Greetings from Barcelona

The grand view inside Sagrada Famíla
The grand view inside Sagrada Famíla

Of the many cities I’ve visited over the years, Barcelona never ceases to amaze me. It’s forever seared into my brain as the dream city of Art Nouveau — where I saw the celebrated 19th century architect Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família and realized the imagination has no limit. As a creative working in the commercial sector, I’m all too familiar with compromising great ideas by bits and pieces as they come to fruition. But Gaudí had an extraordinary ability to turn his dreams into reality.

Gaudí: The Peak of Modernisme

Like many, I view Barcelona as the city of Gaudí. With all its Modernisme influences, it’s a city full of dreamy Catalan Art Nouveau, of which Gaudí stands at the peak. As Martin Filler said in The New York Review of Books, Gaudí was one among an extraordinary generation of local architects who embraced Modernisme, the distinctive Catalan variant of Art Nouveau which drew heavily on the Romantic revivalist renaissance movement of mid-19th century Spain.

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Lynne Yun

Lynne is a NYC-based Graphic Designer with a passion for all letter arts in the world. A Typographer, Calligrapher, and Lettering Artist, she is an alumni of the School of Visual Arts and the Type@Cooper Extended program. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for New York Society of Scribes.

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Greetings from London

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The British have coined a (rather depressing) term for a vacation spent in the UK rather than travelling abroad: staycation. Last weekend I decided to make the most of my own “staycation” and, on a typical rainy and gloomy summer afternoon in London, I took the Victoria line up to its very end, all the way to Walthamstow, to finally visit God’s Own Junkyard.

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Luisa Baeta

Graphic and type designer currently freelancing as a nomad between London, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Rome.

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Greetings from Kolkata

I don’t want to play favorites with Indian scripts, but I have to admit that ever since I became interested in type, I particularly love Bengali letterforms. The Bengali (‘Bangla’) script is the writing system for the Bengali language, the seventh most-used language in the world and is primarily used in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and South Assam.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to visit Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal, known as ‘Calcutta’ during British colonization. Kolkata is feted for its art and cultural heritage, symbolic of both the bygone British era as well as the Bengali Renaissance. I associate a sense of romanticism with Kolkata, with its trams, the Howrah bridge, and Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. However, Kolkata in person is simultaneously romantic and chaotic. This duality can be experienced not only in the visual landscape of city life but also through its letterforms. While many examples of elegant Bengali typography exist, the streets are also flooded with bold vernacular lettering on busses.

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Kimya Gandhi

Kimya is an independent type designer living and working in Mumbai. She is also a partner at the type foundry, Mota Italic. Kimya teaches typography and type design at various design institutes in and around Mumbai. Known to raid nondescript book shops, doodle and collect stationery, she is currently exploring several opportunities in designing Indian script typefaces and research.

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Greetings from the Pacific Coast Highway

Last September, after getting laid off from my job, I did what every American is programmed to do in times of existential crisis — hit the open road. Unsure of my future, I decided to drive south from my San Francisco home to visit friends in Los Angeles. I had plenty of time before starting my next chapter, so I decided to take the scenic route: California Highway 1, on the stretches known as the Cabrillo Highway and the Pacific Coast Highway.

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For nature, go to Big Sur. For some fantastic vintage signage, keep heading south on the PCH.

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Meghan Arnold

As a child, Meghan would ask for font CD-ROMs for Christmas. Two decades later, she found a niche working in community engagement and communications for the type industry. When she's not living out of a suitcase, she resides in San Francisco.

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Greetings from Newburgh, NY

It’s no surprise that we type folk like hanging out in old cemeteries but it’s an extra treat when these cemeteries include the memorials of long-deceased type heroes. I’ve always known that Frederic and Bertha Goudy lived and worked in nearby Marlboro, New York. This excellent silent film on Type Culture shows Fred Goudy at Deepdene, their home and workshop. The Goudys’ workshop, an 18th century mill, burned down in 1939 (along with many of his type designs and fonts) and the home was torn down in the 70s, so there’s not much left to see on the Old Post Road property. However, I recently discovered this blog post from the Marlboro Free Library. Part of the library’s Goudy collection includes a photo of a memorial tablet in Newburgh, a small city on the Hudson river that has seen better times (but is trying hard to make a comeback). Although this probably requires some confirmation, according to this 1986 newspaper article, Fred and Bertha’s “mingled ashes” are buried beneath. Wow!

