Talking Tiny Guides
I’d love to introduce two more Tiny Guides into the world — beloved Paris and Manchester, my home. The first editions of these favourite cities of mine, feature the Oxford Road area in Manchester (which is where the Dotto studio is based) and beautiful Le Marais, in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris, where I stayed on my last visit.
Tiny Guides has been my passion project for the past year(ish). After a near constant stream of sketchbooks and scribbles from my travels over the years, I decided I wanted to actually turn them into ‘something’. And like a lot of people, I imagine, one of the things I properly love about going to new places is the immediate bombardment to the senses. New sights, sounds, smells, voices, languages etc, it’s energising. Some places bring very specific colours or shapes to mind. And this would probably be different on another visit, at another time or with other people. I wanted whatever I made to be really personal and born out of my own individual experience. I wanted to limit myself to creating something small and simple from this bundle of imagery, something that incorporated my love of colour and type, and that somehow summed up my experience of a place.
I decided to make these images into Tiny Guides as a way to give them some kind of function (albeit a small one). As a graphic designer, I create things with purpose so it's a tricky habit to break. As I was working within a small space, I focused the guide element on four places in the area that I stayed in. Shops, eateries, places of interest that I’d visited. Places I’d had a positive experience with. Summarised with a few words to express the feel of each one.
I take lots of photos. And I keep receipts or cards from the places that I particularly liked. Then either while I’m still away, or back at home, I make sketches or note down colours in various levels of roughness, and keep developing them until it starts to feel like something is coming together. I’d been keeping these for a while, but the first finished piece I made was for Zürich. It was the place that really pushed me to get on with making something. There was a really beautiful contrast in the city. The area we stayed in was the old industrial quarter of Kreis 5. The imposing railway bridge had been transformed into independent shops, cafés and neighbourhood enterprises. There were neon pink posters everywhere and the bundle of overhead wires from the railway really stood out to me. All of this made the Zürich imagery really easy to come together, so it was a perfect place to start.
I explored lots of different ways to get them produced. But ultimately I really wanted to use letterpress. I’ve always loved traditional print techniques and wanted to get that beautiful little indent in the paper. I always have colours in mind when I’m doodling, which I then play about with on-screen to pin down. With letterpress, each colour has to be separated into plates, so using my digital file as a guide, I select three Pantone colours for each guide. The joy in this is knowing that each colour will be really rich and vibrant. And it's these colours and print technique that brings this kind of imagery to life.
There are some challenges with print—particularly with letterpress. It takes a lot of planning. The artwork is fiddly. And it can be tricky to balance levels of complexity and interest. If you’re a complete perfectionist, it's possibly not the medium for you. I’ve been learning to embrace the inconsistencies and learn how to improve techniques as I go. Ultimately this project is a journey in creative exploration.
Tiny guides were printed by EE Chrisp Letterpress