from the paper sculptures of Yulia Brodskaya and Ramiro Torres, and, similarly, Mario Hugo’s recent work for Zune. Their influence is felt in the techniques employed within this project. However, for me it was also crucial that my own handwriting was central to the piece. I like the imperfections created through handmade character building.

In short, it seemed as good an excuse as any to get back into self-initiated projects.

After adding some disconnects on the overlap I cut the design out with an X ACTO knife


‘Time 4 Sum Aksion’ is a song by Redman that seemed fitting. Initially, the project began as hand-drawn sketches to get the feeling correct and figure out what shape fitted the phrase. I took cues from my own handwriting, which I followed when deciphering the loops and connections between letters.

After tweaking the design for quite some time in an attempt to balance readability and a general filling of the shape, I arrived at my end lockup. It took a pretty substantial change from my initial sketches to get it to this point. The overall technique is based on an old project I never quite got around to completing.

Next, I spent some time printing A guide, which I used to tape to my thicker base board and cut the design through, using an X-ACTO knife. I needed this so I could begin vertically building the letterforms themselves. It’s almost like I’m speaking the words softly to myself – a kind of confidence booster.

To ensure no flaring of the letterforms between the base and the top, I used thinner printer paper to slide in at even heights. This was a pretty tight squeeze and if I hadn’t backed the paper with some sturdier sections, would have proved quite impossible. I wanted shapes to be defined, not floaty.

Once all pieces had been slid into place, I spent a long time checking the height of the papers and that none were bent

When I was the shooting the project, I honestly wasn’t sure which angle or lighting setup would prove to be the best for the type of image I ultimately wanted. I was initially thinking of snapping them straight on. But, fortunately, I also took multiple shots from both sides, which I compared and contrasted.

To make working with values easier, I had to greyscale the image, as well as making quite a lot of adjustments to the highlights and shadows. The last step was colourising, as and when it seemed necessary. I also completed the circles on the dot of the ‘i’, and then cleaned up any knife marks or mis-cuts.

I had to do quite a lot of hand-manipulation to the photograph – such as adjusting the lighting and improving consistency. I also refined the edges, for clarity, darkened overlaps, for definition, and then I fine-tuned some of the curves to enhance the overall readability of the piece.

During photo editing I cleaned up knife marks or mis–cuts, then tested colour ways and prepped for screen printing

Discover 20 beautiful examples of paper art at our sister site, Creative Bloq.