Signs & Lettering

Lined Numerals

I’ve had these lined numerals by Steven Jockisch bookmarked for a while — too busy tweeting and working to get a decent post up here I guess. They remind me of a few things I’ve seen, which made me wonder whether I’d posted about them (or a similar project) before, but it seems not. Noted for inspiration.

On Maps Made of Words

The last time I posted about a set of maps made of words I was a bit hesitant about it. The map itself was attractive, and I liked a lot of things about it (I wouldn’t have posted it otherwise) but I did wonder how much of it was automatically generated, and how much of it was done by hand.

Not that there’s any problem with generating things automatically, as it takes just as much (if not more, sometimes) craft and creative energy to design, program and build something to do that, but sometimes with the computer generated stuff there’s a question of, “How much of this did you do?” Is it a plugin or script you downloaded? Should we be crediting someone else with the creativity and diligence to program the thing, and you with the idea to use it like this? Does it actually matter? It’s not like effort is ever any measure of quality, but of course we naturally associate a premium with something made in a way that doesn’t scale (through difficulty, moods, inspiration, randomness and so on), so that it becomes a unique object, or at least a rare one — this is the premium of the handmade, the crafted object. So this is what I was wondering about when I saw these maps by Seagull’s Hut, not made of type but hand-lettered, and then printed as limited editions:

I’m reminded of Jeremy Tankard’s Shire Types. Know what I mean?

It’s not like you can buy the original artwork, but it is in itself is unique, and the prints from it can only be copies of it; you can’t make new originals, which is something you can’t say for anything algorithmically produced. Well, unless you create AIs and they become conscious and develop an artistic sensibility that is. I’ve raised that issue before and had quite the flood of crazy comments from the internet’s vibrant and vocal apocalyptic tendency, including the gloriously and perhaps unwittingly eloquent, “humans will be instinct”.

So yes, don’t get me wrong, I do like the maps from Seagull’s Hut. Shame I can’t link to them directly, but go and take a look at their store. I don’t think I’ll be posting about any more maps made from lettering or type though. The inspiration has become a meme, and is ever more dulled by the transformation.

Chemical Color Corporation

I wanted to trace this for the fun conceit of the C being used as a retort stand. It’s an interesting way of dealing with the open space created inside the Ch pair — I don’t think it quite works, the horizontal bar is a bit clumsy and the positioning of the retort glass itself could be more balanced, but it is all rather fun. I’ve traced it as best I can, not having any higher resolution example than what you see below, so yes, the script is quite clunky. At a certain point you realise you’re creating rather than copying. Who knows, maybe the original was even more wonky? I’d love to see a high-res example of it though. Originally seen here on CO₂Comics, via Drawn.

The Ames Lettering Guide

It’s so good to see Drawn (sort of) back again, I’d sorely missed its regular supply of illustrations and tutorials and feared it would never come back. But no, thankfully it’s back (as a Tumblr blog) with a beautiful new logo lettered by Chris Gardner. The grammar wonk in me is glad they’ve dropped the exclamation mark from their name too — makes referring to it a little easier, no?

So yes, the Ames Lettering Guide — Drawn linked to a nice tutorial on using one by Dustin Harbin, which brought back some memories of school for me. I remember we were shown how to use one and set some exercises, but since then the hand lettering I’ve done hasn’t had quite the constraints (or the volume) to need anything more than a ruler and a bit of patience, so I’d completely forgotten the thing existed. I’m sure there’s one back at my parents’ in a box somewhere. Maybe I’ll dig it out, because now it seems like a useful thing to have around.

Pink Ribbon Lettering

This has been around for a while, but I’ve only just seen it. Niels Meulman of Calligraffiti (AKA Shoe) was commissioned to customise a Mercedes-Benz B-Class by the Pink Ribbon Foundation in the Netherlands. The work consists of hundreds of women’s names, representing the Dutch women the foundation works to help, and is a product of Mercedes’ sponsorship of the foundation. Whatever you think of corporate sponsorship, the end result is pretty spectacular. I especially like the excess ink running down the side of the car, it enriches the flamboyance of the hand lettering and is a welcome contrast to the usual corporate image of Mercedes — and is a badge of honour to confound the cynics, that yes, this was done by hand, live, as it were. Go and look at the video, but I warn you, this is YouTube, so the usual vile trolls have infested the comments.

