What’s In a Font?

March 24, 2014 by  Top Drawer Creative

by Rachael Muir, Creative Director

Fonts are like a picture. They can embody creativity, personality and a ton of atmosphere. Fonts can transport us, make us forget the here and now, and take us on a journey.

A good font oozes character – you can almost smell it, taste it – and when it’s used well, you can feel it.  When it’s used badly, you can also feel it, but not in a good way.

I recently posted a couple of things on LinkedIn that got more interest than anything else I’ve posted. One was a branding case study that starred an extraordinary thing in this day and age – a hand-drawn font.

The Winterwell case study is undeniably beautiful hand craftsmanship in a world that has moved so far from that. You have to see it to appreciate it. There is certainly a swing back to handmade everything now – we clearly don’t like the idea of mass production. We like things that are well made, are unique, and when we choose to buy these products, it says something about us.


The other piece I shared was a blog post showing series of fonts packages. There’s nothing new about that. There are many fonts out there, so many that for the undisciplined it can get you into trouble.

Granted, these were compelling. What was so attractive about this lot was how they were presented – each tile like a new toy.



I think the thing that compelled me to share (and all of us to want to see more) was the craftsmanship, the patina and the feeling of quality these fonts have.

But I noticed that these fonts are all reminiscent of when lettering was created without the use of a computer as a tool; in other words, by hand.

There is certainly a shift in popular culture back to the way it used to be ­– simple, unpolished and honest. It is why the hipster culture rules now. Bring on the beards and rough hewn men with hardworking hands. I guess it beats the ‘80s any day.

Find more treasures here.

A Toy for Your Thoughts: This Is Not A Toy

March 17, 2014 by  Top Drawer Creative

by Trellawny Graham, Creative & QC Executive

On a grey winter weekend, I decided to take in the very colourful feature exhibit at Toronto’s Design Exchange (DX) museum: This Is Not A Toy. This is an art show, guest curated by Pharrell Williams, a multifaceted artist – he’s a Grammy Award winning & Oscar nominated musician, producer, fashion designer, toy collector and toy creator.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was intrigued.

This Is Not A Toy showcases and celebrates imagination. It’s a big room full of toys! Toys as corporeal dreams; toys as political statements and cries; toys in homage. Toys you can’t touch because they’re covered in plexi enclosures – which makes taking a photo on a smartphone without glare terribly challenging (if you’re an Instagram user in the Toronto area or a toy-lover searching #thisisnotatoy, you may have seen them).

I was sent into mental spirals looking at these toys; I was looking at fingers, at knuckles and nail detail! I was looking at tiny facial features and the expression they conveyed based on the angle the artist painted them. Was the tiny warrior who slayed his opponent happy about his win? Was it a win or a need, like in a Tarantino blood-soaked flick when the “game” is fight to the death, kill or be killed.

How did FriendsWithYou decide where to put a face on cloud lamp to make that lamp so happy and cute? Moreover, isn’t that neat that I have attached emotion to a lamp… based on three black marks! KAWS’s sad Astroboy made me want to comfort the toy. The giant KAWS piece made out of wood that sits in the centre of the biggest area of the room tempted me to break the “please do not touch” rules; I wanted to stand behind it and give it a cuddle. The inanimate object can be more expressive and representative of emotion than some human beings!

I believe we have the capacity to humanize anything, and love it in a new way, like the face on the FriendsWithYou cloud lamp (or the stick, light, giant balloon…). We can like or dislike something because it’s familiar, like the Be@rBrick Beatles figures with oversized noses (there are countless identities of the Be@rBricks – Chanel, SpongeBob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse, Daft Punk … lots to like or dislike).

I was looking at the Dunnys, produced by Kidrobot since 2004; there are least a couple hundred of them on display at the exhibit. They are all different. I stood there thinking, ‘People can be so creative. There are so many ideas out there.’

I learned about the exhibit via social media. Part of my job is in fact being on social media, researching, producing, writing and editing content. The other part is quality control and assurance. In other words, I’m nitpicky. I look at details. I look at everything – and I can’t turn it off! I edit. I tidy up pieces of writing, pieces of creative – formations of ideas. Looking at all of these toys – some so dark, some so boisterous and jubilant, some so frustrated with the state of the world, some so much fun – I realized there is good stuff in the details. I was reminded of authenticity and storytelling – two key parts of successful advertising. Everything is connected! And it all starts out with toys. What do we want to play with as a baby, as a toddler, as a ragamuffin 7-year-old? It’s what engages us.

My detail-oriented, pop culture soaked recommendation: make some time and check out This Is Not A Toy. Bring your smartphone (who can resist taking a photo of a medical pill with a happy face on it, really?). Bring your open mind. And have fun. TOYS! The exhibit is open until May 19. Get tickets here.


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