Friday, June 4, 2010

Washateria



Lately, I've been reading a lot online about typography in an attempt to educate myself on a subject I find interesting but know very little about. I've read through summaries of the Humanist, Old Style, and Transitional periods and then moved on to the creation of Modern, Slab Serif, and Sans Serif typefaces. This week, I was introduced to the street version of typeface design through Erik Spiekermann's blog.

Spiekermann is a big name in the design world but he's accessible. He writes on his blog -- typos and all -- like a real person would and doesn't do it because it's the newest form of advertising that must be embraced in order to stay on top of technology and in touch with his public (think Facebook and Twitter). Spiekermann's March 23 post is about the Vernacular style of lettering.

Vernacular as it relates to design is a term used primarily in architecture and refers to those structures created by amateurs without academic training. Applied to typography, my earlier post on Gotham touches on the subject. Tobias Frere-Jones, out of respect for a disappearing form of lettering, created a quality typeface to extend its life. Spiekermann's attitude toward the Vernacular, by comparison, is elitist and while he has the credentials to take that viewpoint, he approaches it from the top-down rather than from the street level.

This got me to thinking about my trip to New Orleans. After the flood, amateur lettering was everywhere, from the SPCA notifications painted on houses to the identification signs on animal rescue vans. I shot the above photo because I liked the juxtaposition of the water line with the laundromat storefront. What I discovered yesterday morning was that Washateria is a fine example of the Vernacular style of lettering. See photos following.

A Washerteria in Louisiana ...


A faded Bubbles Washateria ...



A cleaned up Splish Splash Washateria ...


and an Alaskan interpretation ...


All photos (except mine) from flickr.

2 comments:

Pet Society Anonymous said...

I'd never even heard that word, Washateria until I read this post. Some months ago, I saw the documentary "Helvetica," which features typography geeks from around the world. Since then, I've been favoring very plain sans-serif fonts. However, I do think the fonts used in these photos are charming and home-y.

Leslie in Adams Morgan said...

I watched Helvetica about a year ago when it first opened. We went to an art school here in DC and the director had a Q&A afterwards. I just got the DVD through Netflix and plan on watching it again this weekend. I, too, prefer sans serif fonts ....