Street type

Some time back Grafik magazine asked me to contribute a few short pieces to its Daily Type series. The format is delightfully simple: share some photographs of letterforms you encounter and say a few words about them. It’s an exercise that helps to sharpen your eye, and your thinking, on the designed world around you. I love a bit of thoughtless instagramming as much as the next iPhone user, but stopping to look harder and think through what you’re seeing can be satisfying. I’ve reproduced my contribution here. There’s also a link to the Grafik Daily Type archive at the end – it’s worth exploring.









At first glance this seems like a sign from decades ago. Read the words closely and it becomes clear it’s a contemporary piece done in retro style (‘250 watt high power woofers’ is one giveaway that this isn’t from the 1950s). I don’t care that it’s a pastiche. I like the colour and spacing of the letters, and that phrase ‘Actually Everything’. I hope it evades the hands of philistines and weathers beautifully for a century.









My wife, Lesley Katon, noticed that an old shop on Brick Lane was being gutted in preparation for development. Its hand painted sign was going to be broken up and thrown away. We managed to contact the landlord and he agreed his builders would remove it for us. Unfortunately, some of the lettering wouldn’t come away when they took off the glass, and the delicate flakes of gold and green you can see here slowly blew away with the wind. We’re planning to restore the parts of the sign that are left.









Sitting at the junction of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road, this shop has recently been developed into a luxurious fashion store called 123. Behind the friendly façade of Moderne Buckles lurked a secret – it was one of London’s largest illegal gun factories. With the owners locked up, it stood empty for years, serving only as a high profile canvas for street artists. I loved this particular meeting of old and new East End, with Andy Uprock using the grille beneath the original sign as a grid for his plastic cup lettering.









I came across this sign on the Isle of Wight. The effects of weathering have started to alter the spirit of the message. ‘Neighbourhood’ has become ‘our hood’. The girl appears rather ghostly and alone, while her mother now looks more like her grandma and seems a tad anxious. The friendly bobby sports a rather dashing white tie, while the father brings a touch of camp.









I’m interested in what happens when works of design leave their comfortable home in the studio and go out into a world of rain, wind, sun, theft, vandalism, street art, rebuilding, redesign and abandonment. This clothes shop in Whitechapel leaves me wondering what happened to the original ‘o’. Who took it away? Where does it live now? Was it pink or green? I also like the way the weather is redesigning the secondary lettering from a standard weight and shape to something rather avant-garde and bespoke.

You can see more photographs of typographica at World of Good, a collaboration with Lesley Katon.

The Grafik Daily Type archive is now housed at etapes, over here.


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