Obituary: Phill Grimshaw

THE TYPE designer occupies a unique role in graphic design, creating printed lettering and alphabets which determinine the look of all visual communications, and thus much of our environment. Phill Grimshaw had just such an influence. His skills as a calligrapher and natural feel for lettering enabled him to produce a diverse range of fonts, from painterly brush scripts to formal copperplate typefaces, evoking disparate moods, effects and historic looks. He created some of the most popular typefaces of the late 20th century, including 44 complete fonts for Letraset and the International Typeface Corporation of New York (ITC).

When the Glasgow School of Art celebrated their centenary in 1996 Grimshaw developed hand-drawn lettering by the architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh into a full production typeface. It was used, reversed out, on a series of huge banners between the massive entrance columns of the Metropolitan Museum of New York in the winter of 1996-97 to announce the Mackintosh retrospective being staged there. This had originated at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow, and subsequently travelled to the Art Institute of Chicago and the County Museum of Art in Los Angeles.

Grimshaw was born in Bolton in 1950. He attended Bolton College of Art where his tutor was the internationally-renowned lettering designer Tony Forster, who later became a close friend and ally. With Forster's encouragement and guidance, Grimshaw earned a place at the Royal College of Art in London (1972-75), where he shared a sink with David Hockney. Here he was taught by another eminent practitioner, the graphic designer John Gorham.

His early designs were influenced by the "ideas" graphics - rather than decorative graphics - of Bob Gill, a partner in the 1960s design group Fletcher/Forbes/Gill (later to develop into the international consultancy Pentagram), yet his leaning towards letterforms, be they formal, informal or calligraphy-based, indicated his true future vocation.

Returning to his native Lancashire after graduating from the RCA, he established his own commercial lettering studio. With an idiosyncratic yet pragmatic approach to his work he began to earn a formidable reputation as a type designer.

Grimshaw was passionate about both disciplines of letterform creation: calligraphy and typography. His typographic design was subsequently influenced by calligraphy and vice-versa, a cross-over technique typical of his experimental methods. In particular his more calligraphic work was much sought after by art directors in the London advertising industry; among the companies for whom he worked were the British Council, Marks & Spencer, Gale's Honey, Littlewood's, Scottish and Newcastle Brewery, and BBC North.

His first typeface design for Letraset was Oberon, in 1986. This marked the debut of his professional liaison with Colin Brignall, then Letraset's Type Director, who recognised the outstanding quality of his work. During the Seventies and Eighties Brignall was a key figure in the development of British type design at Letraset's drawing studio in London, responsible for the production of over 500 dry transfer typefaces - i.e. that transfer on to paper.

Under Brignall's patronage Grimshaw embarked on a productive and creative period in which his type ideas flourished, fuelled by his ability to recognise gaps in the typeface market. Due to the increasing move towards computerisation in the graphics profession, Grimshaw's 1992 typeface Hazel became the last type design to be produced by Letraset as a dry transfer product.

The advent of the Apple Macintosh computer in the mid-Eighties provided him with the ideal medium with which to develop his designs into marketable commercial typefaces: providing speed and accuracy as well as flexibility - a means of manipulating designs on screen; where hand-drawn lettering might take a day to draw, on a machine the same task might take an hour. His natural skills as a designer and draughtsman combined with the computer's capabilities as a studio tool made the later years of his career particularly successful.

From 1992 to 1995 he contributed alphabets to Letraset's Fontek range of digital typefaces (available on disc or CD-rom). From 1995, when Letraset relinquished its interest in type development, Grimshaw and Brignall continued their collaboration under the auspices of ITC, generating a number of type designs including Braganzo (1996), which won the New York Type Directors Award for that year. Another, ITC Kendo (1997), a calligraphic-based font, illustrates Grimshaw's dexterity and ability to marry balance, form and curve with sweeping exuberant pen strokes and a decisiveness of line, typifying the spirit of freedom and gusto prevalent in all of his work.

Phill Grimshaw was essentially a robust, no-nonsense Northerner, but he was also a diversely talented man: an accomplished watercolour artist, a self-taught musician and a model maker. His scholarly enthusiasm for megalithic monuments led him to become an expert on them. His legacy is the typefaces that enjoy world-wide usage in advertising and graphic design.

Phill Grimshaw, type designer, calligrapher and artist: born Bolton, Lancashire 1 February 1950 ; married 1987 Penny Air (two sons); died Manchester 27 July 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform