Pisa Cathedral: Upcycling since 1064
4 September, 2016

I first heard about this interesting typographic attraction from Gerard Unger in a lecture at Reading in 2006-07. He shared some similar photos and told us how the cathedral was constructed using recycled stone from various places and how many of the stones bore inscriptions on them making for a unique facade.

Finally in 2010 I had a brief opportunity to visit Pisa. Of course for most tourists the tower is the focal point… That turned out to be quite beautiful itself, and worth seeing, but personally I was more interested in the cathedral. So while others were busy taking leaning selfies or were pretending to hold it up (or push it over), I was exploring for letters.

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Roman Inscriptions
2 September, 2016

These photos are all from my archives from a few trips to Rome. Many were found on the streets or in cathedrals, while others were from the Vatican museum (the epigraphic gallery is generally closed to the public I believe), The National Roman Museum (really great place!), and the Musei Capitolini (must see!).

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Letters from Genova
1 September, 2016

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Letters from Naples
31 August, 2016

A small collection from the archives of signs and lettering found in Naples in 2010.

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29 August, 2016

SPQR, abbreviation for the Latin phrase Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (meaning The Roman Senate and People), is found all over Rome. Without consciously trying, I collected a whole set of SPQRs on my latest trip to Rome. The variety found in just these few makes me want to go back and search out more.

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Beer Coasters
25 July, 2016

Kinda like giant, alcohol-themed stamps, beer coasters are interesting exercises in design and typography. This small collection of images comes via a little pub in Berlin. They had a massive wall of these, but here is just a taste of what was on display.

I think it’s something I’ll eventually want to start collecting… (I already have a few, I’ll post those soon.)

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Legendary Letters from the Rock & Soul Museum
18 April, 2016

Vintage type from a great museum. Highly recommended if you are passing through Memphis.


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Vintage type from Graceland
28 March, 2016

Some vintage type from the home of the King. There was everything from interesting kitchen appliance logos, to album art, awards, movie posters, blueprints, original advertising artwork, and chromeography from his pink Cadillac.

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Horn (NOT) OK Please
19 March, 2016

Unfortunately as you can see here, it’s no longer OK to Horn Please in Mumbai.

The words Horn Please or Horn OK Please are very common on every shape and size of truck throughout India. The origin of why this is so ubiquitous is a mystery, nevertheless, it has been around for decades and is a major feature in the look and personality of a truck. In 2014 two nice books on India’s painted trucks were published, both creatively titled “Horn Please”, one by Dan Eckstein and the other by Pawan Jain Divya Jain. I can recommend them incase you aren’t able to come see these trucks for yourselves before they are gone. Alternatevely, there’s even a new documentary on Indian Truck art also called Horn Please.

You are probably already aware that India has a rich history (and still common use) of hand painted signs and lettering and trucks in particular are often adorned with bright colors, fancy lettering, and all sorts of decorations. But sign painters all over the country are being put out of business by modernity – faster and cheaper printing, and to some extent, wanting a more simple/precise/Western look. Last year the Maharashtra state government made a move against the tradition of truck art by banning the phrase “Horn Please”. Their motivation for this new law stemmed on the fact that everyone honks all the time when driving, and they believe that painting this phrase on trucks encourages even more excess noise.

“It gives licence to motorists to honk unnecessarily and there have been numerous complaints of excessive honking in silence zones such as near hospitals, schools and colleges. We have, therefore, decided to impose a ban on the use of this phrase,” said a senior official from the transport commissioner’s office, adding that it will also help reduce noise pollution.

via Economic Times

This new mandate hasn’t entirely caught on yet, but as of 2016 more and more trucks around Mumbai are beginning to cover up their lettering. The quickest and cheapest way is to simply put tape over the words, but some are taking the extra step and crudely painting over it. Very rarely is anyone taking this opportunity to redesign and repaint the back of their truck… But hopefully when it comes times to paint or repaint these vehicles there will still be interest to apply some creativity and personalize them, and they won’t just leave an empty hole where Horn OK Please was once written. I optimistically predict more “don’t be horny” and “India is Great” paintings to start appearing soon in Maharashtra.



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The Volksbuehne Theater Covers Berlin in Amazing Posters
15 August, 2015

Going through my virtual piles of photos, I’ve came across a few posters that I’ve been wanting to post for some time. Made for the Berlin theater “Volksbühne“, this wonderful campaign has been going on for a couple years now, but never gets old.

