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CSULB Art Professor’s Work Eclectic, to Say the Least

Published: March 15, 2010

It would be difficult to pinpoint Andrew Byrom’s work.

The CSULB art professor would even say as much. But that’s what makes him so interesting – with Byrom, you never know what you’re going to get.

“A lot of my work is experimental,” he said.

With works ranging from creating 3-D house numbers, to book cover graphic design, to product design, to a low-cost temporary signage system, Byrom’s efforts cover a wide, eclectic span.

‘My background is in book jackets, so I do that kind of work now and again; but I am trying to wean myself off, though I do some work for McGraw-Hill and Routledge in England,” said Byrom, who noted that in that area he does everything over the Internet with no face-to-face meetings involved. “How that works is, they send me a synopsis of the book, ask me to design and I send it back over the Internet, they sent it back if they want some changes; I get a check and see the thing in the bookstore. It’s a little weird, but that’s how it works.”

In between book jackets, however, Byrom has been extremely busy. Since 2003 he has worked on the following projects:

Interiors (2003), where using the three-dimensional principles 26 letters of the alphabet were drawn and generated as a font. This design was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and is featured in its 2004 annual.

Interiors Light (2005), intended to be a rounded chrome tubular steel version of the original Interiors design. As the project developed, however, Byrom began to realize that on a smaller scale, each letter could be constructed in neon.

St. Auden (2006), a simple stencil font originally designed to help his son draw letters with crayons.

Grab-Me (2006), constructed using the same principles of bathroom hand-rails (or grab-bars), is a full alphabet set made from 1.5-diameter stainless steel tubing with a 180-grit brushed finish. These finished typographic handrails are intended for use in swimming pools or bathrooms. Byrom used the Grab-Me design in an illustration for the New York Times Magazine and was honored with a Type Directors Club (TDC) Award for Typographic Excellence.

Byrom TSS (2007), a “pop-up” temporary signage system. Each letter is fabricated from waterproof nylon wrapped around a fiberglass pole frame.

TSS2, (2008), a proposal for a low-cost temporary signage system, it is fabricated from corrugated plastic with peel-off segments to reveal a white background that enables every letter (upper and lowercase) and number to be constructed.

St. Louis (2008), a stencil design commissioned by ASIFA-Hollywood, a society of animators working to preserve and celebrate historical and contemporary animation. The logo/typeface was designed to work for print, digital animation and was also fabricated in 3D for award trophies.

Numbers (2008), low-relief, three-dimensional, super-thin, folded aluminum numbers intended for use on houses and offices. They are manufactured in .050 anodized, weatherproof aluminum.

Venetian (2008), a stencil typeface design commissioned by Elle Decoration magazine. It was inspired by the forms created when opening and closing a venetian blind;

Letter-Box-Kite (2008), an experimental design that is a series of 26 typographic kites fabricated from thin nylon fabric and fiberglass poles.

“I’ve been extremely busy doing a lot of different things, but it keeps me excited about my work,” said Byrom, whose design work has been featured in Creative Review, Print Regional Design Annual, Dwell, PAGE, Architectural Record and in several graphic design books including TDC: Typography 29, Type Addicted, Typo: The Beautiful World of Fonts, New Typographic Design, and the AIGA Annual 2004 and AIGA Annual 2009. And, he has had exhibits in design venues across the United States and China.

letter box kite
Photo courtesy of Andrew Byrom
Andrew Byrom’s letter box kites in flight.

Byrom, who was born in Liverpool, England, moved to Barrow, a small ship-building town in the north of England at the age of 3. He left school at 16 and began a four-year apprenticeship in the local shipyard. After serving his apprenticeship he decided to pursue a career in design and left his job to enroll at Cumbria Institute of Art and Design, also in England. In 1993, he moved to London to study at the University of East London, where he gained a first-class degree.

In 1996 Byrom worked briefly in the design department of Routledge, a leading academic book publisher, and in 1997, he opened his own design studio in London and worked for various clients including Penguin Books, The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, The Industrial Design Centre, Time Out Online and The Guardian newspaper. He also began teaching graphic design at Croydon College in London. The next year, he took teaching positions at the University of Luton and Central Saint Martins.

In 2000, Byrom moved to the United States to teach at Northern Illinois University, just outside of Chicago, and in 2006 he moved to Long Beach as an associate professor at CSULB. He now divides his time between teaching, designing for various clients and family life.

“Northern Illinois University is in a small town (DeKalb), but close enough to Chicago so you can do stuff,” Byrom said of his first stop in the U.S. “It was so different from London that everything was exciting. I would spend a few hours in Walmart looking at cereal boxes.”

Then came the move to Long Beach. “The difference, of course, is the weather,” he noted. “That’s the real killer here.”

Among Byrom’s most recent work, with probably the most interesting story, is what he refers to as the “accidental” kite box.

“The story behind the box kites is I was at a big exhibition of designers in Chicago. The show was over and I was dismantling things and it was one of those November snowstorms,” said Byrom. “The wind was blowing and the letters began blowing down the street. A guy walked past and said ‘Are these kites? they should be kites’ and I was like, ‘well, they’re not, but you’re right, they should be kites’ and I spent a year working on it. So, the letters aren’t a failure, but the real outcome of that is the kites.”

Byrom says that this is probably the most interesting time in his career.

“My work is in gallery shows and I have work in Beijing and New York,” he said. “My work is being viewed as art, but it’s a mix between product design and experimenting. This has been building for a few years, but it seems that right now a lot of design magazines want to interview me, which is nice.”

To learn more about Byrom and see some of his work, visit his Web site at www.andrewbyrom.com/type.html.