Video: A Visit with Robert Petrick

Robert Petrick is probably best known for the ambigram–the graphical trick that allows a word to be read in various different directions–that he created for the outrageously costumed and hard-rocking ’70s glam band Angel. (For fun, Petrick created a quick one for Print; it opens the video above.)

But what has he been up to since then? Plenty. In a hypercommercialized environment, Petrick comes across as a rare creature indeed: He’s a dedicated, uncompromising artist who balances his commercial type and graphic design–his face Blowfish is on the current Sour Patch Kids logo–with seemingly full-time painting and sculpture, many of which star ambigrams and other in-depth studies of the beauty of the letterform. And did we mention he composes avant-garde music?

Recently, Print editor-in-chief Emily Gordon and videographer and WFMU personality Michael Cumella caught up with Petrick in his radiantly tidy studio in New York’s East Village. They talked with the designer and artist about the search for symmetry, how he approached Angel cold at one of their over-the-top concerts, and the art of “designing without looking too much.”

A selection of Robert Petrick’s recent projects can be found on his new gallery site, Word Animation; you can also see images from his show Eye Tricks at the Walsh Gallery at Seton Hall University. More information about his work and career is on Petrick’s homepage. Fonthaus, which carries Petrick’s “Sour Patch Kids” font Blowfish, also carries four of his other fonts, including Tusk and Rhino Black (with a finish by Roger Barrows), Gargoyle, and Streets.

For more Print magazine coverage of type and letterforms, check out lettering expert Paul Shaw’s column “Hot Type,” in every issue of the magazine and in our online archive. And definitely read his review of Flexion, a font designed by John Langdon that’s well-suited for ambigrams. Print‘s August 2008 issue focused exclusively on the multifaceted nature of Type & Form, and you can find the current issue of the magazine here.

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