BLKBK Type is a graphic design studio dedicated to the expression of the written word through artistry and identity. Established by Justin Graefer and Derek Campbell in 2013, the Winnipeg studio presents an eclectic and intense body of work that embraces human emotion and sentiment, putting it on display for the world to see.
“My earliest interest in art came through my passion in photography and type design,” Justin explained. “I’ve always had a special interest in researching and studying the importance of effective type design and layout within visual communications.”
Derek found his way into typography through a different channel altogether. “At a young age I discovered Hip Hop music and its culture,” he began. “I was instantly drawn to graffiti as an art-form and it became my main source of inspiration when it came to crafting my own lettering and scripts.”
With a penchant for vintage album artwork and hand-painted signs, BLKBK’s letter sets take a freehanded, unconfined approach to their design. Organic textures and thoughtful structures create memorable typefaces that elicit an immediate emotional response, effortlessly stirring nostalgic impressions within the viewer’s memory.
“We at BLKBK, feel the most important element in typography is being able to effectively convey a feeling and a unique personality within every design,” they observed. “We enjoy exploring multiple different styles and mediums without overthinking and just letting it be an organic and natural design process that speaks for itself.”
Their work embodies the vitality of the human experience, something that BLKBK strives to achieve in every design. “When you can see life within lettering, meaning you can see the human elements such as passion and soul behind what would otherwise appear to be a simple digitized piece of artwork, it gives deeper meaning and purpose to a letter in a word and what it communicates,” they told us. For Derek and Justin, drawing and painting the letters by hand is a crucial part of extracting the anima of a type design.
One of their latest releases is Chrome Syrup, a playful yet passionate cursive script that began with old-school, hand lettered intentions, at least until its graffiti-art influence shifted the end result toward a more modern, urban expression. “It happened to come out naturally in the painting process,” BLKBK revealed.
With the fluidity of its namesakes, Chrome Syrup drips with a youthful sheen, sugar-sweet perspiration mingling with liquid metal is captured in its letterforms. The hip, flowing style of this handwritten font lends a freshness to contemporary design projects, yet it carries a whisper of vintage aesthetics that offer a retro edge.
“Chrome Syrup is meant to be a fun, raw and expressive font. We did not have one set style goal in mind in its creative process,” BLKBK told us. As a result, they’ve created a style that can’t be neatly placed inside of a singular box, leaving its tenor open to interpretation.
“The biggest challenge we faced with this font was taking the loose and organic painted letters and programming the lettering into a fully functioning typeface that connects in a natural and believable way,” BLKBK said of Chrome Syrup’s cursive design. “We also make sure to paint multiples of each letter of the alphabet so we have a bigger selection of letters to choose from once digitized on the computer. We then try to piece what letters connect best and compliment each other.”
Chrome Syrup is hella sexy in advertising layouts, fashion spreads, headlines, signage, album covers, branding and identity, posters, apparel designs, logos, and magazines. Chrome Syrup offers standard ligatures and stylistic alternates for design flexibility and variance, and its multilingual support extends to Basic Latin, Western European, Euro, and Pan African Latin.
BLKBK currently offers nearly 100 products on YouWorkForThem and if you dig Chrome Syrup as much as we do, you’ve got to check out the rest of their portfolio. “We are currently working on four different font styles at the moment,” BLKBK said. “We feel its important for us to have multiple projects on the go and rotate our time while working on each individual font.” This process allows Derek and Justin to take breaks from each concept, returning to it with fresh eyes and renewed perspective.
Given their portfolio of work, the design world has a lot to look forward to with every single one of BLKBK’s releases. “We feel it’s important to be true to your own vision and to take chances,” BLKBK expressed. “To have confidence in what you create and to explore styles that could often be viewed as weird, or not exactly fitting the current trends.”
That’s artistic advice we could all stand to live by.