Interview with Rick Banks of Face37

March 24, 2015 , In: Interviews

Rick Banks is the design genius behind Face37 Studio, based in London. He is a freelancer who creates amazing designs across a range of mediums, and he has won a myriad of awards and can be found in numerous publications. He has also been known to use his design powers for good, by creating not-for-profit publications where the profits go to good causes.

For the latest in our series of designer interviews, we managed to have a chat with Rick Banks, the design genius behind two of the most popular fonts in HypeForType history, and the founder of legendary studio Face37. Launched in 2008, Face37 has won numerous awards, worked with some world famous brands, and donated over £20,000 to charity. Your humble HypeForType interviewer was a little bit star-struck for this interview, font fans.

We started out by chatting a little about Rick’s favourite kinds of design projects and clients.

– Face37 specialises in graphic design, branding, and typography. Which of these do you like the best? Why?

I like all of them equally. I would get bored very easily if I just focused on type design or branding. I like to think like the late Massimo Vignelli: “If you can design one thing, you can design everything”.

Wise words there, font fans, and an inspiring motto.

– You’ve worked with clients as diverse as Douwe Egberts tea/coffee, Triumph motorbikes, and of course Football Type – what has been your favourite project to work on in your career?

Being a biker, Triumph was one of those dream projects to work on. However, designing and publishing Football Type and giving all the profits to charity was the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career. The £22.4k raised went to a Bolton grassroots football club and the money will go towards new changing rooms and pitches. Let’s hope Bolton produces the next Messi.

The book, Football Type, is a non-profit book which was produced in limited quantities, each copy being hand-numbered using official FAPL lettering and bespoke for each customer. Among its sponsors, this celebration of football and typography can count such illustrious teams as Liverpool FC, Man U, Man City, the FA, the Premier League, and many more famous football names. You can find out more on the Football Type website:

– What made you decide to move from working for design agencies to launching your own?

It was the freedom of working on my own stuff, whether that’s publishing books or designing type. I like the mix of working on corporate jobs that pay the bills and self-initiated creative work. I think that’s essential and healthy for any designer.

– Is there anything you wished you knew back then as you were establishing F37; something you’d love to go and tell past-Rick?

It’s bloody tough work!

Tough work it might be, but through that graft Rick has been able to work with some amazing brands. For instance, together with illustrator Chris Dent, Face37 created the branding and packaging for Islington’s first brewery, Hammerton Brewery. Using the brewery’s 1900’s heritage, F37 based the logo on the original bottle caps. The iconic design, with a modern and exciting twist, gives the brewery a refined but contemporary brand.

Pretty soon, the conversation moves on to fonts and type design.

– What are your thoughts on typography in design? How much difference do you feel a font can make?

Typography and sound fundamentals of design are key in delivering a clear branded message. Typography is far more than a simple or necessary addition to a product or brand — it’s what sets the tone for the entire piece. Knowledge of the right font can help brands find their identity and voice.

– Your HypeForType exclusives Ginger and F37 Bella have been immeasurably popular and the fonts themselves are superb and very striking. What was the inspiration behind these two fonts?

F37 Bella is based on letterforms of American typographers; John Pistilli and Herb Lubalin, and Swiss typographer Jan Tschichold. I was inspired by Pistilli’s ‘Pistilli Roman’ and ‘Saskia’ by Jan Tschichold.

F37 Ginger is again inspired by Jan Tschichold — in particular his take on Futura. It’s designed in a modernist Swiss style but with a contemporary geometrical twist.

F37 Bella is the kind of font that only comes along every decade or so. It is exemplary of the fact that ‘modern classic’ is not, as we’re so often told, an oxymoron, but is simply a level of design quality that very few people ever reach. With an arrestingly simple design philosophy, Banks has created something masterful. This font surpasses influence and flies beyond inspiration to reach almost ethereal heights. The acute extremity of the hairlines and the voluptuousness of the curves make this award winning font one you’ll want to use time and time again.

– Have you ever used either of them in a design project of your own?

No — I’ll let other designers do that.

– What do you think the perfect application of each of the fonts would be? Where would they stand out and shine the brightest?

I’d love to see F37 Bella used in a fashion magazine or high-end beauty packaging. Because F37 Ginger is much more neutral, I think it can be used anywhere, in logos or in the corporate world.

Ginger is an 8-weight font family which elevates Sans-Serif to new levels of beauty. Designed with modernist Swiss grace but with a contemporary geometric flair, each influence has added something of its own, and these flavours have combined with Rick’s own incredible talent to produce something spectacular. With an all-round balance and stability that can reliably carry many a message many a mile, Ginger is sure to become a key part of your designer’s toolkit.

– Have you ever unexpectedly encountered a use of one of your fonts ‘in the wild’? What was that experience like?

Yes, I saw F37 Bella in a movie poster when I was on the London underground. It was a Juliette Binoche film called Elles — that was cool. I still need to see that film!

– What fonts do you love, and find yourselves coming back to again and again?

My favourites change all the time. It’s like asking what my favourite film is. I get bored of using the same font all the time so I try to have a different font in every project I do.

– And what fonts do you hate?

The usual suspects: Papyrus, Comic Sans etc etc

– Any new exciting projects in the pipeline?

It’s been a frantic year so far and I have got a few exciting projects coming up. I’m designing another book, setting up a blog and collaborating with a world renowned designer on a typeface.

F37 Bella has outsold more than 25,000 others to hold its place on the HypeForType best sellers list consistently since release. You can learn more about Rick on his website, you can buy F37 Bella and F37 Ginger exclusively from HypeForType, and you can read more interviews with some top names in typography on the HypeForType blog. You can follow Rick Banks on Twitter @_Face37