studio catherine griffiths


an excerpt: Beautiful World of Typography

The book versus the film:


On first glance as a typographer, I found myself quite distracted by the aesthetic of the typography and graphics of Mieke Gerritzen’s typo/film project Beautiful World, 2006. I read in a review by Ellen Lupton published in Eye magazine, that the book is more powerful than the film. Critically, from a typographic point of view (and I mean the typography) the film is un-special, it’s not beautiful to the senses. It’s not clever in its animation, its treatment, nor perhaps, is it attempting to or wanting to be. The content, the ideas that swirl about, the messages, are so urgent to have their say, that they come pounding out leaving behind any real concern for achieving an aesthetic filmic experience whether it be beautiful or un-beautiful.

Viewing the film a second time, then a third, in an attempt to extract myself from the various visual prejudices that I happen to own (a frustration sometimes, that only gets in the way!) in order to render myself less consciously typographically informed — remembering that all of us, these days especially, are typographically informed on some level), the content filters through, my focus shifts, the messages make their way into my brain, and I really try to read and understand without looking too much. Headphones on, I turn up the soundtrack, close my eyes and am immediately seduced by Twin Peaks (the music and yes, visual imagery from the series), I open them and gaze at the swirls and movements, the patterns and zoomings in and out; I blur my vision to adjust my focus. Later, I listen to the film without image. I watch the film without sound. I put them back together, and while I can’t read the film without watching Helvetica perform its myriad choreographed moves — I get right into it.

Most successful, are the glorious sequences of icons of logos and portraits from Shell to MacDonalds, and Jesus Christ to Michael Jackson (presented gaming style ticker/flicker lotto number type of assemblage) — this is magical and the film really comes into its own because visually it succeeds in bringing image, sound and content together — and the experience is almost seamless and is about the feeling you get. Typographically, I just want to get in there and make the type bolder, blacker, tougher, closer, so that as a film, it gets you. So it digs deep and hits you inside, whether joyful or oppressive, because that’s what the messages are. Mieke Gerritzen has something to say and wants us to know, because she cares.

I want to see Beautiful World leap again, and become the ultimate typo film where the type really does fill your mind with message and meaning, rather than sticks around as another niggly aesthetic.

But, this is not meant to be a critique on Beautiful World ... that’s not the purpose of my talk ... however it does make a good link to where I want to go. What I have begun with is simply an opinion by someone who attempts in her own practice to make meaning, to share with others the things we take for granted. To consider the message, find a connection. To make a point. To see what happens.

This pushes me onto what I am really interested in and that is the power (or not) of typography in our everyday lives.

Here now, in this gallery, we have Beautiful World in another form. Photo Histories curated by Mercedes Vicente, is an exhibition that includes the work and artist book I Must Behave by photographer and artist Bruce Connew. The design of the exhibition is my interpretation. The artist book was designed by us. The typography is my response to his message. I Must Behave is, as I see it, the photographic version of Beautiful World, or, put another way, Beautiful World is the text to I Must Behave ... every picture is worth a thousand words, here we have 85 images = 85,000 words.

Start reading!


Catherine Griffiths / excerpt from a public talk at Govett Brewster Gallery, 2009



Look at the type.
Read the image.

I Must Behave deals with the same issues as in Beautiful World “ ... the feeling is one of joy, inspiration and refreshing innovation, but one of being oppressed and manipulated through technology and economization”.


04 writing & critique


An installation on an installation on an installation ...
Artist statement, »catherine griffiths : SOLO IN [ ] SPACE« A documentation, Pocca, CHINA
September 2021

Porto Design Summer School 2017
Looking back on the fifth edition
April 2018

Notes from ‘Designing the perfect photobook’
A short talk as part of a panel discussion, PhotobookNZ
March 2016

A meditation
Sir Ian Athfield, 1940 — 2015
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Architectural Centre, NZ
April 2015

The Design Kids interview
The Design Kids, Jul 2015

A Playlist : CG >> CG
by Catherine Griffiths
DPAG Late Breakfast Show, NZ, Aug 2014

Body, Mind, Somehow: The Text Art of Catherine Griffiths
by Gregory O’Brien
Art New Zealand #150, NZ, 2014

Nothing in Mind
by Chloe Geoghegan
typ gr ph c, Aug 2014

typ gr ph c in Strips Club
by Catherine Griffiths
Strips Club journal, Mar 2014

In the Neighbourhood
by Catherine Griffiths
Desktop #294, Australia, 2013

Interview by Heath Killen
Desktop #294, Australia, 2013

FF ThreeSix
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Typographica, Mar 2013

A note on the D-card
by Catherine Griffiths
Apr 2013

Shes Got Legs
by Lee Suckling
Urbis, NZ, Jan 2013

Truly, No Idea
by Catherine Griffiths
for Flash Forward, Desktop, Australia, Nov 2012

Look for the purple lining
by Catherine Griffiths
Eye Blog, UK, Mar 2012

The Big Idea, NZ, Jun 2011

Shots in the air
by Catherine Griffiths
Eye Blog, UK, Jan 2011

John & Eye
by Catherine Griffiths
ProDesign 110, NZ, Jan 2011

Quite a Blast
by Catherine Griffiths
ProDesign, NZ, Jan 2011

Inner-City Modality
by Mercedes Vicente
ProDesign, NZ, Aug 2010

Beautiful World of Typography
by Catherine Griffiths
excerpt from a talk, Govett-Brewster Gallery, NZ, Jun 2009

For the record
by Catherine Griffiths
Introduction to TypeSHED11, NZ, Feb 2009

Locating Our Feet
by Catherine Griffiths
Threaded, NZ, Oct 2008

Notes on Feijoa
by Catherine Griffiths
ProDesign, NZ, Apr 2007

Life in Italics
by Helen Walters
Print, New York, Sep-Oct 2006

Writing by Types
by Justine Clark
Artichoke, Australia, Apr 2003

Beautiful World of Typography

by Catherine Griffiths

excerpt from a talk, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 2009


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