• By Mike Reed
  • Owner, Reed Words Ltd. Creative writer for brands

X PROJECT

In its first major project, writers’ association 26 got together with the British Library for an exhibition about the alphabet.

Illustrating the Alphabet paired 26 writers with 26 designers, with each pair invited to create a poster about a particular letter. The results were as diverse and intriguing as you’d expect.

I thought X would be an ideal choice of letter, given how much there must be to say about it. Well, be careful what you wish for: there turned out to be so much to say, Thomas Manss and I were flummoxed for some time about what to do with it.

The key came when we discovered that X isn’t really a proper letter, in many ways. It stands for other collections of letters, like ks. It became a sort of spectral letter for us, with no form of its own. Instead, it’s made up of its own meanings and associations.

From there came the idea to write ten (X) stories, taken from the history of this remarkable letter, and create the latter out of them. It was a typographical nightmare, but it worked. (And appeared in the D&AD Annual for its typography, quite rightly.)

The original poster hung as a huge banner in the space above the British Library café. It also appeared in the accompanying book (still available), which included a chapter from each pair about the creative process behind their poster.
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