In Conversation with Stephen Banham

Director of Letterbox, Lecturer in Typography at RMIT University.

Letters are my thing. Their meaning, their shape and the spaces around them. My job as a typographer, lecturer and writer enables me to appreciate all of these elements. As a studio we work on a very wide array of projects, from books to web type, three dimensional type, film titling, animation, custom type and lots more. Some projects are client-commissioned and others are driven by our own curiosities.

Who (or what) inspires you?

Ideas inspire me. And people with ideas. They can be from any field of curiosity. The older I get I more I enjoy the connections between ideas.

How did you get your first break?

My first break (if you want to call it that) was a tip-off that there was a job going at the Herald Newspaper. I was a fresh graduate and whilst it was an awfully laborious and uninspiring job, it did give me the incentive to leave and live in Berlin where I caught the typo-bug. And I’ve never been the same since. Sometimes it can be educative to be in the kind of job you don’t want. It really pushes you and makes you appreciate future creative freedoms and opportunities. A kind of reverse-motivation. It would have been great to have a mentor but there was far less going on then (the 1980s).

Tell us what you are currently working on?

We recently finished the titles for the feature film Lion which was great fun. Another project we have just finished a very big project doing the identity and applications for the Yirramboi Festival (run by the City of Melbourne). It’s an incredibly bold event and one that we were able to contribute on a much deeper level than many others. We work on more than ten design projects at once so there are always things going on. On top of that, there’s the academic side of the practice which contributes greater element of depth.

Top tips for an aspiring typographer/ designer?

Be curious. It’s as simple as that. And acknowledge that we’re just blips on the continuum, a mere moment in it all. That’s sure to dampen any lurking ego.

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