The Fading Memory of Departure Boards

    Goodbye to the Solari Board. If you’ve been to any major train station in the past 15 years, chances are you’re familiar with a certain sound: the flip​, flip, flip of a large overhead departure board every time it updates. But that sound is becoming increasingly rare as analog boards that click—what are known as split-flap displays or Solari boards—are being replaced by digital versions. In January 2017, Amtrak removed its large overhead departure board from the middle of Penn Station and replaced it with a fleet of digital screens scattered throughout the floor. Penn Station is a universally detested space. Walking through it doesn’t generally inspire romanticism or happiness.…

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    Vegetarians, avert your gaze. Fewer things go better together than meat and whatever is next to meat. In the open dining rooms of many a Texas meatery, that companion to meat just so happens to be typography (printed, painted, scrawled, drawn, lettered, what have you). The signs of these establishments are honest and direct. In all shapes, styles, and formats (and sometimes obscured by decades of smokey oak) they unequivocally point the way to meat. What follows is a pictorial survey of the meat and corresponding typography & lettering of some of the finest BBQ I have ever known.

  • Woodward_Vernacular Typography_Montreal_026


    A quick preview of lettering and vernacular typography in Montréal. Because of Quebec’s strict language laws, French is the dominant language on street signs and in commercial signage. Multi-lingual signs in Israel (here & here) and Ireland (here).

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  • Molly Woodward Vernacular Typography New Orleans Royal Pharmacy Storefront Sign


    An assorted sample of vernacular typography and lettering found recently in New Orleans. There’s no single dominant style of lettering, but rather a mix of everything (hand painted, hand scrawled, fading ghost ads–many layered over even older ghost signs, tile, neon, and about any other type of signage imaginable). The connecting thread seems to be the omnipresent plastic beaded necklaces twisted and dangling over most signs. Also, beignets. Follow @VernacularType

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    Recent construction has revealed the ghostly remnants of an ad applied to the side of 37 Union Square West. The ornate sign, partially obscured by a window frame, was illegible on its own, but a Library of Congress image of Union Square West from 1894 shows a clearer view of the same swirly signature, which reads Sarony. Below his signature, an even fainter “Portraits” is (barely) visible. Napoleon Sarony was a Canadian-born artist and lithographer living in New York. He moved to Europe in the 1850s for formal artistic training and later learned wet plate photography from his brother, a successful commercial photographer in England. In 1866, he moved back…

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