A significant part of a typeface designer’s job is looking at small details. A regular person might look at a font and be able to identify the difference between a sans and a serif. But if they take the time to look and learn, they could appreciate the little quirks that make each typeface unique. It’s the same with hiking; For a first stroll in the woods, someone might only be able to distinguish between trees and bushes. But they might look closer, at the tiny differences, at the blossoms and berries and lichens. They’re in a fascinating world with so much to explore.
Cherry blossoms, Northern bayberries, and Old Man’s Beard growing on branches.
My Providence! What airy hosts
Turn still thy gilded vanes;
What winds of elf that with grey ghosts
People thine ancient lanes!
Overlooking the RISD Beach. Can you spot the State House?
Knowing the risks, I drank from the mythical fountain.* The legend says: anyone who drinks from it will always return to Providence. Seems more like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me: if you like Providence enough to drink from a magical fountain, you’ll probably keep coming back.
The fountain sits in front of the Providence Athenæum, around the corner from College Street, home to both the Rhode Island School of Design and author H.P. Lovecraft. The deep affection he felt for the city is unmistakable. I remember walking down that same street for the first time, rounding the corner of the quad, and the state house—“a delirious marble dome,” as Lovecraft wrote—loomed into view, towering over the city.
Finding the divine in the details—what others overlook—is not so much an amusing pastime, but a constant state of being. When out on a hike, I often stop to question a seemingly meaningless feature. What species of moss is this? Why does this look like a witch’s hat? Who lives in this hole? The answers can be fascinating.
Living in a city, one might find charming little doodads in the gutter and under hedges as well. The metal numbers and letters on telephone polls—what’s the deal with those? In the same week, I found two that had liberated themselves somehow. For years, I’ve been accumulating these letters, or odd bits that look like letters. Some as possible solutions for future typeface projects, others just for the sake of the collection.