Franklin Gothic


Franklin Gothic, the widely used sans serif typeface named after Benjamin Franklin, was designed around 1903 by Morris Fuller Benton, head of typeface development at American Type Founders. In 1980 ITC commissioned Victor Caruso to produce four new weights – book, medium, demi and heavy – and in 1991, David Berlow drew twelve condensed, compressed and extra-compressed variations. The typeface can be distinguished by the weight stress within individual letters, for example the left side of the A is lighter than the right, and the left stroke of the M is lighter than the other three strokes. I came upon this album art, with its pre-digitised type, on one of those Saturday mornings when you run into someone you know at every turn – one of whom was taking a whole lot of records to the op-shop. After we stopped to shoot the breeze she went on her way one Beach Boys record lighter.

Bowling Club


My ukulele club holds its meetings here, at the Gladstone Park bowlo, twice a month. It’s a good spot – close to the main street but tucked away at the edge of the park – and when you sit outside enjoying a beer and just about the best fish and chips in town, the view across the bowling lawn and park transports you from the hustle and bustle of the city to the quiet of a country town. The board on the wall inside is a bonus. I am particularly taken with the expressive uppercase B and C, and there is just enough unevenness in the handpainted script to convey more personality that an out-of-the-box typeface would have done.

Yellow dot


I couldn’t remember what O’Maras did (or indeed if the information was even displayed) without looking them up because I was so dazzled by their use of a yellow dot in place of the apostrophe. It’s really very good! So simple, yet so effective because it loses nothing in translation, is eye-catching without dominating, and is quite visually pleasing.

Green post


Narooma is a seaside town located on the south coast of New South Wales. The name derives from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘clear blue waters’. The waters may certainly be clear blue, but so is the sky, making this green post on the harbour breakwater—with its motley collection of numbers that look like they were sourced from the local hardware store—stand out bright and sharp in the strong afternoon light. I have a particular fondness for Narooma. When I was about eight years old, on a summer holiday road trip, my parents were unable to find accommodation, so we opted for a quiet stretch of beachside parking and set up makeshift camp, me in the open boot of the car. When we woke, the previously deserted area was chock full of surfers and early morning swimmers, no doubt experiencing the clear blue waters for themselves.



The first book I designed for ABC Books, some years ago now, was Great Working Horse Stories, a book which was a bestseller thanks to its huge popularity in rural areas. Imagine my surprise when it made an appearance on music quiz show Spicks and Specks, in the segment called ‘substitute’, in which panelists have to sing songs using words of an unrelated text, and their team mates have to guess the songs. Pete Smith (voice of Sale of the Century) sang Sweet Caroline, It’s Not Unusual and Oh What a Night using the very book I had designed! The book title was set in Adobe Garamond, a serif oldstyle typeface. Adobe Garamond, released in 1989, is a digital cut of the roman types of Claude Garamond and the italic types of Robert Granjon.

The Lakes Hotel


The Lakes Hotel is in Rosebery, a suburb of Sydney named after Archibald Phillip Primrose, the fifth Earl of Rosebery, who visited Australia in 1883–84. Rosebery has an interesting mix of commercial, industrial and residential buildings. A large section of it was developed by Richard Stanton (who is better known for the Federation suburb of Haberfield) and until the 1990s it lived up to its reputation as a garden suburb by holding regular garden competitions. Rosebery also had a racetrack where Pharlap trained, and a tram line, which would perhaps go some way to explaining why there is a whole swag of hotels between Redfern and Rosebery which display signage that looks very much like this, with its distinctive asymmetrical O.

Fire station


Mittagong fire station is noteworthy for having a female captain — the first female firefighter to be appointed to that position in the Southern Highlands. I like the building for the shape of its roofline and the clear, well-maintained, sans serif letters that stand out like a beacon in the clear afternoon light. I don’t know why there is an odd space in the date, but at least it has symmetry with the peak of the roof!



Baskerville is a transitional serif typeface, notable for its upper case Q. It was designed in the 1750s in Birmingham, England, by John Baskerville, in an attempt to make improvements to Caslon to achieve a typeface that reflected his ideals of perfection. In addition to increasing contrast between thick and thin strokes and making the serifs sharper and more tapered, Baskerville conducted experiments to improve legibility that included paper making and ink manufacturing. In 1758 he was appointed printer at Cambridge University Press, and it was there that he published his master work, a folio Bible, using his own typeface, ink and paper.



Chatsbury is an art deco building notable for its partially castellated roofline, semi-circular balconies and distinctive entrance. These may well be noteworthy features, but they fade to insignificance compared to the chunky and quirky letters that make up the sign that announces it. My first reaction to the letters was that they had been carved out of a big block of vanilla icecream – and indeed, they are good enough to eat.



This is not the Ithaca of Tompkins County New York, nor is it the island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea. It is the apartment block Ithaca, on Ithaca Road, Elizabeth Bay – an area that is dense with apartments and rich with unusual nameplates. I like the curly bits of the H and A and the backwards feet of the T and A, and how it manages to be blocky and geometric while fitting so well in a circle.