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Amy Papaelias

Amy is a design educator and type nerd living in New York’s Hudson Valley. She has written for The Recorder, Typographica and co-edited a recent issue of Visible Language. She helps keep the lights on here at Alphabettes.org.

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Greetings from Poland

In 2012, I was invited to a wedding of my Polish friends and while there, I very quickly realized two things: the Poles really are experts in singing, dancing, drinking, and eating; and that areas in western Poland were formerly German. I discovered the former with the wedding itself and the latter while walking through the small village »Gryfów Śląski« the next day. There, I stumbled across German ghost signage in combination with a Polish street sign and I was instantly transported back to pre-war times.

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Nora Gummert-Hauser

Nora Gummert-Hauser is a German graphic designer and teaches at Hochschule Niederrhein in the field of typography and editorial design. Her work can be seen here. Attention … old fashioned Flash content :). Sometimes she is doing research – 2014/15 on the topic of european shifting borders. Works of her students you’ll find here. And on top the shop of her beautiful typographic birthday calendars.

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Greetings from Südtirol

As already stated elsewhere, I’m very lucky to live in a part of the Europe where the rest of Europe goes on holiday. As such, I recommend you come and see it for yourself, so I will not spoil your future experience of it with photos of stunning landscapes that do not do them justice. Okay, just one.

Greetings from Suedtirol

Schlern, a beautiful rock in the Dolomites.

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Sol Kawage

Sol is an information designer. She is really into understanding things and explaining them to you, be it with signs, graphics or words. Also facial expressions.

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Greetings from Santiago

When ‘Santiago’ is mentioned, many will first think of Chile; however, this Santiago is located in northwestern Spain. Santiago de Compostela has an official population of less than 100,000 inhabitants and is known internationally as one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the world. In 1985 the old town was declared a World Heritage Site and, in 1987, the “Camino” was named the First European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe. There are numerous books written in numerous languages regarding the ‘Camino de Santiago’, so I will refrain from images of the cathedral and other tourist traps.

Signage, an important element of urban landscapes, becomes a particularly interesting topic with regard to environments where the protection of historical buildings is a must. In Santiago, a 2012 sign regulation defines the size, placement, and other features. There is no typographic requirement although it is mentioned that the design must be well-integrated into the historical environment. A better control is needed as many commercial signs infringe the rules and some have just been abandoned. (If we really want to preserve our artistic-historical heritage, we should care a bit more about its maintenance.)

Some old structures for hanging signs in historical builidings stay there even when they don't a function anymore, metal arrows that seem to be leading to nowhere
Some structures, formerly for hanging signs, remain even when they lack a function creating metal arrows that seem to be point nowhere.

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María Ramos

After obtaining a degree in Advertising, María worked as a graphic and editorial designer for several companies in Galicia. She has recently graduated in the Master in Typeface Design from the University of Reading. She loves art in all its forms, and has a crush on typewriters.

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Greetings from Goa

It can be quite the cliché to mention the cultural diversity in a country as large as India, but sometimes, the obvious deserves repeating, especially when it can be supplemented with photographs of beautiful shop signs and house nameplates. In order to demonstrate this, I invite you to join me in Goa, the smallest of India’s twenty-nine states, well-known for its beaches, parties and electronic music festivals.

Unlike the majority of the country, the state of Goa wasn’t a colony of the British. The Portuguese arrived here in the early 1500s and Goa remained under their control till 1961 when it was annexed by India after military action. Interestingly, it was 1556 in Goa that the first printing press from the West arrived in India. Over 450 years of Portuguese rule has left its mark here and it is easy to spot in the architecture and lettering, especially in neighbourhoods like Fontainhas, an old Latin Quarter in the state capital Panjim.

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Pooja Saxena

Pooja is a typeface and graphic designer, as well as occasional teacher who works between Bangalore and Delhi.

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Greetings from Haifa

How is it possible that it’s August again??? This summer, we wanted you to travel with us (for free!) around the world and enjoy some typographic curiosities we have around us (check out this map by Indra). Those posts will be scattered throughout the month, marked with a passport stamp on the first image for quicker spotting. This is a perfect excuse for a tomato juice! Here we go:

Scripts don’t live in a void. They live together, interlaced, in Israel’s urban environment: Hebrew, Arabic and English. Each script is affected by surrounding scripts, which in turn influences them back, a symbiotic relationship. Examining trilingual signage in Haifa provides an opportunity to discover meaning among the different alphabets; an additional benefit is that it is a good excuse to show some of what surrounds me in my hometown.

