Graphic artist Melvin Galapon gives the alphabet shape, light, and movement in his work for big brands, magazines, and fashion line A-Ok, where he works as the creative director. The 34-year-old Londoner's letters strobe, glow, and practically vibrate off the page.
Under his artistic gaze, typography gains warmth and momentum while also keeping to a visually pleasing, minimalist aesthetic. "I think the best work comes from restriction," he explains. And although some of the 3-D pieces may look computer-generated, Galapon emphasizes that the multi-dimensional pieces are all hand-done. You would be forgiven for thinking he uses machines to help create some of these images, though, as his early inspirations and obsessions include first generation computers and video games.
We learned a little more about Galapon's obsessions and inspirations in this Q&A about his work.
Where did your interest in type first emerge from?
Probably during my MA at Central St. Martins, where my work was inspired a lot by technology.
The black and white type series on your site is reminiscent of the iconic Joy Division cover for Unknown Pleasures. But there’s also so much movement implied in these pieces, as if they were comprised of stacked heart monitors measuring rapid beats. How did this typography concept first come about?
It evolved from an ongoing project I occasionally do which involves creating images based on the idea of sound. So the images were linked into the idea of sound, in some way, so often looked noisy if that makes sense? These pieces are a more stripped down version of that.
When you scroll over the images of “Hell Yeah,” and “On Repeat,” they almost seem to strobe. How are you playing with crafting illusions of light and movement within these piece?
They were mainly about trying to create 3-D looking type with the simplest of forms, that being lines.
You’ve created fantastic typography using black and white lines, neon and glass, and Light-Brite boards. How did Light-Brite work its way into your artistic world? And how does working with neon/lights shape the type you create?
My earlier work was based on using pixels to build up images, but the images were always flat. The next step from that was to make the pixels 3-D to create sculpture like typography. I've only ever used sheets of acrylic to build type — for example, my Creative Review cover. That was fun because everything was planned beforehand, choosing the right material for the base, etc., and it was only in the final photograph that a happy accident of a triple reflection of the 'A' happened. I like working with photographers and creating mini typographic sets because there's loads of room for experimenting on set to create something interesting and different.
What format haven’t you worked in yet to create type that you’d like to experiment with in the future?
Neon lights is something I haven't really tried yet and would love to one day. I love the idea of turning vectors into glowing tubes.
How does doing creative work for such big brands influence your personal work when you don’t have deadlines or feedback but you’re just creating something for yourself?
Sometimes it's as simple as something technical I had to learn on a job that feeds into my personal work, other times it can be a discarded idea a client didn't use that I take further and explore on my own.
Moving into your tonal linear portraits, they remind me of something that would come out of, say, an old IBM printer, in this really cool way. What was the inspiration behind that series?
I'd always been doing portraits and I'd developed a way of doing them with diagonal lines to build the tones. With that series I wanted to see whether the faces were still legible if a section of them was missing all from the same point in each portrait hence the diagonal line stemming from the bottom left corner.
Do you have a keen sense of how technology works when it comes to things like early computers or video games or are you just really good at riffing on some of their components?
Yeah, in fact that's pretty much what my entire MA project was based on. I was obsessed with early computers/video games and for some reason started researching the history of Apple and Microsoft as they were the two main giants in computers. Then a friend pointed me in the direction of film Pirates of Silicon Valley, which is all about the relationship between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I watched loads of video interviews of both too as well as reading up on how the technology evolved over the years. That's why a lot of my earlier work was based on TV screen glitch patterns and recreating them in a handmade way.
What sorts of analog gadgets or early tech devices did you grow up with, and how did they shape what you do now?
My dad was always into having the most state of the art technology when I was growing up, even during times when a standardized video format wasn't decided. I remember we had a Betamax player that only had cassettes that only had one spool on one side to rewind the tape, unlike VHS tapes that had two spools. I also had an Atari 800 bought from a family friend, which at the time was an already out of date computer, as I remember it being really hard to find game cartridges. I only ever found one game for it called Miner 2049er.
What artists and graphic designers inspire you?
Mat Maitland / Kam Tang / Hellovon / Gyorgy Korossy, though as I've gotten older I look less to other artists and graphic designers for inspiration, mainly as I'm quite lucky that some of my friends are artists and designers. It's more the conversations I have with them that inspire me these days, as I always feel I'm continuously evolving. They always point me in the direction of something that might help with a new project/concept I'm working on.
Who do you dream about collaborating with someday?
It's not so much a dream project with a specific person/brand, but I'd love to design an album cover and carry that through to a music video.
What are you working on next?
A music video, an acrylic type piece and set design piece with photographer Gyorgy Korossy.
Follow Melvin Galapon @_mynameismelvin