Imagine an artist’s studio in an idyllic garden, with views of the rolling Sussex countryside, beautiful and picturesque. Carol Kemp works here, and seems perfectly at home. Her typefaces, however, fit in like Saturday morning cartoons at a Truffaut film festival.
Kemp’s typefaces aren’t serious – at least, they’re not serious-looking. Typefaces with names like Party, Zinjaro, Jiggery Pokery and WacWakOoops! combine joie de vivre with irreverence for classical letter shapes.
Born on the south coast of England in 1965, Kemp’s interest in lettering began in her early teens. Her father, an engineering draftsman, would bring Letraset dry-transfer lettering catalogs home from work. The display typefaces showcased in the catalogs fascinated and delighted Kemp, and she was hooked. In the late 1980s, after studying hand lettering at Exeter College of Art and Design, Kemp embarked on a career as a freelance lettering artist and calligrapher.
During the succeeding years, Kemp has worked for clients as diverse as The BBC, Sony, Hasbro, and Penguin Books. Her many commissions have included lettering and calligraphy for advertising, publishing, packaging, and television. Known for her versatility, Kemp has produced everything from hip-hop record covers to elegant scripts used for a biography of Queen Elizabeth.
Kemp’s typefaces may look like they were dashed off, but looks are deceiving. Strokes are carefully rendered and character shapes finely honed. “I usually approach a typeface design as spontaneous hand lettering, but always end up editing and reworking the shapes so that they function as a typeface,” she explains.
The truth is, it’s not that hard to draw an attention-grabbing typeface. It takes a sensitive and accomplished designer, however, to create typefaces that walk the path between distinction and versatility: a path that Kemp’s typefaces skip along with confidence.