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Lars Harmsen: visual crashes in Letraset

By Mark Sinclair

Lars Harmsen, a Munich-based creative director and the co-founder of Melville studio and Slanted magazine, has been publishing a personal visual diary to his Instagram account which makes interesting use of Letraset. We included some examples of his work in our book on the lettering system – and recently spoke to him about his process and what has drawn him back to this analogue practice.

In using a rubdown instant-transfer version of the contemporary typeface FF Clan, Harmsen makes “striking typographic compositions that are free from the inflexibility of computer software,” we write in Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution.

“I started the rub-off-type-diary a year ago,” Harmsen says. “All the pieces are in a thick blue book. I pick up stuff from the news. They happen accidentally before I go to bed, or just during the news on television. From time to time I post images on Instagram and the reaction is amazing. I should do more of them! And start getting more different Letraset sheets.”

Harmsen says that he first encountered Letraset when he worked as a junior designer at an agency in Saarbrücken. “And to be honest it was not love at first sight! Over the years they got all lost,” he recalls.

“For the special edition of the Slanted Portugal issue published in 2016 we produced an A5 rub-off-type-sheet of Łukasz Dziedzic’s FF Clan, Harmsen explains. I still have quite a lot of them that I use for the actual works.”

A lot of Harmsen’s design work is typographic, or has letterforms as a central component – but has using an analogue system like Letraset started to inform the work he now does on screen?

“I have always loved to work analogue,” he says. “When I look at my work, even done on the computer, I believe it looks analogue. In 2015 I started to print a lot of silkscreen posters.

 

Same as with the Letraset-doodling, it has a lot of impact on the way I like to work: looking for happy accidents, provoking visual crashes, breaking up rules, creating sharp edges to provoke injury, like a hook, he says. Designs needs to bleed a bit.”

Lars Harmsen’s work features in Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution, which is available now from the Unit shopThe book tells the Letraset story from its early days as a difficult-to-use wet system, to its glory years as the first truly democratic alternative to professional typesetting. Harmsen is also the founder of Volcano-Type, a foundry he launched in 1996 that remains an outlet for his own fonts and the work of other type designers. He helped launch the Slanted type and design blog in 2004, which published its first printed magazine a year later (Slanted Publishers is now operated by Harmsen and Julia Kahl). Harmsen is also Professor of Typography and Design at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Dortmund.