Michael Harvey: Type designer inspired by Gill

 

Few designers of letters have the power and individuality to give the alphabet their own special mark, but Michael Harvey did. His work is all round us, seen large in the great engraved inscription on the stairs of the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery, or on a smaller scale on many book jackets. He believed that the shape of letters should match the purpose to which they were put, and what he carved or drew added his own conviction to the message that they conveyed.

His work on stone adorns cathedrals and other public buildings, and also Ian Hamilton Finlay's Little Sparta garden, where he gave concrete form to the words of conceptual art.

Born in Surrey, he grew up near Leatherhead, where his father was secretary of the Society of British Printing Ink Manufacturers. Michael showed an early interest in printing and model-making, and on leaving Ewell Castle School in 1947 became an engineering draughtsman. To his sound technique was added inspiration after chancing on Eric Gill's autobiography in the public library.

Encouraged by his wife Pat, niece of the owner of Drawing & Tracing, where they both worked, she as a tracer, he spent two summers at Ditchling where Joseph Cribb, Gill's apprentice, taught him how to cut letters. Reynolds Stone, already famous as a wood-engraver and artist of engraved lettering, was looking for an assistant to help with large commissions, such as gravestones. Stone lived at Litton Cheney in Dorset, so the Harveys moved to Bridport, which was to become their permanent home. The couple, who married in 1956, had three daughters.

Every day Harvey would bicycle to Litton Cheney, beard and hair streaming in the wind, and spend the day in an outhouse cutting letters for Stone, enlivening the task with modern jazz played on a small radio, to the bewilderment of his employer. Harvey gained the experience that made him a master of the classic Roman letter, but he was also encouraged to explore and form his own style. This came into its own in the designs for book jackets for which he found an increasing demand, becoming an independent freelance designer from 1961.

Over the next 20 years he produced some 1500 designs for Heinemann, Cambridge University Press, Methuen, the Bodley Head and others. His training as an engraver gave him a penchant for shaded 3D letterforms, which became a distinctive element of his work on paper. He also moved on to type design, beginning with Zephyr, commissioned by R. Hunter Middleton for the Ludlow Typograph Company in 1966, his only design for hot-metal casting.

With the move to digital fonts, he produced many new designs, among them Ellington (1983-90), and Andreas (1988) and the versatile Strayhorn (1990) for Adobe, whose senior designer he became. He was co-founder of the independent Fine Fonts in 2000.

Harvey enjoyed teaching his craft, first at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design (1961 to 1980), then as visiting lecturer at the University of Reading (1993 to 2001). On the Royal Mint advisory committee, and governor of Bournemouth Arts Institute, he was appointed MBE in 2001.

He wrote and published eight books on letter design, calligraphy and carving, as well a tribute to his old master, Reynolds Stone. In 2007 he launched 47 Editions, to reproduce the many photographs that he had taken. His volume Adventures with Letters was a record of his life and work, published last year. He wrote, illustrated and designed it himself – his own memorial.

Nicolas Barker

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service