Alphabet City Press is taking a short break, but I’ll be back. I am not an android assassin who has been denied entry into a police station, and therefore I will not be returning by driving a car through the doors to gain access. My return will be a little quieter—just the usual thing that will no doubt involve typography in some way. In the meantime, the DF Commercials clock and the wonderful Bach Script, a recent release from the Mendoza Vergara design studio, will have to suffice.
I’d like to think that the greengrocer signwriter is in cahoots with the hardware store, or at the very least has a wicked sense of humour, but unfortunately I think that this strategic and quite wonderful spelling mistake is just that—a spelling mistake. I sometimes wonder if ‘interesting’ spellings such as this are ever brought to the attention of the vendors by concerned (and more written-language savvy) members of the public, or if anyone even notices them. Depends where it is I guess. We once had a grocer/deli in the local shopping centre that went to the effort of overhauling their in-store signage. There were so many errors that the customers started writing on the signs and leaving messages, to the extent that the entire new signage was replaced with a couple of weeks of being installed.
My husband does most of the food shopping but occasionally, if he is not pressed for time, he lets me tag along. I slow things down because I am sidetracked by packaging, the patterns and shapes of a display, fresh flowers, the rows and rows of deli goods, and the novelty and multitude of the items that we neither need or want. There is a newish grocery store near us that recently provided a much-needed afternoon diversion. We bought broccoli, leeks, bread and strawberries, and along the way I stopped to check out the typography of seafood.
I’ve seen this pub sign many times before, but on Saturday evening, when my friends and I, replete from a delicious and satisfying dinner, emerged from the chatter and clatter of the restaurant into the buzz and hum of Enmore Road, the drama of the scene caught my attention. The large freestanding letters against the sombre backdrop that swallows up the green light exude a noirish atmosphere that reminds me of Edward Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks, and for a moment, in my imagination, I was transported to that diner.
Well, if there were birds, I certainly saw no sign of them! But perhaps, in the middle of a sunny but cool day in late winter, they were nesting well away from my line of sight. This view captured my attention not just for its message, but for the range of hard surfaces surrounding it, which appear at odds with the imagery you would usually associate with birds—like trees and leaves and branches, materials which have a great deal more inherent suppleness than aluminium, concrete and brick. Also somewhat eyecatching is the use of title case, sometimes referred to as maximal caps. Minimal capitalisation, or sentence case, is more the thing these days. While I guess there’s nothing actually wrong with title case here, it’s just odd and stylistically outmoded. Which really only goes to show that I am not immune to the influence of typographic fashion.
I’m usually pretty lucky with parking, but last week I attempted to park in the Broadway carpark at lunchtime, when the novelty of the newly opened food court has obviously not worn off. It’s never the easiest time, but this was the first occasion when I drove round and round, all the way to the top, then round and round, all the way to the exit, without once seeing a vacant spot. Even street parking proved difficult so I had to park some distance away from my destination. The upside, apart from some enforced exercise, was finding a spot next to this exuberant lettering.
I realise this is not the full story, however when I saw this segment of writing I wasn’t particularly interested in finding out what the rest of it said. It was enough to occupy my time musing about why arts had a curfew, what it must have done that would result in not being allowed after 10pm. I am reminded of another cut off word, one that I see regularly when traversing the Petersham intersection. From the car, waiting for the lights to change, you can see a sign that shouts READ—which we should all be encouraged to do more of!—and it’s only when the lights turn green and you drive on that a hidden B is revealed.
There’s a building in my neighbourhood, an old corner store, that has some particularly nice ghost signage above the front door, but today I was walking by rather than driving and was rewarded with this side view. It’s more subtle, more complex, more painterly and printmakerly than the more obvious front door sign. It’s hard to make out all the words here, but there’s a ‘choo’, which, in conjunction with the ‘first grade’ below it, most likely makes it a painted advertisement for Lan-choo tea.
I walked along a different street this morning, and it was a reminder that we don’t have to change much in our daily routine to get an altered perspective. I found plenty of interest in the back lanes my walk incorporated, including this signage, left to take on some character in a way that the front door sign would not be. I wonder if something happened to the O, or if it was just the luck of the draw that on the day the Os were made, the quality of materials was slightly different, or if some other small factor contributed to its future faster deterioration. The typeface looks like a version of Clarendon, which makes me like it even more.
Zennor was designed by Phill Grimshaw in 1995. Grimshaw studied at Bolton College of Art before earning a place at the London Royal College of Art in the early 1970s. He subsequently specialised in type design, returning to Lancashire where he established a commercial lettering studio. Grimshaw was prolific: he created dozens of dynamic, calligraphic-inspired typefaces, including Arriba, Braganza, Kendo, Scriptease, Tempus Sans, Pristina and Grimshaw Hand. In turn, his calligraphic work was inspired by typography, and his experimental crossover technique earned him a formidable reputation. His 1992 typeface, Hazel, became the last type design to be produced by Letraset as a dry transfer.