Joker Medium Swash Caps B from Handselecta
Handselecta is a type foundry that turns graffiti handstyles into typefaces. The founders both have backgrounds in graffiti and are working with other writers to turn their work into typefaces. They seem to be some of the few people making quality graffiti typefaces, and taking the idea beyond novelty fonts. As they say on the “Thesis” page of the Handselecta website,
Our intent is to intelligently extend the art form of graffiti into the world of typography and graphic design…Just as calligraphy was the inspiration for type designers of generations past, today’s urban glyphs are the inspiration for a new typography of tomorrow.
I’m interested in what others from the type and graffiti communities have to say about past and present “graffiti fonts,” please post a comment if you have any thoughts.
I recently discovered this artist’s website and found that his goals sound pretty familiar. He is a fine artist whose work is influenced by both graffiti and typography. According to his website:
Armogedon’s work is a collaboration of typographic elements and exploration with the formal structure of graffiti . By looking at graffiti and studying typography’s visual commonalities as lettering, much can be discovered and revealed. As graffiti matures and diversifies, more and more of it’s aesthetics filters into contemporary art. It has gained acceptance in popular culture at large and now comfortably accepted as a contemporary mode of communication. Graffiti has mass appeal due to its illegality and excitement. Typography is omnipresent in today’s PC-based information society. Armogedon is Striving to blur the line of typography and graffiti striving to find relationships between the two forms of communication.
I find Armogedon 2057’s pieces very interesting (in a good way) especially because he seems to be using shapes and colors of a contemporary three-dimensional looking style of graffiti without necessarily using letters. It’s great to see that there are other people out there with similar goals to mine using different approaches.
You can see more of his work on his website: http://www.armo1.com/home.html
The Beowolf typeface
Here’s an interesting typeface from relatively recent history. Beowolf is an experimental typeface that’s an exception to the rule of standardization in typography. Each printed letter’s outline is randomized, making it different from others of the same letter.
PostScript allows the designer to build a font program that modifies, changes or switches letterforms. Beowolf is the first font (1989) we build with a randomisation routine. All points on the contour of a (fairly) normal typeface are given a space in which they can freely move. So instead of each letter having one fixed form, the shapes move and wobble. Every single letter this typeface will print will be unique. If characters are repeated in a text they will have different shapes.
It’s an interesting example of intentional irregularity in a digital typeface. One of the biggest differences between graffiti and typography is the standardization of the letters. While Beowolf’s irregularity is computer generated rather than handwritten/painted, it is an important exception that crosses one of the usual boundaries between graffiti and typography.
This ambigram reads the same when flipped.
Ambigrams are words that can be read from multiple angles, generally they can be flipped and read as the same or another word. They may not really be type in the same way as a typeface, but because each letter is designed as part of the specific ambigram, they share some interesting similarities with graffiti pieces. As in a piece, the letters must be consistent and work in relation to each other only within the word they form, rather than as an entire alphabet. While I’m not aware of any graffiti ambigrams, it seems like there is the potential for them.
John Langdon is one of the most well known creators of ambigrams, and his site has some great examples. http://www.johnlangdon.net/ambigrams/
iLK "La Surprise"
This freelance design firm from Paris has done some really interesting work that fuses graffiti and typography. They’ve also worked for some pretty well known clients. Another example of the growing number of artists and designers taking inspiration from both areas. Their website has some nice examples of their work.
The CBS Cafeteria Wall a.k.a. the Gastrotypographicalassemblage
Last summer at TypeCon I saw a presentation on the CBS Wall (a.k.a. that word in the post title). It was a decorated cafeteria wall in the New York CBS building, made mostle of wood type spelling out a variety of culinary words. The words appeared in many different sizes and styles of type. It was a unique piece of design that I feel still has a major impact even in the surviving photographs of it. Unfortunately it was removed in the early 90s and essentially thrown away. Luckily, The Center for Design Study in Atlanta is currently working on restoring the wall, as it is an important piece of design history. This article describes the wall’s history, and the recent efforts to restore it.
It is interesting that both graffiti and typography/graphic design as cultures suffer from a lack of preservation, and perhaps value, for their histories.
I just stumbled onto the work of Seb Lester, a type designer/illustrator from the UK. His stuff is pretty amazing, especially the typographic illustrations. I think there’s a huge similarity to graffiti here, at least in concept. He takes words or phrases and draws and decorates the letters, turning them into beautiful and ornate images. Although his style is pretty different, what he’s doing isn’t too far off from wildstyle pieces. Both essentially involve turning words into images.
There are a lot of great images on his website: http://www.seblester.co.uk/
Detail from one of Seb Lester's pieces, "Hellfire."