William Drenttel | Essays

Wood That We Could

Invitation to exhibition at Moss, detail, designer unknown, 2007

Remember back in the late 1980s, when Minneapolis was a hotbed of graphic creative energy? Back when brochures were tied together with straw braid and twigs? As a counterpoint to the scrappy xerox fragmentations coming out of New York, or the pretty joyousness of work from San Francisco, Minnesota was making a play for the next big thing: the North Woods look.

Hark! What do I receive in my mail last week but this invitation to the newest, hippest thing: an exhibition at Moss of Jasper Morrison's Crate Series, and Richard Woods and Sebastian Wrong's Wrongwoods. Wood That We Could.

Young Guns poster, detail, design by Jennifer Lew & WSDIA, 2007

Then, continuing to sort the mail, there's the newest poster from the Art Director's Club by Jennifer Lew & WSDIA | WeShouldDoItAll for the their Young Guns event.

It's in furry moose type!

Could the North Woods look be back so soon?

Posted in: Typography

Comments [17]

Did this back woods aesthetic ever extend outside the US?
I imagine it would make no sense in Europe or Asia.

Those rustic log types are a British invention, btw. I not-so-secretly adore them...
Jonathan Hoefler

Log type is everywhere. You can find it in europe in use from though it is often from smaller obscure studios. Happy Pets located in Switzerland for example uses this style of type often, however it is hidden due to the layering of the work. Check out the following pages from their gallery, 9, 8, and 15. You can also find it in their book Pathfinder.
Michael Brenner

Coincidentally, the North Woods is back and it's bad. We will be discussing this topic IN the North Woods at this years AIGA MN Design Camp. AIGA MN Design Camp We have someone from San Francisco AND New York coming to learn about the style sweeping the nation.
Tony Venne

Hello All,
this my first reply to DesignObserver, although i am a long time visitor. truly great place!

I am one of the principals at WSDIA and just wanted to give a little insight into the typeface used on the poster.

Jennifer constructed the type out of brown fabric and cotton. And is actually playful rendition of Mr. Hoefler's Gotham. The stuffed antlers was a rendition of Alan Dye's logo for the Young Guns 5 branding.

More images of the poster and postcards in production here.
Jonathan Jackson

damned crafty hipsters. i'm surprised they didn't knit the lettering.
patric King

Interesting indeed...our intentions was never to replicate wood type. We only used brown fabric because Jennifer (who did knit) suggested it would hold light better than black. funny, Mr. Drenttel, you've brought a whole new interpretation to our project that we did not realize existed. thank you.

but back to the point of this post,
Architecturally, the 'North Wood' aesthetic is definitely back, at least in NYC. Seems as though every store, hotel and restaurant is catching 'Cabin Fever'.

With architecture, comes graphics.
Jonathan Jackson

"Remember back in the late 1980s, when Minneapolis was a hotbed of graphic creative energy?"

No, not really.
Perhaps if you lived and worked in the US, I remember Manchester most from that period.

Yes, we have trees in Britain as well. ;)

You see that log type quite a lot in UK books and magazines of the Forties and Fifties, usually humour titles.

Variations go back at least as far as the Punch magazine of the 1860s which had its title rendered as tree branches:

John Coulthart

What's wrong with knitting? and hipsters?

which reminds me...
If you are too poor to afford membership or a ticket to such affluent affairs in the above post, how bout you dress up and meet outside such swanky places.

I'm thinking Ms. Hoosier might even show up outside the doors asking for directions to get inside the doors. Must be some secret tunnel for hippie chicks to become affluent designers?

Forever in blue jeans of course, or maybe yoga pants.
ms hoosier

They first appeared in typefounding in 1845 in the specimens of Figgins (entitled Rustic, available both with and without shadow); though the actual date may be earlier, and may have already appeared in lettering. They were copied; they appear in Caslon specimens in the early 1850s

The successors to Figgins, Stevens, Shanks & Son Ltd appear to have still been casting them in the 1950s. Anthony Froshaug had certainly used them in his Cornish venture at this time; he designed the specimen for them during this period. Somewhere within the vaults of St Bride library the matrices may still exist

The north woods never left, we've just been at Target. You big city folk sure are funny.
Jesus Himself

North Woods aesthetics = timeless.
Kyle Fletcher

Having come back from ten days of hiking/fishing in Bend, Oregon, a "wooden" invite does not jump out just now. But the timing of the post is spooky. Is something in the air? I ask because at a hip asian place in our Chicago neighborhood, where everyone dresses in black/white. White tables. White art-free walls, pure, completely empty walls for two years—until two weeks ago. And now look at the walls. WTF.

White Wall-1
White Wall-2

I've always been a fan of the rugged, woodsy type art aesthetic. But not that moose font.

Looks like the Lodge at JWDA has been hip and trendy since 1997. the Northwoods is just so damn comfortable and cozy, no wonder NYC has just grasped this concept "again"!


Long live Minnesota creative....

I must admit, I've always liked the log type and feel a little joy in me when I stubble across them on the rare occasions. :)

Jobs | June 13