Robb Ogle.

“A paneled cherry monstrosity. I don’t know where or when it is originally from, but it was my grandfather’s (insurance firm) then mother’s (title assurance) before me. I draw pictures on it which just feels silly. The drawers are cavernous, I found some ancient pencil lead tins and a 1921 Pennsylvanian patent. My mother had no idea. I love this desk.”


1. Ugly little vinyl pitbulls from a bubble vending machine atop one of two Behringer Truth monitors which sound like heaven. Little Nemo in Slumberland vol 1. from Sunday Press Books sits against the wall. Off to the left, rolled up poster by Derek Hess.

2. Too many external harddrives. Two Sansa Clips, one to be filled with audiobooks then gifted. “R” mug gifted from a friend filled with x-acto knives, non photo blue pencils, mechanical pencils, iPod cord, Sumi brush, bamboo pen, Wacom pen, calligraphy markers of multiple widths. Alcoholic grayscale markers.

3. Phone + MagicJack to call the States. Lexicon monitor preamp thingy. Painful amount of cords.

4. Banker’s lamp, grandfather’s letter opener, cheap graph paper sketchbook. Other monitor with ever tasteful ceramic Hula girl (gfit).

5/6. Homemade “How to Curse in German,” outdated business cards, reference material for a Gary Taxali book, Canadian phone, “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre, “The Naming of the Beasts” by Mike Carey, camera bag, laptop sleeve.

Robb Ogle lives in Ontario. Prior, three years were spent in New York after seven years in Boston as a graphic designer and occasional typography professor. Even before that, a lot of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin happened. He is fascinated by words and pictures of words.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?

ROBB OGLE: I fixate and overwork things. I try to use music as a timer, similar to The Pomodoro Technique, change-up what I’m focusing on at the end of each album or I’ll be black hole finessing forever.

“Wonky” is a perfect word for things that just aren’t perfect, yet.

FYD: You were a staff designer at TeNeues, found Jeroen Allart and made the notecard box I mentioned in his interview. What’s the secret?

RO: Booooooooom? Maybe. One of the endless post-bird+woodgrain craft art sites. Part of my duties was to hunt stationery art-licenses. Snobbier people would say “cool hunter” but it was interesting to project and guess about art versus commercial, viable, pop culture trends (for a very specific niche customer). I can’t imagine how fashion companies and buyers do it day in day out. Allart and Samantha Hahn were my favorites, though I wish we used her watercolors.

FYD: What attracts you to letters? Is it the words in harmony or the shape and look?

RO: Mainly, I love language. Ecstatically verbose writers. A blank page is boring, I think like an illustrator: provide me a script or story to turn into something to look at. The alphabet is very constant subject and can be riffed on endlessly. The push and pull of lettering style vs legibility is intriguing. I won’t buy a book set in what I think to be an inappropriate text type, not suited for long reading, but I’ll sit at length and parse out just why such and such calligraphy is captivating when it’s prettier to look at than read as content.

FYD: Could you expand on the “Wonky” shapes of yesteryear and how “The” Project came about?

RO: “Wonky” is a perfect word for things that just aren’t perfect, yet. “Off.” Type designers I was lucky enough to work for at Font Bureau would describe letters’ curves which were kinked or whose apex tipped too early or low, minor adjustments away from being a polished tool of a letter. My taste in lettering tends toward the imprecise and human. The initial set (2009?) was a ” thank you” given to graphic designers who gave me my first proper jobs. I liked the concept enough to keep going. A year in it was hefty enough for a dedicated domain, not shoved onto my junk drawer of a work site. Something social. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, can I:

1. Get people to register the impact of lettering (not fonts) through variation in three little letters,
2. Encourage an alternate or plural look at “typographic” or design history. All ephemera is valid to investigate, not just the pioneers in Meggs’ History of Graphic Design.
3. Do something different with Creative Commons, applied to letters, on essentially a subscription or digest model.

A blank page is boring, I think like an illustrator: provide me a script or story to turn into something to look at.

Why lettering? It’s part frustrated type designer: I’m just not wired with the diligence and extreme systems-wide management necessary to do it the way I would want. Also the economics and time just isn’t there to turn the brash display lettering I love into a font, a wellmade, programmed tool. I would resent something as labor which I loved enough to revive in the first place. But, my curiosity over the relationship between off-the-shelf letters and product never went away. Historic wood and metal typefounders sold common wordmarks/catchwords (definite articles, titles, “Menu”) as art along with the borders, art engravings, decorations. Industrial age stock imagery.

Lettering artists turned type designers revived the idea by making fonts out of them: FF Catch Words One by Jim Parkinson and Brothers Word Letters by John Downer. I wanted to talk about the source as much as deliver something people could use. Lettering plus liner notes? I dont’ know.

FYD: What are some of your favorite private stocks of “The”; have any shapes surprised you?

RO: Tried and true: Inkvision Sets, Golden Age Comic Book Stories, Book Scans, The End, Sheet Music Collection. Researching them is more surprising than the shapes, interesting anecdotal histories about jobbing artists or publishing companies.

FYD: I’ve always loved the film Kiss Me Deadly. The beginning credits roll upwards to reveal “Deadly, Kiss Me.” Could you mock-up something in that vein using “The” from The Indelicate Balance?

Follow Robb on Twitter @hounds.

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