A Philadelphia section has just been added to the main archive (HERE), with photos primarily taken along the Market-Frankford SEPTA line in West Philadelphia.

The area is predominantly residential, though the population has dwindled in recent years. There are small commercial clusters around the El stops, but lots are mostly vacant and storefronts boarded up and decaying. Work from public art initiatives like the incredible Mural Arts Program pop up all over the city and brighten blighted areas and transform public space.

Here’s a quick preview:

Here’s an interesting interactive city map that gives a larger view of the vacancies in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods (link).


If you’re around the Chelsea area in the next few days, stop by the Joshua Liner Gallery to check out the ICY sign shop with work by Sean Barton, Lew Blum, Justin Green, Mike Lee, Dan Murphy, Steve Powers, Alexis Ross, and Matt Wright.

In addition to the work along the walls and the tornado of grocery style signs, there are work tables and nooks set up in a carefully curated chaos (the flotsam and jetsam accumulated throughout the course of the show).

The most interesting parts are the stray bits, the practice marks, doodles, and guidelines that are normally invisible or go unnoticed in a finished sign.

ICY makes the signs that should be all over New York. There’s a life to sign painting that can’t be recreated in cheaply cut vinyl and mass produced signage.

Perfection Is Standard, Mistakes Cost Extra
ICY Signs + Stephen Powers
Joshua Liner Gallery
540 West 28th Street
Through November 16


Venice is one of the strangest and most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

The city is made up of 118 islands, some connected by small footbridges and others accessible only by boat. On streets along the lagoon, the sun bounces off of the greenish water, casting an eery and beautiful glow on the surrounding buildings. Inland, the streets are labyrinthine and narrow, with shadowy walls along passageways that preserve signs and markings from long ago. The water (along with its sometimes sulfur smell) is pervasive and somewhat startling.

The most common letterforms in Venice are the nizioletti, the streets and numbers stenciled directly onto buildings. Street names are stenciled with black paint on white rectangles, framed with a black border. Numbers and directional signs are stenciled in red on white backgrounds, though newer yellow signs with black type is common for directions to the more popular tourist attractions.

Much of Venice is geared towards its estimated 20 million tourists, rather than its 60,000 residents. Banners protesting oversized cruise ships and stickers mocking the Disney-ification of the city are prevalent throughout the streets.

Photos from Florence and Rome on the main site. Non-typography photos of Venice here. Full set of Venice typography photos will be posted soon.


Last week, I made an appointment at the Brooklyn Historical Society to look through their manuscript collection and peruse the incredible typography and lettering.

The building itself is pretty amazing (with some of the nicest doorknobs I’ve ever seen). It was built in 1881, designed by architect George B. Post specifically for the Long Island Historical Society (as the Society was then known). Books and magazines from the last several hundred years line the stacks of the library, and nearly all of them contain beautiful letterforms.

I looked through boxes and boxes of club ephemera, certificates, and maps from the 19th and 20th centuries. Here are a few good ones:

The Historical Society library is open to the public, but if you want to look at the archives and manuscript collections, you’ll need an appointment.

(Though it creates a nice ambience for a library, the lighting is not ideal for photographing documents, so please excuse the not-so-great photos.)

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201


While wandering around in Florence (trying to avoid the Road World Championship) I walked by a printing studio on Via Guelfa. Raul, the printer inside, beckoned me in and showed me around as he set my name on a composing stick. We talked about Lou Reed and then I was on my way.

Tipografia Arno
Via Guelfa 38R


Ice boxes are a streetside staple of New York bodegas. The typography and architecture vary slightly from model to model, but the basic formula is the same: snow-capped red shadow type on a battered white cooler, somewhat obscured by hastily rendered tags and stickers. A few seen recently in Brooklyn and Manhattan:


Despite efforts to revitalize Newark, many of the businesses and storefronts in the downtown area remain shuttered and crumbling. Signs advertise businesses that are long gone and the ghost signs that pepper brick walls are fading away, being erased by weather and construction cranes. The signs and buildings that remain (like the beautiful Newark Theater Marquee, United States Savings Bank Building, and the Griffith Piano Company Building) are boarded up, advertised over, or covered by For Rent signs. Here are a few favorites (including a surviving Solari flip board in Newark’s Penn Station) from a recent trip to Newark, taken mostly on and around Broad, Market, and Halsey Streets:

More photos from Newark here and here.


Here are a few of my favorite shots from a recent trip to Berlin. The city has beautiful neon, fading hand painted signs, wild train station designs, Futura everywhere, Zoidbergs, some fine umlauts, and graffiti–lots and lots of graffiti.

p.s. I maybe accidentally deleted the main Vernacular Typography website. It will be back up shortly with a couple thousand new images. Updates will be posted here and here—>