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2022 in review

Continuing my annual tradition of recapping the year just ended, here’s my look back on 2022. As always, this type of post is mainly written for the benefit of my future self, but because I personally enjoy reading other folks’ yearly reviews, perhaps one or two of you might like this, too.

2022 was, overall, a pretty good year, and I count myself as incredibly fortunate that I can write that sentence. Although I’m well aware that Covid is still very much a thing, 2022 certainly felt like the first post-Covid year. Conferences happened again. I saw far-flung friends in real life again. Sensible or not, it was great getting normal life back. And all that aside, I continue to be grateful for all of the time I get to spend with my young family, thanks to my current work-life setup.

In early January, I made an hour-long mix for the Crescent London podcast. As with all of my mixes, it was filled with a load of my favourite recently released tracks.

In February, I finally got round to putting up some shelves in our sitting room to make a cosy little reading corner where previously there’d just been a weird, unused ‘nook’. It’s one my favourite places in the house now.

Sitting room

At the end of February, Gwen turned four and we hosted her party in the village hall. I was in issue #175 of Kai Brach’s wonderful Dense Discovery newsletter. Then the whole Ukraine thing happened, of course, and it became hard to think about anything else. I used my record label to raise funds for Ukraine throughout February (and March), and did another mix — this time for the DRR podcast.

In March, the weather got nice and we started spending a bunch of time out in the garden, including working from my laptop up at the top. I feel so fortunate that I get to do this. I’ve realised that spending a lot of time outdoors has brought huge mental health benefits.

View from the garden

With #bandcampfridays returning, I decided to put out some unreleased tracks throughout the year, letting people pay whatever they like — including £0 — but keeping them exclusive to Bandcamp (and Formaviva), and not on any of the steaming services, or on any other online stores. Without having to worry about the context of a ‘regular’ release, and with no need for press, distribution, etc., this felt like a nice way of putting out some music that otherwise would’ve stayed sitting on my hard drive. The first of those, and technically my first release of the year, was ‘For Safety’.

My much faster and harder track ‘Peel’ appeared on the next compilation from Paris’ Data Roaming Records, and that was released on a very beautifully packaged cassette, too.

Another mix! This time, for the Soptik podcast.

In April, during the easter holidays, we flew up to Scotland and stayed for a short break in Killin. It was beautiful and we wish we’d stayed longer. Covid finally caught up with us all, although only Sam was hit hard, and luckily only temporarily.

Killin, Scotland

Also, Thea turned seven in April. That whole thing about kids growing up so fast is true. Seriously. That’s why everyone says it. It’s not an exagerration! And it scares the crap out of me. I collaborated again with Alternate Current and put out ‘Explorations III–V’ (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Beatport, etc.).

In May, I spoke at #axbt in Hamburg — a collaboration between awork and beyond tellerrand. Every single one of Marc’s events I’ve been at, either as attendee or speaker, has had a special atmosphere about it, and even though this one was co-branded and co-organised with awork, that special beyond tellerrand vibe was still there, and enhanced further because this was, for most people, the first in-person conference in two years. It was my first speaking engagement in that long and it’s possible my own giddy excitement was amplifying things for me personally, but it really did feel wonderful being back on stage, and connecting with the vibe of the room. Plus I got to have a drink with Stefan goddamned Sagmeister.

Elliot speaking at #axbt
On stage at #axbt. Photo by Norman Posselt.

Also in May: more new music! (Looking back, I really front-loaded the year with releases. Probably should’ve spread them out a bit more.) ‘Oktober: revisit’ (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Beatport, etc.) is a 9-track EP that came out exactly five years from the day I released my debut 12-inch. I tweaked the track and invited seven friends to reinterpret it. (Yes, seven, because A Thousand Details decided to do two remixes.)

Right at the end of the month, Katy Cowan came over to our little garden studio to interview me for the Creative Boom podcast, and we had a really nice chat filled with plenty of reminsicing about the good ol’ days of web design.

June brought with it my second and third post-pandemic speaking gigs. The second was at the Birmingham Design Festival.

Elliot speaking at BDF
On stage at the Birmingham Design Festival. Photo by Thom Bartley.

