Quay & Gray

In the early 80s I met Paul Gray, he was working at Filmcomposition at Waterloo in London. Filcomposition was one of the best typesetters in London, I met Erik Spiekermann who was also working there at the time. Paul was often working through the night preparing artwork/mechanicals to be delivered to advertising agencies the following morning. His studio where he worked was the biggest rubbish tip I had ever seen, how could anyone work in such chaos, but from the small clean drawing board in the middle incredible accurate work appeared.

Paul was an incredible skilled technician and had a good eye for design. We soon became fast friends, in 1984 we set up Quay & Gray together in Great Marlborough Street, Soho. We specialised in lettering and worked for everyone, newspapers, advertising agencies, design companies and publishers. We became busier that in November 1986 we took on another designer, Charles Stewart. I had been in contact with and had given him advice while he was studying at Leeds. After graduation he moved down to London and found a job with Keith Murgatroyd at Royale Murgatroyd. Charles had a refined intelligence, was very polite and affable and a great lettering designer with an incredible fluid hand that could be could adapted to all manner of scripts and uses. He was a great asset to the studio.

Two pieces of Charles Stewart’s work from the time he was at Quay & Grey

In the mid-eighties I was a freelance art director for Secker & Warburg, one of the last small independent publishers in Poland Street, London W1. In one year I designed or art directed over two hundred book covers. Our company Quay & Gray was round the corner, it was incessant to and thro. At the end of the year I was asked by Wiggins Teape, the paper manufacturer and supplier, to mount an exhibition of my book covers in their showroom round yet another corner in Broadwick Street. It was a great success and Colin Brignall the type director of Letraset asked me if he could turn some of my cover lettering into full alphabets. I agreed as long as I could do the work which he agreed and that became 10 years of fruitful collaboration with Letraset.

Shown below are 2 typical book-jacket roughs from the many I did at my time with Secker & Warburg. The lettering is painted direct onto acetate (hence the reflection) using gauche and a little Fairy liquid. It was then mounted in a mask to be presented. A rough like this took a day, the final artwork 2–4 days depending on the fineness of the lettering. Often we used type which was quicker and more profitable.

After 5 years Paul and I parted, Paul went to Painswick in the Cotswolds to look after his mother’s wool shop. I was back on my own, found a new studio in Archer Street, a rather dodgy street in Soho full of clip joints and illegal porn shops. Paul Raymond had his offices in the same street, I even did a few pieces of lettering for Men Only! I stayed there 10 years, soon the opportunity to start The Foundry came along and in the meantime I had plenty of typeface and design work form Letraset.