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Liron Lavi Turkenich

Liron Lavi Turkenich is Typeface designer, currently based in Israel and working internationally. She has a b.Des in Visual Communications and an MA in Typeface design from the University of Reading. She finds great interest in multilingual typeface design, and specialises in Hebrew and Amharic. Her project Aravrit, combining Hebrew and Arabic to one type system received many positive responses and publicity. In addition to design, Liron is involved in research, exhibitions, and writes about typography. She shares her knowledge and experiences in talks and workshops around the globe, teaches typography and writes in several platforms. Liron loves travelling around the world, finding hidden culinary gems and searching for typographic treasures in dusty archives.

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My 2¢

Over the past 10 days, we’ve traveled around the world to learn more about the design of coins, banknotes and money-related artifacts. While we strayed a bit from entirely type-specific content, the series connects visual culture, personal stories and collective experiences in some [hopefully] interesting ways. In case you missed any of the posts, we have conveniently gathered them all here.

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That’ll be 20 John Hudsons, please

Speaking of traveling the world and looking at money —
a few months ago, several of us attended the fantastic Typofest conference in Bulgaria organized by Krista Radoeva and Boril Karaivanov. Several, but apparently there were even more type colleagues present than we knew would be coming. Maria Doreuli spotted him first while we were still in Sofia …

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Indra Kupferschmid

Preoccupied with topics such as the history of sans-serifs, font rendering, and the classification of typefaces, Indra Kupferschmid is a German typographer, professor at HBKsaar, and traveling activist for the good cause of good type.

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My 2¢: From Hendecagonal to Round

For a brief spell in the 90s, I fancied myself as a coin collector. The interest didn’t last too long, but I did end up with a few old Indian coins that I still like, including a 1945 pice that has a hole punched in the middle. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was in primary school, but I was very fond of coins with interesting shapes, like the 1p, 10p and 20p coins. There is little wonder then that my all-time favourite coin was the ₹2 one—it was a hendecagonal (or an 11-sided polygon), and I saw it and used it everyday.

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Coins of denomination 1 pice (1945), 1p (1965), 10p (1986), 20p (1987) and ₹2 (2000)

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Pooja Saxena

Pooja is a typeface and graphic designer, as well as occasional teacher who works between Bangalore and Delhi.

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My 2¢: 1 & 2 Rupee

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Travelling to India changed my relationship with money. When there, I am suddenly in possession of wads of bills in denominations of multiple zeros that I could never hope to ever see, let alone hold. Rupee coins are not as much a part of my experience there, and use them as other Indians do, to give money to people on the street or tips to drivers.

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Shelley Gruendler

Dr Shelley Gruendler, founder of Type Camp, is a typographer and educator who teaches, lectures, and publishes internationally on typography and graphic design. Although she holds a PhD and an MA in The History and Theory of Typography and Graphic Communication from the University of Reading, England, she also appreciates really lousy type stuff. Both Shelley and Beatrice Warde are extremely proud to be members of the Alphabettes.

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My 2¢: No Pockets in a Shroud?

In Hong Kong, I have seen several small stores selling colourful replica of contemporary luxury made by paper, spread all over the mega city. Mimicked handbags of must-have brands, smartphones and even favourite dishes of Hong Kong dining are artfully recreated, and sold to be offered to ancestors by burning the paper artefacts. From time to time, I observed people burning the offerings in metal barrels at the backstreets.

A small store for paper offerings at Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
A small store for paper offerings at Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

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Mariko Takagi

Mariko Takagi is a German-Japanese typographer, an author and designer of books and an educator. Her special interests are Japanese, Chinese and Latin letter based writing systems. After six years in Hong Kong, she is currently based in Germany.

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My 2¢: Cuba’s 2 Currencies

My 2¢ is less about the design of these two Cuban banknotes than about what they represent.

As a US-dwelling Canadian who has wanted to visit Cuba for many years, I finally made the trip there from Toronto in early 2015 — ironically, just after the announcement of the normalization of relations with the US.

Cuba is a striking and remarkable place in so many ways. But one of the things that struck me most upon arriving there was the discovery that since 1994 Cuba has had two parallel currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP), which is used for trade among Cubans; and the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC), which is used by visitors to the country and for international trade, and is pegged to the US dollar. So 1 CUC equals 1 USD — and 1 CUC equals approximately 25 CUP.

A 3-peso note from the international, convertible Cuban currency, the CUC.
A 10-peso note from the local Cuban currency, the CUP.