The third was at SmashingConf in San Francisco. It was so nice to see more conference buddies — plus the Smashing family are just some of the nicest humans on the planet — and it was great to meet up with some old friends from Adobe and beyond. I spent so much time in SF when I was working at Adobe, but this time (my 15th visit, I think) I got to see some parts of the city I’d never been to before. But obviously I still insisted on returning to The Sycamore for some beer-fuelled bingo.

SF friends at The Sycamore
Me, Kyle, Christopher, Ari, and Sally.

Also in June, another podcast: this time, for the Metropolitan podcast, part of the collective behind the Freedom Medellín festival.

Then, in July, I started a newsletter. That’s a bandwagon I never thought I’d jump on. I mean, I hate email. Who wants more emails? But I’d started subscribing to a handful of newsletters myself, and figured it was something I’d like to try — a different way of putting stuff out there, reaching different people, perhaps. Right up until that very first issue, it was going to be a sort of general “things Elliot likes” sort of affair, but I swerved at the last minute and switched to a focus on typography. I’m glad I did. By the end of the year, the newsletter had become one of my favourite things. You should subscribe! It’s also now got a name:

Typographic & Sporadic logo

Another first for July: the inaugural Letter Luvvers event, organised by Laurence and Borys. I went along with Jamie, expecting it to be a small room of type geeks; I wasn’t at all prepared for the awesome vibes that ensued, and the new friends I’d make. One of them, Emma Luczyn, spoke at that first event, and we’re now working on a little project together.

Emma Luczyn at Letter Luvvers
Emma Luczyn speaking at Letter Luvvers #1 and talking about her book.

August was a really great month. The kids were off school. Work was relatively chilled. I made a mix for the On the 5th Day podcast. This was a big one for me — I’ve followed them for years and it’d been a dream of mine to be on their podcast.

And in the middle of August, we had our first overseas family holiday post-pandemic. We went to Corfu, stayed well away from most of the other British tourists, and had an Airbnb that, while very basic, had the sea quite literally at the bottom of the garden. It was ideal, and we all spent so much time in the sea. I think my fondest memory was watching the sun go down between the distant hills across the sea while out with the girls on the kayaks. Absolutely magical.

Kayaking in Corfu

We also met a stray dog there who stayed with us for the entire trip, and we were heartbroken to leave her. We tried unsuccessfully to adopt her, but did at least get her into a good shelter, and she’s now been rehomed in Germany. However, this did start us on a journey to get another dog, but… well, that’s a 2023 thing.

Also in August, I started working with techno legend Luke Slater (AKA Planetary Assault Systems, LB Dub Corp, etc.) and his wife Heidy to create artwork for their label Mote-Evolver on a freelance basis. It goes without saying that it’s an immense pleasure to be working with an artist and a label who’ve been so influential on me as a musician, and a real honour to play a part in shaping their output from a visual perspective. Plus, it’s always nice designing for actual physical releases, too.

Sam and I celebrated our 10th(!) wedding anniversary at the end of the month, and went to stay in Richmond (where we used to live).

Elliot and Sam in Richmond

In September, Gwen started school. It’s hard to overstate what a big thing that was. It was the first time in seven years we didn’t have a little kid in the house every day, and it hit me and Sam pretty hard. Gwen loved school from day one, thankfully, but we were ruined. Honestly.

September also saw the the label’s final release of the year: ‘Ista’ from Suhasya (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Beatport, etc.) — our first solo EP from a female artist.

I finally switched to the variable version of Degular on this site and wrote about it, too. I was meant to speak at AllFlows, but it was moved to May 2023.

Laurence and Borys hosted the second Letter Luvvers event, and it was even better than the first. I’ve never really been part of the design community in Bristol — perhaps because I moved here when I was already doing remote work, and that never changed — so it was lovely to feel a part of the community, and a type-specific one at that. During the night, I met a newsletter subscriber called Ben who told me that reading my newsletter felt the same as having a chat with me in the pub — which is exactly the casual vibe I was hoping for. (Thanks, Ben!)

Priston Festival returned after a pandemic-induced hiatus and it was so, so good. A highlight was Jesse from The Fantasy Orchestra handing Thea a walrus mask before the band played their cover of I am the Walrus, with Thea dancing in front of the stage like a little nutter. (Bonus trivia: we originally met Jesse in Paris when we were photographing his wife, Kate Stables of This Is The Kit, for Lagom in 2017.)

