Thumbnail Sketches Of Memorials

As part on my development I sat down and sketched out some ideas for my memorial. This helped me visualise my ideas and plan around with what type I would position where.

I wanted the design to signify my life, and my interests. My ideas included a cup and a football, which shows my interest in sport. This links in with the quote that lies below my name, “A fun, loving, creative man with a passion for all things sport.

The sketches also helped me understand which elements should be exaggerated to be clear on the gravestone. There should be a clear hierarchy of importance in the text elements and hope to achieve this with my typeface choices, weights such as light, regular, bold, and black, and scale.


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Research into Gravestones

As part of my research, I took a look online at the history of gravestones to draw inspiration from. This gave me the opportunity to work out what works and doesn’t work when engraving type into stone. I also want to look at other embellishments that I might add to my own design to add interest to the gravestone.

The official description of “gravestone” is ‘a stone placed on a burial plot which is often inscribed in order to mark the person or persons who are buried there’.  In earlier times, people were buried near their family homes, not in communal cemeteries like today.

The term gravestone has emerged from a Jewish custom, wehere the visitor would place a stone/stones at the head as a sign of respect to the deceased. This was inspired by a Jew who broke the Sabbath in order to write a note to solve a crime. He later felt guilty, and wanted his grave to be “stoned” after he has passed. The tradition became popular after this incident.

Churchyard burials became increasingly popular, and evolved through the period of 1650-1900, where variations of different shapes made from sandstone or slate replaced the random rocks that were used previous to this period. Inscriptions carved on slate were often shallow, and overtime this has worn due to weather errosion, making the inscription unreadable.

Public Cemeteries in the 19th Century evolved. People were giving more and more importance to the headstone, as it means to memorialize death. People started to write less and less on the gravestone, and used the symbolism of the headstone as the main memorial, not the words as such.

Since the 1850s, granite has been used a the material of choice for gravestones as it is resilient against weather errosion and easily accessible. The same can be said about marble, bronze and limestone, which has been discovered and used more frequently


Engraving takes a huge amount of patience and skill in order to get the desired crisp lettering effect. Historically, craftsmen would hand engrave the stone, however this would take a huge amount of time and effort. In the modern day, gravestones are often laser etched using computers to coordinate diamond tipped routers in order to save time. This also means that incredible detail can be engraved onto stone. Even photographs of the deceased can be carved in an inexpensive way.

Design Process – Bevel & Emboss Illustrator

Design 1

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 16.25.59.pngI want my memorial to reflect my artistic and creative abilities, and also my sporting passion. I focused on choosing my typeface, trying different combinations, and taking onboard what I learnt in my previous post about carving in stone and the history of type. I then went onto thinking about how I might carve the type using effects in illustrator.

I came across this really helpful and useful tutorial to create this carving effect using photoshop. I first made a text box and typed my text that I had planned from my original sketches. I then changed the fill colour to white and then the blending mode of the text to multiply.Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 16.13.39.png

I then went to the layers blending options, where I adjested the bevel & emboss, inner shadow, colour overlay, and gradient overlay to achieve the carved effect.

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I then drew the shape of my gravestone in illustrator, applying a a sponge effect to make the gravestone look more realistic and less flat. I exported it as a psd, and then opened it in photoshop. I moved the layer below the text layers and from there I was able to see the text effect on stone.Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 16.25.02.png

To emphasise my name, I scaled the words to be read clearly and from a distance. I also added light weighted strokes above and below my name. I copied the layer style from the text and pasted it onto the line layers, creating the engraved effect.

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Design 2

Instead of making a stone effect, I wanted to look at how the text would look on a different materials. I sourced an image of a marble slab and used that for my gravestone. I imported the image into photoshop, and then started thinking about my choice of typeface.

My research has moved me onto different combinations of type. As a graphic designer, I have a great interest in typography, and I wanted this to be reflected in my typeface choices. I wanted to use Blackletter type, as this is the origin of the first printed typeface in Europe. The typeface has a lot of contrast between thick and thin strokes, which could be used as a decorative typeface. The serifs often have small embellishments to add interest which will also look nice on a gravestone. I used the typeface “Blackletter Extra Bold” which should stand out and be aesthetically pleasing on my gravestone.

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I copied and pasted the layer style of the previous design, and tweaked the the values of the bevel and emboss, inner shadow an gradient overlay to achieve a realistic engraved look.

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I chose the typeface “Garmond” which has less dramatic strokes and serifs compared to the blackletter type, and I think this contrast works well. I want my name to be readable and clear. Garmond, as previously mentioned in my research, has been used to engrave for centuries, and has a great historical significance. This makes it a perfect choice of typeface for my memorial. I used this for both my name and the quote below, adding contrast by adjusting the weight of the typeface. I used Garmond semi-bold for my name, and Garmond regular for the quote.

Below is the final finished design. I much prefer this to design one. I feel the typefaces are contrasting yet complimenting each other. I may however test print to make sure the type shows up well on the dark marble below. I may change the stone to a different colour if necessary.

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Research Into Gravestone Typography

I took to the internet to find some guidance as to what typefaces are typically used to produce a gravestone.

Its important to choose the right typeface. Whichever style i choose will have a big impact on the aesthetics of the gravestone, and how people might remember me.