Armenian Type

I’ve noticed a fair bit of interest on Twitter and the like recently on the subject of Armenian script, perhaps inspired by Carolyn Puzzovio’s talk on the subject at ATypI 2010. I’ve been meaning to have a look into the subject since then, so I’m glad Nina Stössinger and Hrant Papazian have created, a great new site devoted to the subject of the Armenian script and alphabet. It was only launched a few hours ago and the content is still being added to. In the words of Hrant:

We’d love to see anybody and everybody with even a remote curiosity about the Armenian script check it out, register for the mailing list, and post comments.Hrant on Typophile

It’s a beautiful alphabet. Look on the site for the full gallery, but here are a couple of my favourites so far:

Captioning Maximilian

I’ve had some of these woodcuts of The Triumph of Emperor Maximilian open in various tabs for a couple of weeks now, daring me to trace some of the captions on them. It’s not the easiest of jobs, as even in the highest resolution some of the fine lines are too faint to make out clearly, and some of the strokes are hard to understand, so I figure I’d trace one of the banners and see how it worked out. Well, not so bad, but a good learning exercise — the extra flourishes and swashes seem particularly arbitrary (“When are they not?”, you might ask, but these especially so) and it’s interesting to see how this rather florid style is put together. I guess that makes it sound like I’m not fond of it; quite the contrary, I love it.

A couple of the captions from here, obviously not in the same relative positions.

Ampersand Print

Well with a title like “Ampersand Print” this post could refer to any number of things, but this time it’s this rather pleasant letterpress print by Colorcubic. It’s a limited edition of 250, but as I type they have some in stock — I just bought one in fact. The image is a recreation of Herb Lubalin’s ampersand made of Inksie’s four icons and what with the tiny symbols tracing the thin lines it reminds me of fractal patterns. However, unlike most fractals this looks good and it’ll go great on my wall.


This is a very belated post, but one I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Cameron Moll’s Colosseo Type poster is a joy to behold. The level of detail in it is astounding, using type to create textures, patterns and outlines to illustrate the Colosseum. The piece is letterpress, and took over 250 hours to create; it’s set in Goudy Trajan and Bembo Pro, and interestingly, some glyphs recreated using tracing and redrawing:

Additionally, glyphs have been recreated based on the work of master Italian calligrapher M. Giovambattista Palatino, as featured in Libro di M. Giovambattista Palatino Cittadino Romano, published in Rome around 1550 AD.Cameron Moll

Belated or not, it turns out now is a good time to post this as Moll is having a sale of not just this, but the Salt Lake Temple poster and the EPS of the traced glyphs from the Palatino book (one of which is up at the top right). So yes, 25% off, and you get a free glyphs poster with one of the larger posters. Excuse the sales-y tone, but I think these posters are worth every penny; they’re lovely on screen, but as physical objects they’re quite beautiful.



I was catching up on some reading recently and found this post on Pascal Zoghbi’s site, 29 letters, on the first printing press in the Middle East. There’s an interesting bit of history around its very existence in the Middle East at all. It was imported from England in 1585 to Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Qozhaya (a valley in modern day Lebanon) which was at the time part of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout the Empire, printing presses (and printed books) had been effectively banned following an edict by Bayezid Ⅱ in 1483. I’ve been reading up on the reasoning for the ban, and it seems that the public reason was that of piety; Arabic was the language of the Qu’ran and therefore was deemed a sacred language, so it was only allowed to be written by hand. The idea of the ‘Word of God’ being squeezed onto paper by a machine was supposedly anathema. There are of course other possible (and to my mind, rather more likely) reasons, in that the industry of copying out books and manuscripts was particularly lucrative and those who did it effectively used their considerable lobbying power to protect their interests. There’s no direct evidence for that, but, well, plus ça change and all that.

Some alternate glyphs from Serdo Mardin, and some photo details from 29 letters.

Anyway, regardless of the reason, the Monastery must have had a dispensation to be allowed to use a press at all, and I imagine as part of the deal they would have had to promise not to print Arabic, and here is where they stuck to the letter (literally) of the law, but not the spirit. Instead of the Arabic script, they used the Syriac. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, and was once dominant across the Middle East. By the time that printing press was delivered to the Monastery, it was in serious decline and replaced for most practical purposes by Arabic, except in the Christian liturgy (I freely admit that it was more complicated than that, but, moving on…). So the canny monks printed books in the Arabic language, but using the Syriac script. Sneaky. And here we get to the whole reason for this post, which is a wholehearted, will you look at that beautiful script! It’s really quite lovely. As before with a script I’m not familiar with, I’m not going to start trying to write stuff using a font that supports it, but I’ve taken some of the alternate glyphs from the font Serto Mardin that show the diagonal strokes the best. Beautiful stuff. I also traced a bit from one of the photos, which is up at the top of this post.