Thea at the Priston Festival

October, while largely uneventful, was mired by Gwen being hospitalised with cellulitis, most likely caused by Strep A. That was a tough few days.

In November, we went to see Widowspeak — our first live gig in a really long time, apart from the festival. We’ve followed Widowspeak for years, so it was lovely to see them play in such a tiny (but legendary) venue in Bristol. I bought a copy of their 2013 album ‘Almanac’ on vinyl from their merch stand and had a chance to chat briefly to Rob. On the journey home, I was poring over the credits and realised that Molly was responsible for that album’s typography. Mind blown!

Widowspeak at The Louisiana in Bristol

I finally realised a career-long dream in November and designed some Christmas cards, and had them printed on GF Smith Extract Khaki, which is made entirely from recycled coffee cups. I made them for myself to send out to family and friends, but decided to put some on sale, too, via Gumroad. Some are still available, if you want to start planning early for this Christmas!

Xmas cards

Although the proverbial shit had been hitting the Twitter fan over much of 2022, November was when it became clear to me and a fair few others that it was time to jump ship, and I revived my Mastodon account. I’ve been posting relatively regularly since then and it’s now pretty much replaced Twitter for me. It’s lovely and cosy, but I’m in a bit of a tech / type bubble at the mo, and it’d be nice to see some more folks on there, too, especially the music crowd.

At the end of the month, I was able to get away for my annual ‘wilderness day’. I did my last one last November (see last year’s review) and had fully intended to do it multiple times in the year, but I guess other things got in the way. Anyway, it was great to be out in nature for a good six hours or so, but I must admit I did end the day feeling a little frustrated: part of the woodland I’d stumbled upon before (and returned to on this day) is managed by Forestry England and it turned out I was technically trespassing. Plus, getting to a spot where I could be away from all other humans for several hours is just an impossible feat around here, even though I live in a pretty rural area. I guess I’d need to get into Wales, Scotland, or somewhere in the north of England to do that, but that would eat into the short-drive-away part of this that allows me to be out for multiple hours. Oh well. More research required!

Some trees in the Mendips

At the very start of December, we — that is, Google Fonts Knowledge — published the fourth and final “content drop” of the year. (Recaps here: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4.) I’m so pleased with what we accomplished in 2022, and I feel so grateful to have worked with so may talented type experts on all of this content.

Surgeon’s Girl played a track from Suhasya’s EP during her “Raver’s Hour” mix or Tom Ravenscroft’s show on 6Music, marking the label’s first ever BBC radio play. Woo! (Sadly no embed.)

On 16th December, Robert Hoff put out an EP from me on his label trau-ma. Having your music released on another label is always a nice bit of external approval, and the day after its release, Luke Slater played the opening track during his set at Fabric. 😱 As I’ve written before, making and releasing music can so often feel like shouting into the void; it’s so rewarding to get these little affirmations.

Speaking of Luke Slater, the vinyls for his latest Planetary Assault Systems record arrived just in time for Christmas! So nice to be able to experience the first of our collabs in the flesh.

Elliot holding a Planetary Assault Systems record

Finally, right before Christmas, Monotype published the episode of their Creative Characters podcast, where I was interviewed by Phil Garnham (formerly of FontSmith). It was so nice talking to Phil, especially as we ended up going off-piste and delving into the whole work-life balance thing and the benefits of meditation.

Some random parting thoughts I didn’t manage to fit in anywhere else

I spent a significant amount of time and effort in 2022 filling our home and studio with with house plants, and then even more time and effort caring for them. (As addictions go, I guess this isn’t a terrible one to have.) I forgot to say above that I released two more Bandcamp-exclusive tracks: one in April, and one in November. Even so, I didn’t make nearly as much music as I would’ve liked. I watched 82 films, though. I have a long list of things I’m going to try to improve next year that didn’t quite seem right to list publicly. But I did at least do Duolingo every day. And I meditated a lot, too — but should’ve done more. We bought a little swing seat for the top of our garden that hangs from a tree (perfect for meditation) and I love it more than I probably should. Oh, and I’d really love you to subscribe to my newsletter. Thanks for reading!