The current issue of greatest magazine in the world, Eye [#54, Winter 2004], is something of an urban typography special. It isn’t announced as such but features quite superb articles on the following:
- Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler on their work, including perennial cityofsound favourite Gotham, their typeface based around ‘non-typographic lettering’ found in Manhattan.
- Phil Baines and Catherine Dixon on public lettering in Lisbon, and its evolution since Nicolette Gray visited the city in the 1960s.
- Matt Soar on the curious preeminence of Excoffon’s ‘Mistral’ in Montreal, and the project to design a typeface for Minneapolis and St Paul.
- Jessica Jenkins on the traces of early 20th-century lettering that emerged from the shadows of East Berlin once the Wall fell.
There are short excerpts from Letter-rich Lisbon and ‘The Frozen Past’ (Berlin) on the Eye website. Sadly, they’re abridged and without the photos, which hugely diminishes them. So here’s some quick snaps to entice you in:
Baines’ and Dixon’s article is wonderful, adorned by lovely examples of the expressive lettering found at street level in Portugal (and also, in my experience, Spain). Equally, Jenkin’s piece on the eastern quarter Berlin is actually rather moving, revealing the ghosts of previous inhabitants traced in a typography and lettering almost kept in cryogenic suspension due to a lack of investment during the GDR years. Frere-Jones and Hoefler present their incredibly rigiorous working methods in depth too, which is both awe-inspiring and just-plain-inspiring e.g. Frere-Jones has a collection of over 4000 photographs of signage lettering from the streets of New York, mapped on to satellite photographs of the city (interestingly, he describes the numerous examples of lettering which inspired Gotham as ‘non-typographic lettering’ as opposed to ‘vernacular’).
[There are also good articles on the somewhat subversive late-60s Architectural Review ‘ManPlan’ issues, and a feature on the design of the Monty Python books, amongst others]
Right up my strasse. Get it while you can.
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