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…

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    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:…

  • Molly Woodward Vernacular Typography Florence Italy Tipografia Arno Via Guelfa


    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 Firenze 50129 Italia

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    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:

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  • Molly Woodward Vernacular Typography Newark New Jersey Newark Theater Marquee


    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…

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  • Vernacular Typography Berlin UBahn Train Station Sign Lettering


    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—> Follow @VernacularType

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  • Woodward Vernacular Typography Desert Israel Neon Billboard


    A preview of the new Israel section soon to be added to the main archive. Typography and lettering from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Ein Gedi, Tzfat, Golan Heights, Negev Desert, random kibbutzim, and other places. If you’re interested in supporting Vernacular Typography, consider making a donation to the project through Artspire & New York Foundation for the Arts 501(c)3 HERE. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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    Summer is gone and so is Coney Island as I remember it. Coney Island was once populated by an incredible landscape of signs and symbols. The few storefronts that retain their unique signage seem more and more endangered with every visit. In 2004, a Creative Time initiative attempted to revive the fading signscape. A group of 25 artists formed The Dreamland Artsits Club and hand painted murals in the area as well as signs for local businesses. Sadly, even many of those have since disappeared or have become isolated fragments. Despite neighborhood opposition, development corporations continue to homogenize and strip Coney Island of its personality, replacing beautiful and inventive lettering…

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