While the Sydney, Australia-based Dave Foster has been designing for over a decade—and recently cemented his practice with a Master’s in Typeface Design from the Royal Academy of Art—he somehow still manages to fly under the radar. But we’ve been keeping up with his versatile and impressive body of work, which spans graphic design, type design, illustration, and lettering on a staggering range of projects, from logos and movie posters to…an ode to Comic Sans? We sat him down to find out what that’s all about.
Your poster for Comic Sans for Cancer is cheery and charming. The competition organizers asked over 500 designers to show their love or hate for Comic Sans, with proceeds benefiting Cancer Research UK. It seems clear that you have some love for this oft maligned font?
I was happy to contribute to that exhibition—it seemed like a lot of fun and it was for a good cause. I challenged myself by setting my own brief: could I make something beautiful with Comic Sans only? I can’t say I had a particular love for Comic Sans, but after looking at it closely for a while, I found the beauty within the counter forms. From there I established the concept, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” After that, it was just a matter of playing and crafting until an abstract composition was formed that I was happy with and that showed the idea in the best way.
You show two typefaces on your site: Blanco, a stunning old style serif, and Marr Sans, a clear and fresh font you created with Paul Barnes of Commercial Type. We understand both typefaces have interesting backstories.
Blanco was really my first typeface; I began drawing it as part of my Masters. It’s based heavily on my own calligraphy as well as a plethora of influences, but the typeface itself is a pretty quiet fellow.
Marr however had a historical grounding on the work of Scottish Typefounder James Marr and was provided to me in a basic state by Paul and was steered by him. It’s really his baby, I just helped bring it to fruition. I feel like my contribution to the overall flavor of the typeface was fairly limited in this sense. A lot of the information was already in the specimens or provided before I began work. A possible exception to this being the italics which I developed from scratch.
The whole project for me was an amazing experience, especially learning when to put the pen down and get a typeface to market. Type design projects can drag on for decades if you let them.
You do lettering, logos, and illustration, from the ironically elegant “The Shit To Do List” to your logo for the Australian company, Stuart O’Grady Cycling, which seems to reference both the past and the present, in terms of bicycle logos. And then there are your sweet drawings for Around Australia with Jacky Winter. Can you talk about your ability to span so many styles?
I tried for a long time to find a style, but I don’t think I ever have. I also don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed. Type as a niche is small enough for me. It’s a business after all, and I try to spread out across that already small niche as much as possible. I do this by not only trying to span different styles and eras, but applications (editorial, branding, advertising, etc.) and media (lettering, type design, calligraphy). What I chase constantly isn’t a particular style to connect my work, but some kind of underlying sense of quality and balance.
Type changes like fashion, things can be trendy; I don’t want that to mean I go out of business when they aren’t anymore.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently exploring different typefaces to develop and publish under my own foundry, which I hope to launch this year. I’m also attempting to update Blanco and complete it for the launch and I’m helping House Industries, Commercial Type, and Klim Type on a bunch of projects. And for the second year, I’ll be lettering all my tweets in May under the hashtag #maydave.