Graphic artist and print-maker Anthony Burrill has launched a stunning new resource for creatives – an open-source collection featuring snippets of typography found by Burrill over the years. The website archive, named XYZ, is like a totally stripped-back Pinterest, but one that's achingly well designed and deliciously immersive.
XYZ showcases 'found' typography, ranging from cut outs from the Yellow Pages to those little tickets you used to get from the deli counter, and each one has a tactile, analogue feel. These 500 pieces of everyday design have inspired Burrill's own design work and, better yet, each piece is individually downloadable for creatives to use as they wish – with zero copyright restrictions (a bit like our list of free fonts.)
Burrill, who is known for his letterpress and typography-led graphic pieces, chose the ephemera from his own physical scrapbooks, and worked alongside Richard Nicholls (opens in new tab) and Neal Fletcher (opens in new tab) to create the site, modifying each example to appear in black and white to reflect his own design style. Choosing which pieces to include was a labour of love, and Burrill had an overall vision in mind.
"I wanted the collection to have a feeling of unity whilst also including a diverse range of imagery," Burrill told Creative Bloq. "Each piece has a unique quality no matter how lowly it might appear at first. Each of them are there to demonstrate how inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places."
Interestingly, the collection (which can be filtered into categories including Ampersand, Illustration, Letterform, Stamp and Stencil) is offered up with no informative text because Burrill wanted to leave out his personal explanations and let the pieces speak for themselves. I found myself trying to place each design in history by looking for clues (the lack of area code in a telephone number, above, and the National Rail symbol on a train ticket, for example). But Burrill is primarily concerned with the design, and not the real-life application of the pieces.
"I'm concentrating on the graphic appearance and not so concerned about their original function," says Burrill. "To me they appear as abstract symbols that are like relics from a bygone time when everyday visual communication was made using primarily printed material."
"It’s good to share this material – especially the really quirky odd bits and bobs that I find fascinating so that people can have access to it," Burrill commented. "It shows the kind of graphic language that I've always been fascinated with; the weird typefaces and other things that have slipped between the cracks of design history.
"It's those odd things that are so full of character, and probably wouldn't be designed these days. It's about old-fashioned forms of production as well: it’s all analogue material, lots of examples of letterpress, stencils, stickers and Letraset."
The jaunt back through typographical history is evocative because, as Burrill says, typography is dramatically changing as we move towards a digital future. And that comes with its own dangers.
"When we work digitally we all use the same systems and popular typefaces that can create a homogenous look that lacks character," he warns. "By looking outside the world of contemporary design you can find material that has a different story to tell and doesn’t feel quite so familiar."
My personal favourites (instantly downloaded, by the way) are the previously-mentioned adverts, and the price tag sticker, which takes me back to my childhood corner shop – see it above. Take a look at the XYZ site right here (opens in new tab), and see what inspires you.