Hamish Muir is one half of MuirMcNeil, a collaborative venture with Paul McNeil, exploring systems approaches to design for communication. In 2010 they wrote and designed U:D/R 03 ThreeSix, the third research paper by Unit Editions. Hamish co-founded 8vo, a renowned design studio from 1984 to 2001 that edited, designed and published Octavo, the International Journal of Typography. He is Lead Tutor Information Design of the BA Graphic and Media Design at London College of Communication.
What art and design has excited you recently? Any good exhibitions or events?
It’s been a bit of a drought year for getting out to see things – work has been the major preoccupation over the last twelve months. I was lucky enough to hear Peter Zumthor talking at his Serpentine Pavilion installation last year and I’m looking forward to going to see this year’s Pavilion by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei – will probably make a day of it and catch the Alan Turing exhibition at the Science Museum before it closes.
The 'Bauhaus: Art as Life' exhibition at the Barbican was very timely. It made me realise how far University is from Art School and maybe what has been lost in art and design education. Perhaps this is just nostalgia for my own art school days but I do feel sorry for today’s design students; I’m no educational theorist but it seems increasingly incongruous to map design teaching onto a university system.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Robert Wyatt, ‘Comicopera’
Robert Wyatt’s band Matching Mole were a favourite of mine as a teenager having heard them on John Peel’s show. In the late nineties I made a conscious effort to update my rather moribund collection of music and read a review of ‘Shleep’ (1997) in the Guardian and bought the album on the strength of that. I’ve bought all of Wyatt’s albums since then.
Cornershop, ‘Urban Turban’
Another Guardian review of ‘When I Was Born for the 7th Time’ (1997) was my introduction to Cornershop. I bought all their earlier albums on the strength of that and have bought all their albums since. I really enjoy their music for its eclecticism and admire the ongoing development of the project.
Levon Helm, ‘Dirt Farmer’
The Band are my all time favourite band and Levon Helm is my favourite vocalist. Sadly, Helm, the Band’s main drummer and signal vocalist passed away earlier this year. I missed ‘Dirt Farmer’ on its release in 2007 and bought it after reading obituaries of Helm in April this year. On this album his voice still has incredible power, made more poignant after recovering from an earlier battle with throat cancer.
What are you currently reading - books, magazines, blogs?
The Information by James Gleick on iPad/iPhone. I read Gleick’s fantastic biography of Richard Feynman a few years back and was on the App Store recently looking to replace my damaged print copy with an iBook but bought The Information instead. It’s a chronicle of how information dissemination has shaped culture and society; from the invention of writing systems, through Babbage, Morse and Turing to Claude Shannon, the creator of Information Theory – well, that’s as far as I’ve got...
In print I’ve just re-read The Strangest Man, Graham Farmelo’s excellent biography of Paul Dirac. I don’t profess to understand the science or the maths but find it fascinating to read about the lives and work of the great physicists, partly in admiration for this field of human endeavour and partly as a means of escape from the subjective world of art and design, which by comparison seems rather inconsequential.
So you have moved (some of) your reading to iPad/iPhone.
Some yes, to iPad or iPhone, mainly for traveling - for obvious reasons of portability. I subscribe to the Guardian iPhone edition and most days manage to read a lot more of the paper whilst commuting than was possible when buying hard copies (and a much reduced load on the recycling bin).
Your publishing venture, Outcast Editions, focuses on book apps for iPad. How did it come about?
I've worked with Virginia McLeod, one of the co-founders, on various book projects over the last ten years. She started Outcast with architectural photographer Richard Glover a couple of years back and they asked me to join them as art-director.
About a year ago we decided to develop our titles exclusively as interactive book apps for iPad. We've just published our first title Beach House, Peter Stutchbury Architecture in the series 'Detail in Contemporary Australian Architecture'. Each book will be a single building monograph – the first books are all on houses. All the content is custom-generated: text, photographs, video and architectural drawings.
How would you describe Outcast Editions' philosophy?
I guess it could be summed as 'content as interface'; the books are structured to make the reading of each building a multi-layered logical experience to enhance the reader's understanding of the form, space, materials, colour and texture of each house.
Are you a fan of cinema?
Film yes. Cinema going no, apart from the Renoir, where the audience noise and manners are acceptable. The last film I saw there was Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy based on John le Carré’s classic espionage novel.
What is your favourite film of all time?
It’s hard to choose a favourite film but I’d probably opt for Miloš Forman's Amadeus for the spectacle, great tunes and sheer escapism over something more ‘difficult’. It’s certainly a film I can watch again and again without getting tired of it. It’s a very beautiful film (apart from sounding great); the cinematography, set design and lighting are quite spectacular.
U:D/R 03 ThreeSix, the research paper designed and written by MuirMcNeil, reveals the aesthetic and ideological thinking behind their typeface ThreeSix; a system of six optical/geometric typefaces. It explores the possibilities of using parametric principles to design geometric fonts which are distinctive at large point sizes, but that can also be read at smaller sizes in bodies of extended text.
Also have a look at MuirMcNeil's Wim Crouwel poster.