Fonts on walls in Tacoma WA

The first in this series. As most people know a font has its roots in early printing methods. The word font is a derivative of a German word and literally refers to the bank of individual letters a printer would use to make up words, sentences and full print jobs. Depending on the printing haus, they may have had a wide range of styles to choose from, but most likely would have had a range of sizes. From here, in modern times, we have used this word to describe the style of a collection of characters.

Now the irony of these posts is that the images I'll be posting are not necessarily a font like we see on a computer such as Helvetia or Gill Sans. These images will have samples of beautifully hand crafted signs, advertisements, and murals that have never been near a printer or computer. What I am hoping to highlight in these post, is the quality of consistency, that is usually found in typography, but could never have been achieved in the pre-digital printing days due to sheer size.

Although I am looking for samples that have survived through the years I am hoping to find fresh pieces of work that prove the art of sign writing is not dead.


The first image I have is from Tacoma Washington. Looking around this city it is obvious that they have tried very hard to maintain some of its early 20th century beauty. Amongst the beautiful art deco buildings are old advertisements for coca cola and mens shaving products, painted on red brick walls, but it was this image below that really caught my eye.

A couple of things I liked about this was the style of typography, it's use of placement and space and it's great use of shading to give a pop out look and feel. Using programs like inDesign and Photoshop it's very easy to click a few buttons and give characters a floating look and feel, but what I appreciated about this mural was that the designer must have stood in the exact same spot as where I took my picture and visualized how this pop out effect should look from the point of view of his audience. The passer by on the street. And now many years later it still works! Beautiful!


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