Thursday 7th Oct 2010
I was going through some old photos I found in a folder and came across this one. I took it in Brighton several years ago, there were some roadworks in the North Laine and I must have wondered at the tape and signage buried in it. I found it amusing when I saw it again and rather like the effect, so I’m putting it up here.
Friday 30th Oct 2009
I’ve been browsing through some of the copies of LIFE magazine in this wonderful archive on Google Books, and as well as the photography and journalism I’ve found some real type treasures, especially in the advertisments. Some of the slogans and phrases read just like bits of pangrams or the beautiful mini-stories that Font Bureau create for their type samplers, and some of the type and lettering is quite lovely. The ones below are mostly from this issue from May 1945. A few are also from this one, which also has a short article and some photos (from page 43) of the first Lewes Bonfire night after the end of World War Ⅱ - something of local interest at least to me (and other Sussex people).
I thought I’d mentioned pub signs before here, but clearly not. For anyone interested in typography and lettering, pub signs are a great source of inspiration and ideas. I remember noticing the lettering on the side of the Waggon and Horses back in 2003 or so - the picture at the bottom was taken about then at least - and thinking how nice it was. Since then we’ve had a smoking ban in the UK, meaning outside seating is a pretty good thing for a pub to have, and there’ve been some great pedestrian-friendly developments here in Brighton, so any pub with one and near the other should be doing quite well. I hope.
So anyway, the Waggon and Horses has recently spruced up their seating area and repainted the outside and the fascia boards, which means new lettering, which I like very much, and which is why I’m putting a picture of it here. I was struggling a little bit to remember what it looked like before but Flickr came to the rescue; this one is probably the prettiest (nicely showing the front of the Brighton Dome there) but this one is probably the clearest. That café in the second Flickr pic is now a Japanese restaurant. Times change…
Sunday 20th Sep 2009
This has nothing to do with type (well, not much) but I found it so remarkable I want to post about it anyway. Alex Roman has created a series of CG images and short films, based on real places, with a remarkable level of realism and beauty. At first I thought they’d been filmed and photographed with some high quality HD SLR, and wondered at the air of hyper-realism some of them have, especially the second one in this set. The sound design and visuals are great, but the use of type in the videos is rather odd and to my eye adds a small, if jarring, discordant note to the whole project: I’ve come across people mixing upper- and lower-case and using extreme kerning before (not so much kerning as tangling in this case) and it’s rarely successful. Still, to harp on about that would seem churlish as the rest of the project is so good. Some stills below to whet your appetite, and the project website is here.
Whenever I’ve seen this car around Brighton it’s either been very dark or I’ve not had a (decent) camera with me, so it was good the other day to see it sat there in full sunshine, and me with a proper camera too. Too few people decorate their cars, fearing perhaps for the resale value, but seeing this car I can’t help but wish more people would have a go. Whoever you are who did this, thanks!
Sunday 14th Jun 2009
I love projects like this, a Flickr group purely for Royal Mail postboxes identified by postcode. There are currently 5679 photos in the group, so is getting to be a pretty good catalogue of the postboxes in the UK - though with 115,000 in total there’s still a way to go. One of the first ones I clicked was pretty close to where I’m from, and lo, a quick search reveals the one very close to where I grew up. Ah, memories.
One of the interesting things about all these postboxes is the variety in the emblems of the reigning monarch - from Victoria to Elizabeth, they range from the florid and calligraphic to the frankly rather austere. Naturally, I’ve had a play around recreating some of the emblems, below. I wonder at the unnumbered George ones though; I’d guess they must be from during the Second World War, or directly afterwards - they suggest the Austerity period to me, but why no number? The extra metal and work required would be minimal, after all. As for the other later ones, the lettering looks to be inspired by Caslon types, though with plenty of variation from the hand-carved moulds, which has given them various profile styles from soft to sharp-edged, strengthening and highlighting the symbols - a kind of 3D hinting, if you like. I hope the effect was intentional, as it’s rather nice.
Perhaps controversially, I also had a bit of a play at creating a symbol for Prince Charles when (or if?) he becomes king. He may choose to reign as George VII, though from a design point of view I hope not - if he keeps his current first name he can have that ‘III’ fitting into the counter of the C, which I rather like the look of.
While browsing NOTCOT earlier, I came across this post linking to this frankly quite amazing set of light writing photos by Julien Breton (also via this post). You know the idea; set the camera up in a dark place on a very long exposure, and use something like a flashlight or LED penlight to draw shapes. I’ve seen some beautiful examples before (bottom), but nothing as intricate and detailed as these. These are quite close crops; you can view the full images and get more information on Breton’s site.
I thought I’d already posted about these images from LAPP - Light Art Performance Photography. I can’t remember when I first saw them but they fascinate me, I’d love to watch some of these being made. The site has added a load of new photos since I last looked so it looks like they’re pretty active in creating new works too. Great stuff:
Sunday 22nd Feb 2009
I recently rediscovered The Art of the Title Sequence site, which is a goldmine of inspiration for anyone who needs to animate type, and I’m surprised I’ve not posted about it before. Title sequences are remarkable in that they have to fulfil some important roles in a film - they’ve got to tell you who made it, who’s in it, who paid for it, in a way that complements and introduces the film (but is clearly not the film itself, so you can get all your arrangements with popcorn/noisy snacks/coughing/sneezing, etc. out of the way), and all in a short a time as possible. Those requirements provide a fertile ground for all sorts of creativity, to the extent that the title sequence becomes a genre in itself: a very specific kind of animated short; an animated infographic if you like. So we have sites like this one for people like me to trawl through and drool over lovely examples of typography, lettering and iconography. First up, one of my favourite films, Bullitt.
When I first saw this sequence I was scrabbling for my camera to try and get some shots of the lettering, but didn’t manage to get much worthwhile. The typeface is just beautiful, and I’ve always wanted a copy of it, but after a lot of investigation it turns out there isn’t an exact digital version of it. There’s a very, very similar one called XXII Black Block, but you’ll notice that it has slanted terminals on the E and T - almost there, but not quite.
Next up is Stranger Than Fiction, a film I’ve never seen but might get around to watching one day just because the title sequence is interesting. It looks like it could be great or dreadful, and nowhere in between. Either way, the title sequnce is great and makes playful use of type, instructional iconography and labelling to enhance the story. I like the way the labels for everything definitely feel like part of the main character’s world, his obsessions, so real to him, made visible (and real) in the world for us to see.
This next one is not so much about the type. It’s not really about the type at all. In fact, I hate the type in this one. The exploded diagrams are lovely and the way they tie in with the live footage of the Farnborough Air Show is highly compelling, so to have this clumsy uninspired type stuck over it is a real disappointment and a wasted opportunity. I’m including it in my favourites because you can imagine how nice it could be if a typographer had been given a chance to polish it up before delivery:
Gradually coming back to nice type with this one - I remember, years ago, playing around with analogue electronics to draw letters and simple shapes on oscilloscope screens and though it was pretty painful it was satisfying when it worked. The animations in Tron were done this way, with the flat surfaces coloured in later by hand. The end sequence for Iron Man deliberately references these very first vector graphics with these CAD-style animations, with the type done perfectly to match:
Next I’ve got this one which is just good solid no-frills typesetting, enlivened with great use of a close-up and, again, those vector graphics:
And last of all, a very satisfying and clever use of 3D to form the names and titles by constantly changing the camera angle. I imagine it would be a nice way to tell a short story, as I found myself watching it and reading the words quite comfortably. It’s paced very well, and the fascination you develop for how the letters come together makes it an entrancing experience:
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