Many people refer to all letters including written, drawn or computer generated letters as ‘Typography’. This term seems to suggest that letters come ready-made from catalogs and the only need to be inserted into an artwork before printing.
A vital way of communication has always been the letter-form. The main function of lettering is that of conveying verbal information. The way typography is set up is very significant to get across particular meanings, this all depends on the composition within a space and this will therefore determine the relative impact on how they are understood.
Letters do not always have to be readily available. They can also be found in diverse places and objects, like streets and discarded scrap. Mervyn Kurlansky (Co-founder of Pentagram London) discovered an entire alphabet in the tools of his design studio. Hand lettering, which include graffiti including writings of insolent messages, scribbling, scratched, painted etc are made for the specific reason of readability and therefore stand for the sole purpose to communicate and translate a particular meaning to the viewer. Letters can become abstract shapes or symbols with something more than the immediate significance of the content.
In my booklet, the letters themselves have been used as images and these can easily be related to other elements in the overall design. Humor, irony, surprise and other responses are a further pathway to create contact with the viewers’ attention. The more hand-made the forms appear to be, the more they seem to convey a sense of human warmth and intimacy. Occasionally, type forms that are mechanically produced convey a sense of authority and detachment.
Various places were photographed to be included in the booklet these include: old shop signs, door numbers, vignettes, allegory, emblems, pictograms and more. Ordinary places like scrap yards, Maltese buses and walls offered some of the best examples. All these revealed nothing but a collection of curiosities. The photo shots of the type were done in various ways. Sometimes images were divorced from context at times being abstract forms. Interesting shots were achieved keeping in mind the effects on the overall image, how it will appear in the final publication.
This is what creates my booklet ‘Unnoticed Typography’, sets of type camouflaged by their surroundings, or else need to be seen from a different point of view. Simple and apparently uninspiring things are often sufficient for a great detailed image. Walls, fences, doors, peeling paint, weathered stones, torn posters, and graffiti were all subjects that made a good composition. Almost every single letter found had its particular contextual meaning, which narrated a story for its environment.
Hand lettering, by contrast, achieves maximum visual impact, by altering the simple geometry and even texture of found typography make legibility ensured. In some images when deep observation is made on the letters they may be reduced to basic shapes like triangles, rectangles and circles. The letters conceived as a geometric form are occasionally used to produce abstract compositions. Colours and textures play a vital role in establishing the relationship between the environment found in and the typeface itself.
When photographing the images I noticed that although the letters where on discarded materials and unnoticed, they still could be classified and characterised into the two major division of typography, serif and sans serif faces. It was noted that each letter varied frequently because of the surrounding environment which could have influenced the author of the marking.
In my wooden booklet I have managed to expose some interesting letter-forms and topics and I think that my typographic imagery proved wrong the contention that letters come ready made from catalogues.