Florian Hardwig has already written two extensive pieces (the first, and second) on this series some time ago, and they are very much worth checking out!

These posters stand out starkly against most of the other designs pasted all over the city. The layouts are deceptively simple, but the variety of typefaces and colors keep them looking fresh, eye-catching, and instantly recognizable every time. I’d consider this an incredibly “successful” redesign and advertising strategy… but I am deeply interested to know how this has affected ticket sales, website traffic, funding, etc. I hope the Volksbühne would call these a success as well.





Updates from 2016


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Indian Rupee Symbol ₹ in use (or not)
12 August, 2015

Recently on TypeDrawers, a question was asked about how the Indian rupee symbol is being utilized in casual handwriting in the wild. After about a year in India, I have indeed seen it written by hand, but not very often at all. After skimming through my 16,000+ photos from India from the last 3 years, I’ve found only one lonely image containing a handmade ₹.

But as I was searching through the images I came up with a few theories as to why there are so few handmade rupee symbols out there. The images I present here are beyond the scope of of the original question regarding casual, hand-written adaptations – some are here to back up my concepts/claims and others are shown to simply illustrate common situations of how you will find the ₹ in various contexts.

The main theories I have as to why you see so little of hand-written Rupee signs:

1) Many products found in markets or small shops (places you’d most expect to see handmade signs) don’t have prices written down. Customers must simply inquire about the cost (and of course, who is asking may or may not affect the price).

2) Most small items that are pre-packaged, processed, or manufactured have their prices printed directly on them (or on a sticker by the manufacture or importer). And since the price is already printed on the product, the shop feels no need to announce the price any further or more clearly, i.e. with tags or signs on the shelves.

3) Larger and more expensive products come from nicer or fancier shops, so they will almost always have their prices printed using actual typefaces (although probably without a matching ₹ symbol). They may or may not be directly on the packing, but it’s more likely there will be shelf tags and signs to indicate the price. (There are exceptions that fall into the first example – e.g. furniture shops that shows no prices, you must enquire about each item.)

* This idea is probably also related to the disappearance of hand-painted signs. Printed signs are considered more professional, no matter the quality, so places with printed signs are generally more expensive than those with painted ones (ironically, printed signs are often cheaper to produce than hand painted!)

There are certainly exceptions to these generalizations and I will try to track down counter examples. It should also be possible to find shops and markets that write rupee symbols by hand (but at least is Mumbai where I spend most of my time, it’s very uncommon – other cities may be different).

The first two images show some signs for food items, but without any prices.
The next four give prices along with the products, but they only list a number and give no indication of the currency.

The next four show variations of a very common treatment: the price like: 99/- or 99/. (Yes, that third image is from 2013 and it does indeed show a used book store in Pune actually trying to sell a 2006 Ikea catalog for 225₹ = €3.20 / $3.50).
The 5th image tries hard with the design-y variation: 699/*
On the receipt in the final image, they write no currency symbol, but there is a very minuscule Rs. printed in 4 or 5 points at the top of the price column.

These images show how prices are often printed directly onto packaged products. Usually too, they only say Rs. and don’t even contain the ₹ symbol.

This collection shows typical examples of printed ₹. There are occasionally good examples of symbols that match the weight or style of the numpers in the price, but more often it’s a generic symbol that doesn’t even try to match the scale or proportions whatsoever. I believe this is the result of laziness and simply not caring. Since most fonts in use do not contain rupee symbols, it’s too much to ask these DTP operators to carefully select or modify a ₹ symbol to nicely match. This will slowly change as newer, more modern fonts get in circulation. It’s already visible with bigger brands and ad campaigns, but this hasn’t trickled down yet to locally produced graphics.
I’ll make another post about these Škoda ads, once I can find another image that’s currently eluding me.

The last image shows a pricing/tag gun sticker with a ₹ pre-printed. I had another (very terrible) photo of one with an actual ₹ glyph that gets stamped with the price (meaning not pre-printed on the paper), but I set it aside because it was so poor quality and now now I can’t find it… I will try to get another because I find this quite interesting.

Finally, this is the single image I happen to have of a hand-drawn rupee sign. It was made on a chalk board in Goa – it’s advertising a pint of Kingfisher beer for 35₹ (€.49 or $.54)(and you wonder why Goa is a popular destination…) (compare that to the 4 pints for 699/* special shown above = 175₹/pint).

I will go out and try to find more examples of handwritten ₹ symbols soon! When I find more, I’ll update them here.

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