Archive for June, 2015

What is it with designers and type?

Posted on: June 17th, 2015 by thisishel No Comments

With letters in particular. I also know I’m not alone – there’s a particular breed of designer that just can’t get away from it, that doesn’t want to get away from it. It’s always there – lurking below the surface.

One reason I especially like letter forms is that their sheer variety. You can illustrate a lower case g in literally hundreds and thousands of ways, and everyone still knows what it is. Even if they don’t really know what it is. You can’t know. It’s a drawing of something that does not exist. It’s not a sound because it changes in context. It’s a letter. An abstraction of an aural reference. It is so pure it does not exist in the ‘real’ world and is one of the only things I can think of in this great cosmos that has been universally and completely created by mankind from beginning to end. Even an aeroplane is a construct of natural materials organised in such a way as to make them fly.  A letter will never exist in nature.


Perhaps this is the reason I started to pick them up. The discarded and the broken, removed from their destined places by time, weather and the inevitable progress of business and brand.

My first was a small red e, spotted through the gap in a security fence around an abandoned factory in Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was on the floor and the only one that had not broken when it met the ground. Over the fence I went. It seemed so simple as I grasped my prize. Only upon going back over the fence did I stumble; tearing open the palm of my hand on the jagged metal fence. My lovely wife was less than impressed when I returned back at our B&B, dripping blood and clutching my old, dirt encrusted, plastic e; a huge smile painted on my face.


Others have been easier. The nice gentlemen at Clothing World in Leeds passed me a couple of letters when changing their sign, even if they didn’t understand why I wanted them, and recently my wife has even started collecting them for me as well. She salvaged a few lovely giant, brush stroked letters from a swimming baths and was so excited she texted me the photos. It seems now everywhere I go I’m looking. Just in case I spot one more.

So will I grow old and die with a house/loft/shed full of old lettering? Probably. But I’ll happy.

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