Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wonderful things happen when you wander...

There is simply nothing more beautiful and inspirational than a fading and forgotten sign. Ever since I can remember I have been magnetically attracted to typography found on the sides of buildings and store fronts, always wishing that it included the name of the typeface in small print underneath for reference.  There is something that is so special about a rusty sign that hangs over the door of a corner store in the middle of north Philadelphia adorned with hand painted lettering.  It’s simplicity is almost naive for its not just a sign its an object of history and evidence of the culture that surrounds it.  Typography is so important in our world and it always has been. Some people just see it as language however designers see it as an all encompassing visual aspect of sociology and emotion.  

I believe that today we live in a world that has forgotten how to be real discoverers.  What we see is the same filtered crap that is recycled over and over as if it was on a loop.  Companies brand with the same typefaces, design campaigns overuse the same ideas.  We’ve become people who don’t know how to obtain knowledge and inspiration any other way than being in front of a computer screen.  Doc Gutherie in the documentary Sign Painters says it best “Our culture is being dumbed down on every single level but especially aesthetically”.  It seems as if the only evidence of originality are these forgotten signs, and there is a direct correlation with this and great design today.  Great design today pays homage to the type that was used decades ago because it is simply timeless.  For example the work of the great Saul Bass is still relevant and an almost perfect example of successful design because while he had a style every separate thing he did lives in its own context and evokes its own feelings and brands itself appropriately.  His title sequences are almost breath taking how intelligently they are designed and how timeless they are, much like these vintage street signs.  
Saul Bass

It is amazing to me that our generation doesn’t know how to just get out there and walk around in an unfamiliar part of town.  They fear it, and ignore it even though it is right under our noses just blocks away, the most beautifully composed piece of type you’ve ever seen, much more tangible and inspiring than anything you will ever find in a google search.  Especially in this city you have to be foolish not to go explore what is around you, Philadelphia is one of the most beautifully dark and culturally layered cities I’ve ever seen.  I find the most character in the parts of town you’re not really supposed to go to.  While driving down Germantown ave. a small girl from suburban south jersey is not supposed to get out of her car late at night to take a picture of a sign but I do it because I can’t ignore it, I’m attracted to it and its always shown in my art.  I think as designers it is imperative that we open our eyes and make connections and relationships with things we see.  In order to be artistically innovative there's always something that sparked that inspiration, we have to look at the past to better create the future.  

Below are all photos I have taken recently or in the past year or so around Philadelphia...
German Town:

 North Philly- Broad st:

 Germantown ave North Philly/Kensington:

Things to search:

Steve Powers: A Love Letter for You
Hidden City Philadelphia 
Art of the title 
Use Social Media or trend sites like Pinterest and Instagram to your advantage. Believe it or not they can be great sources for inspiration and usable and free photography. 

-Dani Birnbohm

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