The story behind our December 2008 cover

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“The Shape of Design," with Gluekit.
“The Shape of Design,” with Gluekit.


The cover and art in our December 2008 Regional Design Annual was created by Gluekit, the Connecticut design firm of Christopher Sleboda and Kathleen Burns. Here, they talk about how they created the letterforms that appear throughout the issue. Buy the issue here, and be sure to check out the section openers they created for Far West, Southwest, Midwest, South, East, and New York City.

Gluekit: We constructed the shapes used in our Print photos out of wooden frames (above) and many, many yards of brightly colored felt. In order to make the rounded shapes, we threw in a couple of hula hoops. One time as we were leaving the fabric store with an armload of hyper-colored felt, the checkout clerk asked us, “What are you doing with all of these really bright colors? Whatever it is, it looks like so much fun!” We didn’t quite know how to explain the project then, so we just smiled and laughed. It seemed like the bright cheeriness of our palette was contagious.

Gluekit wooden frames

We sketched out our first ideas with rough and inexpensive mock-ups to see how three-dimensional forms might exist and be manipulated in the actual space we were working in. (We’re grateful for the facilities at the Yale School of Art during the student body’s summer vacation.) This is a snapshot of the original cube model we constructed (on the right), built quickly out of wood shims and artist’s tape. The model didn’t hold together for very long, as you can see. On the left is the cube used in the final cover shot, captured before we painted it black.

cloth's making process

We really loved working with felt for this project. It’s a soft, bright material and it inspired many earnest late-night conversations about how we should begin making our own felt clothes. Originally, we explored creating letterforms and shapes out of spray-painted styrofoam and smaller boards of wood. These were messy, however, and not as easy to create. (There was the drying time to consider, and Kathleen suffered a minor spray painting thumb injury.) In the end, we realized that felt simply suited us better. As an added bonus, Christopher enjoyed using his staple gun!

The letter 'T'

The letter T. In this snapshot, our secret is revealed. While the letters in the photographs may look clean and tidy when viewed straight-on, here you can see the ligaments and bones of our letterforms. We used a variety of fasteners—tape, staples, nails, though surprisingly no glue!—to make sure these shapes could stand on their own and would stay together through rough-and-tumble photo shoots.


During the project we took nearly continuous test shots, documenting both possible locations and angles for final shots and our interactions with the objects we had created. One of the tools we used to get the right final shots was a SuperBoom. It was our first time using one, and we loved saying its name. SuperBoom. Go ahead, say it yourself. It’s as fun to use as it is to say, and it allowed us to get a bird’s-eye-view of our physical layouts. In this setup captured in the snapshot, we were able to get a photo from approximately 15 feet off the ground, which didn’t end up being high enough for our purposes. We looked up at last and saw our solution: We set the SuperBoom on the second floor of the Yale School of Art loft, which then allowed us to hover nearly 40 feet above our brightly colored felt forms.

 the typographic shapes

Each night after building our growing little army of typographic shapes, we would bask in their collected brightness and wonder: What are we going to do with all these things when we are done?