New York Vernacular










This afternoons email brought me a link to great website gallery of american posters and various other printed ephemera.  The link directed me to a selection of New York subway destination scrolls, used to inform passengers like the ones ignoring them above!

Although there is no history to how these typographic remains ended up here (but just by looking at them, I’m sure you know why they were saved, and what kind of person saved them!) The scrolls have obviously been salvaged from somewhere and are now available to order as posters. I want one. Or two.subway-scrolls

Chris, who sent me the link, is currently creating an all caps font based on these uniquely New York letterforms and I hope he will let me post some examples here when he does.

Seeing these evocative letterforms and recognising the quirky vernacular of 1940’s NY struck a chord as I had been talking to students this morning about Adrian Frutiger’s work on the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, and how he had strove to imbue the letterforms with ‘Frenchness.’ He went to live and work in Paris to ‘soak up the vernacular’ in order to get there.














I’d like to think he did, just as Speikermann has with Berlins unified transport system, but perhaps not quite as successfully as Edward Johnston, Eric Gill, Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinnier have done for Britain…


I really should have mentioned Hoefler & Frere-Jones’s subliminal Gotham in this post. A modern masterpiece derived and distilled from American vernacular type, from architectural signage to hand painted sale boards. A beautiful American classic face with a great story.


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