Different types of Typefaces 


Roman is a serif mimicking the style of ancient Rome. This style is the most common and classic serif used in todays times. Roman also refers to any upright typefaces, (as opposed to italic, slanted, or script)

Classic examples: Baskerville, Caslon, Garmond, Bembo & Times New RomanScreen Shot 2016-05-31 at 18.46.01.png

You can get a feel for how Garmond looks as a typeface when carved in stone in the image below. The serifs and and thin strokes make it easy for the reader to read in along a line, and also gives a sharp effect when engraved.



Script is a contemporary typeface  that has become more popular in the modern era. Based on a varied an fluid stroke originating from the handwritten word. They can be categorised into more formal types to cursive writing, and more casual scripts. The image below shows a quote engraved in a more contemporary, fluid script typeface.

Old English

Otherwise referred to as Gothic, Fraktur, or Blackletter, was used in the Guthenburg Bible, one of the first books ever printed in Europe. The style is easily distinguished by its dramatic thick and thin strokes, and embellishments to serifs. They evolved in Western Europe from the mid 12th century. Four major familes can be identified from blackletter typefaces can be identified:BlackletterChart


This may be added to a graves stone for artistic effect, and to add contrast against the other typefaces. Also its a very (German) but British and European looking typefaces, and wouldn’t be out of place on a gravestone in an English church.

Serif or Sans Serif?

Its believed that serif typefaces are popular for body text because the added serifs make it easy to read along a line. They are not however common choices for hand writing styles except for  capital letters. Serif typefaces originated from inscriptional lettering, and the earliest examples of this is in carvings from Roman antiquity. The historical usage for serif typefaces is extensive, however sans serif fonts gives the gravestone a more contemporary feel.

Sans serif typefaces are a popular choice for headings because their larger appearance doesn’t effect the readability in anyway. The sans serif genre has grown in popularity since it was officially recognised as a typographic term in the 1830s.

The Experts Say…

John Champman from Studio Jubilee, an independent print and website design studio, knows the importance of choosing the right typeface fro the right scene. He says:

“An obvious choice of typeface for engraving is Gill Sans, designed in 1926 by controversial Eric Gill. It has become, in many ways, quintessentially British; helped in part by considerable use from the BBC and Penguin Books. In addition to being a type designer and fine artist, Gill was a sculptor and stone cutter, and this is reflected in the sculptural qualities of the humanist letterforms. Gill Sans feels very natural cut from stone, almost peaceful in tone, which is perhaps why it’s used extensively by the Church of England. 

A less obvious choice is perhaps Haptik, a Swiss typeface by Grilli Type designed in 2010. Stylistically, Haptik is much more dynamic and contemporary than Gill Sans. Each letterform is optimised to be read blindfolded and by touching them. The design being not primarily focused on optic appearance gives the type a unique appearance. Shapes and lines are emphasised and exaggerated, as if you’re tracing the letters with your finger. Engraving type from stone is a tactile experience, and so is looking at the finished piece — encouraging you look closer and touch the words yourself.”

The information about Gill Sans is particularly interesting. Although I’ve heard of Gill Sans as a typeface, and knowing he featured in the history of typography, I didn’t know the connotations and importance of his typographic work. He’s associated with the phrase “quintessentially British” due to his work with The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and penguin books, another British company. Gill Sans as a typeface feels very natural cut from stone, and this is due to Gill’s background in sculpture and stone cutting. This is reflected in his humanist letterforms.

John Chapman also talks about Haptik, which is another interesting typeface. It has been optimized to be read by touching the letterforms. The typefaces shapes and strokes have been exaggerated to increase the readability of not only the generic reader, but one that may be visually impaired. This is important to note as I want my gravestone to be read by everyone easily, but still keeping the aesthetic beauty.

Seaford Memorial Inscriptions Group, a team of experts that are trying to make a record of every single memorial inscription in the East Sussex Town of Seaford, put together a list of key points to make an effective gravestone. After studying hundreds of gravestones, their knowledge is extensive and is a very trusted source.

–       Use plain capital letters in a sans-serif font, such as Arial, Tahoma, Times, Verdana (but not e.g. Comic Sans with additional curves)

–       Avoid lower case and italic

–       The larger the characters, the longer they’ll remain legible

–       Vary the size of letters to emphasise names etc.

–       Don’t expect painted lettering to remain painted

–       Avoid beginning and ending lines of text close to the edges of the memorial (leave a decent margin)

–       Expect the original fresh colour of the stone to change

Although my gravestone will just be a digital concept design, it’s still important to take into consideration the legibility of the type after weathering over time. Interestingly they advice to stay away from lower case and italics, which may be down to the fact that weathering will make these letters difficult to read.


Introduction to Memorial Brief

After deciding to choose the memorial brief for my final end of year project, I read Banbrooks brief about making your own memorial. It states that I should consider my interests in life and express them on a gravestone for everyone to remember me by. My initial thoughts for my research would be to explore the history of type in more detail, and choose a typeface that reflects my personality and life. I also want to look at other gravestones and dissect what I like and dislike about the typography used. This will then give me a good platform to then choose a typeface for my own design, and understanding what typeface I am looking for when searching through my typekit.