Wing Lee


As a designer you wouldn’t catch me dead angling type this way (let alone spacing the words so far apart), but this is so quirky they actually get away with it! There is an element of jauntiness and lightheartedness about it that is quite appealing. Interestingly, it’s the English words that get the wonky treatment – the characters are sedate in comparison – but that only adds to its charm.



I’m guessing, but I bet this wall was painted by the cafe/gallery/landscapers on the opposite corner. It certainly improves their outlook. These abstract trees are so Australian in their greyness and grey-greenishness and even the grey-blue background has that hazy too-hot-summer quality. I was tempted to stop for a while just to sit at an outside table and admire the view.

Red K


This K was a surprise find, especially because I have driven past it many times without realising it was there. I like its bold graphic nature and its hand-cut appearance, and that despite its large size it is well camouflaged under its protective awning. As I travelled a little further down the road to my destination I caught a whiff of something in the air, and, being in no particular hurry, I started exploring, in search of this mysterious but oh-so-familiar smell. And suddenly there it was, another large but completely unrelated red K on a factory chimney: inside they were cooking up a storm of cornflakes.



Everything good on tv is at the wrong time so the hard disk recorder is my friend. I can’t even remember what late late late night movie this came from, but it doesn’t really matter – one look at the sign and you can hear the neon crackle, taste the beer, hear the music, know that you’re going to be driving too fast on some deserted backroad on a moonless night. The power of typography is astounding in its ability to evoke mood and imagination. Roy’s would not be nearly so inviting if it was in Times New Roman or Arial.

Fresh fish


I like everything about this fish and chips: the red no-mucking-around sans serif and the chunky blue script leave no doubt as to what this vendor has to offer. And I particularly like the ampersand. Then there is the bonus embellishment of fishy line drawings and an orange crustacean that definitely isn’t an oyster. I also like how the sign itself hangs from big hooks, a catch of the day in its own right. Word has it that the takeaway here is pretty good, so I’d better get down there again and find out.

Iron girder


For a few days the awning of this shopfront came down and the writing on the iron girder was revealed. There’s nothing special about it typographically—it looks handwritten by someone who is taking care to be neat, too uneven to be a stencil—but its very existence piqued my curiosity. What I learned about Messrs RL Scrutton and Co is that their employees’ third annual picnic was held on 22 March 1902. The picnickers were conveyed by steamer from King Street to the Fern Bay grounds of Parramatta River, where amusements were provided, toasts were made, athletic events were keenly contested and dancing was indulged in throughout the day in the pavilion. The awning is now back in place and the girder is no longer visible — in fact the shopfront with the awning replaced looks exactly as it did before it was taken down. The only reason I can think of for its temporary removal was that it allowed a brief glimpse into a hidden story!



One of the great benefits of being a book designer is the exposure to varied and interesting subject matter. During the course of a project, especially one that takes several months, you can become submerged in the text and images to such an extent that you turn into a temporary expert in the field. It wears off after a while and you forget the names of rare cloud formations, how to identify a tadpole species, the complete history of polar exploration or the difference between a chugger popper and a bibless minnow. However, half a dozen volumes on astronomy later, I am left with an enduring (if less than expert) interest in the night sky. Last year I visited Mauna Kea and the Keck Observatory and was surprised, and a little thrilled, to see in use a very well-thumbed copy of one of ‘my’ books. This week Keck has announced that astronomers have discovered rain falling from the rings of Saturn, which is pretty exciting and brings back all the wonder of seeing Saturn through a telescope at the best stargazing place in the world. Oh, and the typeface, Saturn Return, is from Dinctype.

The Rio


I’ve been seeing quite a few shop awnings lately which feature this cursive writing style. The Rio looks like it has seen better days, but the writing is pleasingly elegant and surprisingly well preserved compared to its companions. And I like the mix of colour and texture of the building above it – the falling-off shingles and the painted brick and the splash of terracotta on the windowsill.



Impact was designed in 1965 by Geoffrey Lee for British type foundry Stephenson Blake. Stephenson Blake was the last active type foundry in Britain, producing type in zinc as late as 2001. When it closed in 2005 its typographic equipment, by then commercially worthless but historically priceless, was passed on to Monotype and the London Type Museum. Impact, with its thick strokes and compressed letterspacing, was intended, as its name suggests, for impact. It is a typeface best used for headlines rather than body text. Or really, really big numbers, like this one.



Back in pre-Comic Sans days, Souvenir topped the list as one of the most disliked typefaces among typographers. Souvenir is an old style serif typeface, originally designed in 1914 by Morris Fuller Benton for American Type Founders as a single weight. In 1967 Ed Benguit re-drew Souvenir for the Photo-Lettering Corporation, and when the International Typeface Corporation was formed in 1971 it issued his design as ITC Souvenir and then hired him to draw additional weights. Souvenir was hugely popular in the 1970s, and no doubt its overuse is the reason it is considered so distasteful. I can’t bring myself to use Souvenir but I do like the pattern it creates in the blue and yellow stacks of packaging. I can’t bring myself to eat Spam either—but that has nothing to do with the use of Souvenir.