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Research – Street Level

October 21, 2009

Until the end of the month Kemistry Gallery in Shoreditch is exhibiting a show dedicated to pioneering design journal Typographica, which ran for almost 20 after its launch in 1949 by Herbert Spencer. Curated by Rick Poynor, founder of Eye magazine and author of Typographica (2001), an earlier book about the journal, the exhibition features original copies as well as excerpts from articles along with commentary by Poynor himself. The article that really caught my eye was Robert Brownjohn’s photo-essay Street Level, which features images of type from shop windows, roll-shutters, and hand-written notices, that has in each case been accidentally distorted by use or circumstance, with corresponding examples of deliberately manipulated type produced by designers.

The article reminded me of something I came across a few years ago – ENDCOMMERCIAL is an ongoing research project and photographic archive of images by Scheppe Böhm Associates, which uses a devised taxonomic system (see top image) to record re-occurrent phenomena within an urban environment (in most cases within New York City). The project has so far yielded over 6,000 thousand photographs, a book EndCommercial: Reading The City (2002), and several exhibitions across Europe and the US. The examples above show the giant letter A-shaped temporary barrier supports used by road-menders, the cryptic street markings left by surveyors of under-street pipe-work, and in a direct coincidence with Brownjohn’s essay, degraded and misspelt commercial signage. The website actually isn’t great for images, but does contain links to numerous essays and articles about the project.

*More images of the Typographica exhibition and the journal itself are available here
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