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Sara Soskolne

Sara Soskolne is senior designer at Hoefler & Co. where she has contributed to the design of a wide range of typefaces including Verlag, Chronicle, Sentinel, Gotham, Tungsten and Quarto. She has taught typeface design at multiple institutions in and around New York, and was a founding instructor of the Type@Cooper Condensed Program.

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My 2¢: Hyderabad State 2 Anna

Although my professional area of focus is Indic type, by which I mean the Brahmi-derived scripts native to India, my favorite coins in my small collection are four 2 Anna coins from the Princely State of Hyderabad, minted in 1946. They are among the last coins minted by the Hyderabad State before its dissolution.

The Hyderabad State, which occupied the Deccan plateau of south-central India, was a semi-autonomous vassal state that existed alongside the British Raj from 1798 until India’s independence in 1947. Ruled by the Asaf Jahi Dynasty, which was Turkic in origin, the Hyderabadi government spread Persian culture in the region. While the British issued currency to be used throughout their South Asian empire, they allowed the Hyderabad State to issue its own set of banknotes and coins.

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Obverse of the Hyderabadi 2 Anna coin, 1946. Photo courtesy of Joseph Kunnappally.

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Erin McLaughlin

Erin is a typeface designer and consultant who specializes in Indic scripts. She is a graduate of the University of Reading MATD program, and worked previously at Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

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My 2¢: The Iranian 250 Rial Coin

To many people, the sentence “here is your change” followed by a clenched hand extending out towards them results in an inner groan. They know that hand is about to offer them coins, an object often perceived as an inconvenience—and in the case of coins with lower value, a nuisance. Coins are frequently taken out of circulation by people who keep them simply because they cannot be bothered to count, calculate, and spend them. I have memories of my parents coming home and discarding loose change on the coffee table, not wanting to carry the jingling weight in a pocket or purse the next day. Yet the same people were the cause of my appreciation for coins. More specifically, Iranian coins.

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Sahar Afshar

Sahar Afshar is an independent designer and researcher from Iran. After completing her BFA in Visual Communication from the University of Tehran she worked as the senior designer at Hermes Publishers Company in Tehran for four years. Afterwards she moved to Reading to earn her MA by research in Typography & Graphic Communication, where she focused on research on the Arabic script. Currently her focus is split between the design of new Arabic typefaces and research on specificities of the various languages that use the Arabic script.

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My 2¢: Take a Penny, Leave a Penny

Since the design and lettering of the ‘lowly’ American penny has already been well-documented and researched by honorary Alphabette Tobias Frere-Jones, I’ve settled on an even lowlier topic: the penny tray. If you’re American, or have spent time in the clusterfuck that is currently the United States, then you know what I’m talking about. Found at the cash registers of gas stations, diners, and other small businesses, the object serves as a convenient place for customers and cashiers to dispose of, or acquire, a penny or two (but c’mon deadbeat, don’t even think of taking more than a few).

The basic tray features the phrases “LEAVE-A-PENNY / TAKE-A-PENNY” in subtly extruded shouty-caps that flank the top and bottom of the main bowl. A promotional logo adorns the front of the tray, promoting things like a local newspaper, state lottery, or community bank.

Pretty standard-looking penny tray
Pretty standard-looking penny tray

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Amy Papaelias

Amy is a design educator and type nerd living in New York’s Hudson Valley. She has written for The Recorder, Typographica and co-edited a recent issue of Visible Language. She helps keep the lights on here at Alphabettes.org.

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My 2¢: Empathy Penny

I have a penny that is worth far more than its currency, as it was designed by Marian Bantjes.

Empathy penny, designed by Marian Bantjes
Empathy penny, designed by Marian Bantjes

Several years ago, I taught a Type Camp at the Design Exchange, the Design Museum of Canada in central Toronto. In the lobby is a machine that imprints designs of several artists, one of which is Bantjes, onto pennies. (The irony here is that Canada has ceased production of the penny and is removing them from circulation. Therefore, trying to locate a penny to use in the machine is becoming a bit difficult.)

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Shelley Gruendler

Dr Shelley Gruendler, founder of Type Camp, is a typographer and educator who teaches, lectures, and publishes internationally on typography and graphic design. Although she holds a PhD and an MA in The History and Theory of Typography and Graphic Communication from the University of Reading, England, she also appreciates really lousy type stuff. Both Shelley and Beatrice Warde are extremely proud to be members of the Alphabettes.

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