Form + Function

Read all about Anthony Burrill's collaboration with The Designers Foundry – a typeface reduced to the simplest forms that was inspired by carpark lettering – and win a limited edition poster... 

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Type samplers, FUNCTION, designed by Anthony Burrill

The Designer's Foundry has just released FUNCTION, a new typeface designed in collaboration with Anthony Burrill. Alongside the font itself, the project also includes a lettepress printed poster, created using wood type cut especially by Thomas Mayo. There is a full alphabet of wood type that is being auctioned for charity via The Designers Foundry

We caught up with Anthony Burrill and Dan McQueen of The Designers Foundry to hear about what inspired FUNCTION and how the collaboration evolved. Read on for the interview and details on how you can win your very own FUNCTION letterpress printed poster... 

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FUNCTION poster designed by Anthony Burrill, printed by Adams of Rye, using letters cut by Thomas Mayo, 2016

Anthony Burrill

Where did the inspiration for FUNCTION come from?
It started off from a small idea - it’s the simplest type form I could imagine, it’s really reduced down. It’s something I’ve been exploring on-and-off for years. One inspiration was the temporary car park in Shoreditch opposite the Village Underground – it had ‘Car Park’ painted on it in big letters. This is the kind of typeface you see people draw or paint on walls saying things like “no parking”. It’s intentionally quite awkward and ugly. It’s almost trying to emulate a typeface that people who don’t know how to design a typeface would draw. There’s nothing overtly finessed about it – it’s quite chunky and brutal.

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Type sample, FUNCTION, designed by Anthony Burrill

What was the process of turning the idea into an alphabet and then a typeface?
I sketched it out by hand and then, on the computer, I drew a simple grid and each letterform was based on that grid. I wanted to almost take all the decisions out of designing the typeface and reduce the options. It’s all based on the same kit of parts so it was quite straightforward, although some characters were more complicated than others – the Q, W and M, for example. 

We also created several different options for each character. There are some odd little elements to some of the characters that help make the typeface work well – it’s always nice to have some interesting features that you can play around with when you’re working with a typeface. We’re also working on extended and stencil versions.

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Type specimen, FUNCTION Regular, designed by Anthony Burrill

Could you tell us about the extra bits of the project – the posters and the wood type?
We wanted to do a poster as a demonstration of the font so Dan suggested we do it in wood type. We worked with Thomas Mayo, who crafted the letters. We choose the characters and Thomas produced them in his workshop – he’s a fantastic craftsman. Then we used the letters to print the poster at Adams of Rye [Burrill’s regular collaborators]. After we’d had the letters made for the poster we all thought they were lovely, really nice objects, so we decided it would be a great idea to get the full alphabet made. The individual letters are being auctioned for charity on the TDF website. It’s really nice when you get the opportunity to extend a project and do something you wouldn’t normally get the chance to do.

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Unique FUNCTION wood type letter designed by Anthony Burrill, cut by Thomas Mayo, 2016

Daniel McQueen, The Designers Foundry 

How does FUNCTION sit in the TDF family, alongside your other fonts?
After releasing a series of larger, text-orientated type families and script typefaces this year it was really refreshing to get back to our roots and release a simple display typeface for a change.

What do you look for in designers to collaborate with on fonts?
All our collaborations tend to come around pretty organically, including the collaboration with Anthony – he had bought some of our other fonts over the years, we’d bought posters from him, exchanged a few friendly emails, then last year we hired him to design a poster specimen for another font we were releasing. We kept in touch and then about March this year we asked him if he’d like to do a typeface with us.

I believe having some form of connection before asking to do a joint project is important. Generally speaking though, 90 per cent of our fonts are submissions, but when we approach designers we look for someone with their own style of design that could bring something new to TDF.

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Type sample, FUNCTION, designed by Anthony Burrill

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Type specimen, FUNCTION Condensed, designed by Anthony Burrill

Making fonts accessible seems key to your mission at TDF – how is that reflected in the FUNCTION project?
I treated it no different to any other typeface we’ve released – I work out the pricing based on time involved designing the typeface and how likely our supporters are to purchase. Anthony being a well-known and respected graphic artist, all his work holds a lot of value in the design community, something I was very mindful of for the FUNCTION project. Investing a fair amount of time and money into making the limited edition letterpress poster and collector’s edition woodblocks with all the fancy packaging reflects the high standard of all his other work. People can see we’ve done something extra special with FUNCTION, the support so far has been fantastic, so big thanks to everyone out there that’s shown us some love.

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Presentation packaging of unique FUNCTION wood type designed by Anthony Burrill, cut by Thomas Mayo, 2016

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Presentation packaging of unique FUNCTION wood type designed by Anthony Burrill, cut by Thomas Mayo, 2016

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Detail of presentation packaging of unique FUNCTION wood type designed by Anthony Burrill, cut by Thomas Mayo, 2016

Win your very own FUNCTION letterpress printed poster by Anthony Burrill, printed by Adams of Rye – email to tell us what your favourite FUNCTION character is and why. Send your entries to with the subject line FUNCTION by midnight Wednesday 2 November to be in with a chance. 

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