All over the world, beautiful signage is being destroyed and replaced by homogenized signs that threaten to erase local culture and history. In Paris–where even public restroom signage is worthy of intricate and inventive mosaic detailing–that loss is devastating.
Graphique de la Rue is Louise Fili’s Parisian follow up to last year’s typographic wander through Italy, Grafica della Strada. Fili’s collection of the Parisian letterscape beautifully captures and celebrates the forms that mark, illuminate, and symbolize the city’s boulevards and rues.
Like a typographic madeleine through the streets of Paris, the signs documented in Graphique de la Rue are a powerful trigger of memory and evoke a strong sense of place. For those unfamiliar with the signs or Paris, the book acts as a transportive introduction that can be appreciated aesthetically as well as for its historic value.
Some signs are ornate, others wordless, sometimes odd, but mostly, they’re just beautiful.
A small graveyard in the back of the book mourns the loss (and subsequent replacement) of a few of Fili’s favorites, and serves as a reminder of the uncertain future of these typographic landmarks.
Graphique de la Rue will be available from Princeton Architectural Press September 1.
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
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.
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:
Some titles you might find on the bookshelves of a former English teacher and computer engineer in upstate New York:
This cache of vintage tees was recently rediscovered at the bottom of a drawer upstate. In the 80s, my uncle (an incredible sports photographer and writer who has photographed for the USTA and Nike) frequented a custom shirt kiosk at the mall. These are some of the gems he made (note the fuzzy Cooper Black type and pre-photoshop hand cutting and pasting of images):
These 5 signs were found within a 4 block radius in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. DUMBO is watching you.
Vernacular Typography tees, stationery (and unsanctioned totes) are now available at Abahouse in Japan.
Check out their posts with more pictures here and here.
Retailers interested in carrying the tees and stationery line can contact hello (at) vernaculartypography (dot) com for more information or to request a lookbook.
The first line of Vernacular Typography t-shirts is now available through Homestead LTD in Japan. US ordering information and other inquiries can be sent to hello[at]vernaculartypography[dot]com.
Hats, bags, and other things forthcoming.
These shirts are soft. Like really soft.