An Englishman abroad
A few weeks ago, Digital Cosmonaut posted this lovely photo of Śródmieście, Warsaw. I recognised it instantly, as I’d taken a very similar shot when I visited Warsaw in 2007. I highly recommend Digital Cosmonaut’s blog, by the way. It’s full of good stuff.
Anyway, seeing the photo gave me strength to make a confession. I’m a fontophile. I love typography and have been interested in it since I was little.
I used to love copying type styles of brands and bands. Nike, for example, was easy to doodle in the back of my school books (when I should’ve been listening to the teacher). Bands like AC/DC and Kiss were easy too. It was different for The Doors – it looks really simple, but the ‘S’ is a real mofo to copy freehand or from memory.
When I played in bands in my teens and early twenties, I was always the one who designed the band logo. And when someone told me about fabric paints, I’d carefully paint our very first (and last) band t-shirts. They were limited edition, obviously. It took me ages. These were pre-digital revolution days.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know they were called fonts or typefaces. I just called it ‘lettering’ and came to understand about individual characters, their shapes, the space around them and what you could do with them. I had no idea where they came from or that typography or font design was an art in itself.
When computers came along, it was a joy to be able to choose fonts. I got chance to browse hundreds of them and appreciate them even more. Having said that, I soon installed too many – the drop down font menu became far too long to be useful.
With my first digital camera (the fantastic Pentax Optio S50 – still the best camera I’ve ever owned) – I realised I was taking 300 pictures on a holiday, instead of the old two or three films. With that freedom, I started taking pictures of the things that interested me. So naturally, I photographed typography.
My visits to former Eastern Bloc countries have been the most interesting font field trips. Old signs always retain something of their origins. Eastern Bloc typography seemed to evolve slightly differently to Western countries – and is all the more interesting to me for it.
So, that’s my confession. I’m a fontophile. It’s not obsessive. I don’t have thousands stored on a hard drive. Just a few hundred. I’ve included a selection below – in no particular order. Click on any image for a slideshow.