Michael Harvey was a designer’s designer, revered by other graphic artists and letter carvers, but little known outside those hallowed circles.
This exhibition at Suffolk’s Lettering Arts Centre hopes to change that, as it brings together Harvey’s collected works; from myriad book jackets and digital fonts to his letters carved into stone.
Harvey, who died in 2013, started out as a stone carver in the 1950s, working under Eric Gill’s first apprentice, Joseph Cribb. Although he was highly influenced by Gill, Harvey was also inspired by wood engraver, engraver, designer, typographer and painter Reynolds Stone, and was his assistant in the 1950s. German font designers Georg Trump and Hermann Zapf were other important influences.
From the 1960s to the 1990s his career was dominated by book jacket design – he produced around 1,500 elegant typographic offerings for publishing houses including Hodder & Stoughton, MacMillan, Chatto & Windus, Hamish Hamilton, Methuen and The Bodley Head.
In later years, Harvey designed a number of well-regarded digital fonts for the likes of software company Adobe, but the notebooks and drawings featured in the show at the artistic rural hub of Snape Maltings demonstrate that drawing was always at the front of his mind.
'Drawing frees the hand from the demands of the broad-edged pen, the sign-writer’s brush,' Harvey wrote in his 2012 memoir, Adventures with Letters. 'The pencil is neutral. Eye and mind are in control.'