Tag Archives: typography

Saving the Signs

Fundación Signes is promoting a campaign to save old shop signs that are at risk of disappearing. They are encouraging people to send pictures and note the exact locations, and have started building an online collection which already has some beautiful examples. It’s a great initiative and a particularly urgent one in cities like Barcelona, whose obsession with urban face-lifts and modernisation is creating an increasingly sterile environment. My recurrent nightmare, after a few months back in Barcelona, is that very soon there won’t even be a stretch of pavement left that is older than a decade or so. What this city needs is a Campaign for the Preservation of Grime and Urban Patina.

Another wonderful ongoing online project is José Antonio Millán’s Abecedario Industrial y del Comercio, which showcases hundreds of images of letters taken from commercial signs around Spain (mostly in Catalunya). Millán’s selection showcases the best – and worst!- of anonymous design’s creative drive, highlighting letters that try to represent the objects and services advertised. A fantastic overview of outsider typography.

Objectified – for the love of everyday stuff?

In 2007,  Gary Hustwit directed Helvetica, a small budget, feature-length documentary about the 50-year old typeface. A niche film with an undeniably nerdy topic, Helvetica soon became a global phenomenon. One of the film’s greatest achievements was the way in which it managed to convey both Helvetica’s extraordinary designer status and its truly impressive universal success as possibly the most ubiquitous and generic typeface in common use.

Now Hustwit is at work on stuff. Moving from graphics to objects, his next project, due to premiere in Spring of 2009, is aptly called Objectified. Here’s how the Objectified website describes the project:

Objectified is a feature-length independent documentary about industrial design. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. It’s about the people who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability. It’s about our relationship to mass-produced objects and, by extension, the people who design them.

And here’s the trailer:

Objectified looks set to become another runaway success with the design crowd, but the trailer really makes me wonder whether it will manage to provide us with any interesting views on our everyday relationship with things – with generic things. The beauty of Helvetica was that through the passionate and obsessive following of one font, the film took us deep into what most of us experience daily as no-design-land, the land of cinema tickets, road signs, TV news – just life, no designer tag. Objectified seems more concerned with designers and their creative process, a hardly innovative approach to the world of objects that yields little real insight into the average human relationship with manufactured goods, but lots of talk about ‘good design’ and ‘user needs’. But I might be mistaken. I really hope I am. I guess I just didn’t like the trailer. That’s funny, because I thought I did.

The Catalan Font Scene

Pradell by Andreu Balius, 2000.

Luc Devroye is a Professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and a very cool dude too, by the sound of it. Of the many appealing links on his website, which I’ve yet to explore fully, the ones I can’t wait to click on are ‘Abolish conference papers’, ‘No blind refereeing’,  ‘Bring on the drugs’ (possibly to help with refereeing blindly) and a poem called Sarkokaka.

But more to the point, he has published a pretty comprehensive directory of type design in Catalunya that he calls ‘The Catalan Font Scene’. He also has a Basque Scene page, and a Spanish Scene one. Prof Devroye adds a note explaining that he has ‘split the Spanish contributions politically (in)correctly into three parts, the Spanish page, a Catalan page and a Basque page’. Clearly, living in Canada makes one sensitive to that kind of stuff.

Anyway, the website offers font directories for many countries and languages, along with bibliograhical suggestions and an open invitation for type designers to join him for a drink at his place in Montreal. Did I say he was a dude?