The juxtaposition of these numbers is quite dramatic: the brass serif 623 on brick, the grey metal sans serif 621 on a concrete rendered wall. Both have plenty of character and the blocky shadow of the 621 is particularly striking, although it’s hard to say if the angle of the sun had any influence on its design. I especially like that such different styles can exist side by side, as neighbours.

Duc de Berry


Duc de Berry was designed by Gottfried Pott as part of the 1990 program, Type before Gutenberg, which included the work of twelve contemporary font designers and represented styles from across the ages. It is named after the Duke of Berry, aka John the Magnificent, a collector of illuminated manuscripts and other works of art he commissioned, such as the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, one of the best surviving examples of French Gothic manuscript illumination. Duc de Berry is influenced by French blackletter traditions but has more open counters and curvilinear strokes. The distinguishing flourishes and hairline strokes of the capital letters give them an elegance which makes them suitable for use as initials, and when set as text it is more readable than other blackletter typefaces.

No paper


Oh joy, to have a notice like this on your door so that you didn’t have to deal with all those pieces of paper you never know what to do with. Unfortunately, my office is no more paperless than anyone else’s. The idea of a paperless office—to minimise paper by keeping information in digital form instead—was first touted as long ago as 1975, when it was predicted that the office of the future would see paper become redundant for routine uses such as record-keeping and bookkeeping. But everyone who has ever worked in an office knows how much paper is used! Improvement in printers and increased electronic communication (much of which is printed out) actually resulted in the worldwide use of office paper more than doubling between 1980 and 2000. I suspect there is plenty of paper in the room behind this door, and that they just don’t want to take delivery of the local rag.



The original Maples furniture store in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, was destroyed by fire in 1934. Rebuilding of the ‘modern warehouse’ began in August 1935—three showroom floors, two staircases and an electric lift (!), and a facade of cement with a sandstone finish, which incorporated the large letters that luckily, on the day I was there, were not covered up by the monstrous bank banner that had been strung up previously.

Eat drink


On my recent visit to Melbourne this is pretty much all I did, and if the innumerable bustling cafés and restaurants were any indication, that’s all anyone in Melbourne ever does! I was full to dolly’s wax of excellent breakfast from another establishment when I saw this directive (in fact walking to my destination the long way round to counterbalance effects of said excellent breakfast), so I didn’t really pay much attention to where the sign belonged. It stood out more for its no-frills message than its typography—and that in itself is noteworthy in a city that breathes such a high standard of design and style.

Young and Jackson


The Young & Jackson is a heritage-listed pub, on the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets in Melbourne, named for the Irish diggers who purchased the lease on the Princes Bridge Hotel, as it was previously called, in 1875. The pub is known for the infamous Chloe painting, by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, a life-size nude that first hung in the National Gallery of Victoria for three weeks in 1883, but created such an uproar when it was exhibited on Sundays that it was withdrawn from exhibition. It was bought for the pub in 1908 for £800 and hung in the saloon bar. The building prominently displays both pub names in large, gold-painted sans serif relief, but I like this side entrance where the name appears a little more decoratively and the reflection of Flinders Street Station can be seen in the windows.

Drive on left


I’m usually more interested in the shapes and patterns of letter forms than the substance of the message, but this road sign, on the way to Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory, certainly caught my eye. It imparts more information than a mere driving directive: it implies that the road is frequented by motorists accustomed to driving on the right, which in turn means it’s a pretty popular tourist destination for international travellers, and that those drivers could well be new to driving on the left—hardly surprising when only about ten per cent of the world’s total road distance carries left-hand traffic. In Australia the decision to follow the British practice of driving on the left was made in the early nineteenth century by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. One thing Australian road signs have in common with right-hand drive countries is the typeface, which derives from the alphabet drawn for the US Federal Highway Administration in 1949—so while this sign looks like Interstate (it’s a dead ringer for Interstate Regular Condensed) it isn’t, because Interstate came later. Interstate, a family of 40 fonts designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in the early 1990s, was based on that original alphabet, but the digitised version has refinements that make it suitable for printed text.



I’m not sure when lawn bowls made the shift from being the denizen of oldsters in white uniforms (hats compulsory) to the kind of recreation anyone can enjoy, sans-uniform, even sans-shoes, beer in hand. But now everyone’s playing, and I’m not averse to the occasional game myself. (I even belong to a bowling club, but that’s another story.) This bowling ball belongs to one of my oldest friends, and although I don’t know where she got it, her uncanny radar for flea market bargains was no doubt utilised. The K closely resembles Copperplate Gothic 29AB with it’s even, straight strokes, small serifs, and the way the leg joins the arm quite high up. Here the arm joins the vertical stroke lower than in the digital version.



What first attracted me to this was the patterns and shadows of the concertina grille and the colour palette of blues and greys. It made me think that for once, the typography wasn’t primary, but then when I viewed it without the letters it lost a certain je ne sais quoi, and I revised my opinion! The typeface is Gill Sans.

ITC Berkeley Oldstyle


ITC Berkeley Oldstyle is a revival of University of California Old Style, a typeface designed in 1938 by Frederic W Goudy exclusively for the University of California Press at Berkeley. In 1983 Tony Stan was commissioned by ITC to work on the revised version, and ITC Berkeley Oldstyle was released in 1983. ITC Berkeley Oldstyle features elongated ascenders and descenders, a calligraphic weight stress, smooth weight transitions and a fairly generous x-height—features which result in excellent character legibility. It is one of my typefaces of choice when I’m designing text-heavy books: its lightness and clarity make swathes of text less intimidating without any loss of gravitas. The italic weight is one of the most legible serif italics there is, and I particularly like the angled horizontal stroke of the lower case e.