Celebrating the unsung talents of 'The Herb Lubalin of England'

Work by Tony Forster

This month sees the opening of the Men of Letters exhibition, which showcases the work of "two of the lettering world's great unsung heroes" – Tony Forster and Phill Grimshaw.

The show at Bolton Museum has been organised by lettering artist Dan Forster, who teamed up with Graphic Design Lecturer Anthony Roocroft and Bolton School of the Arts to present "what is possibly the most extensive exhibition of hand lettering and calligraphy ever displayed in the UK," as Forster puts it.

As you might have guessed from the names, Tony Forster, who passed away in 2008, is Dan's father; while Grimshaw was Tony's former student and close friend Phill Grimshaw.

Alongside teaching at Bolton School of the Arts, Tony was a prominent figure in the Manchester design scene from the early 1960s; creating lettering work including the iconic logos for Paperchase, 1970s Rock Band 10cc and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

After his death, designer Tony Di Spigna described Forster as "The Herb Lubalin of England" – high praise indeed.

Grimshaw, meanwhile, went on to become an internationally renowned typeface designer, creating 44 typefaces for ITC and Letraset. He was described by Colin Brignall – himself a recipient of a Type Directors Club medal – as "One of the best display typeface designers of recent times".

Most of the work displayed in the exhibition has remained mostly unseen. This is because it was not produced digitally, and most of it has remained filed away in plan chest drawers and storage boxes for many years. This exhibition reveals their hand-created sketches, mock-ups, final artworks, original calligraphy pieces, typeface designs and original posters.

"This exhibition has been a long time in the making," Dan Forster said. "Following my dad's death, I set to clearing out and organising his studio, a process which spanned eight years. But it was an incredibly inspiring experience: it was a catalyst for me to change direction in my career, from graphic design to now focusing on hand lettering.

"Being able to discover and closely observe the quality of the work helped me to understand and appreciate – on a much deeper level–the skill and craftsmanship involved with hand lettering. I knew from day one that something had to be done to share my dad's incredible work. Now through this exhibition, we hope to highlight this hand-rendered work. I’m sure it will be particularly interesting for a younger generation of digital designers."

The free exhibition runs from 8 February until 8 March at Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton.

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Phill Grimshaw

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Work by Tony Forster

Exhibition logo

Exhibition logo