Vernacular French signage
March 20, 2010 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Not necessarily “naïve”; more like “vernacular.” Jules Vernacular posts dozens of photos of vernacular or unschooled signage on French buildings (in the site’s punning slogan, lettres œuvrières et incongruités typographiques). As ever, it’s amazing that this typography, most of it hand-drawn, hasn’t been wiped out by progress and regularized into Arial (or the Arial of 2010, Papyrus).

Vernacular signage happens all over the world. For a South African treatment, see also the podcast (regular Web page) from Garth Walker’s presentation to the AIGA in 2007, “If I Live in Africa, Why Would I Want to Look Like I Live in New York?”
posted by joeclark (17 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Neat site!

The absolute worst vernacular signage in the world, IMHO, can be found in Buffalo, New York. Yemenese immigrant-owned inner city delis (not a deli in the traditional sense, but Buffalo English for convenience store) are usually painted in garish hues, often a combination of yellow, black, and fluorescent colors, with all the walls covered top to bottom in primitive, hand-painted signage that makes folk barbershop signage from Accra look extremely professional in comparison. Buffalo doesn't enforce its sign regulations, so the deli owners get away with it.
posted by elmwood at 1:43 PM on March 20, 2010

Great link; thanks! Here's another site, launched only a few days ago, devoted to the history of vernacular signage in Britain:

Advertisements painted by hand directly onto the brickwork of buildings were once a common sight in cities, towns and villages across the country. The rise of printed billboards soon led to their decline but many still survive, often faded, clinging to the walls that host them. These 'Ghostsigns' provide a window into the past and evidence of the craftsmanship that once went into their production. However, they are disappearing fast, often due to weathering but also as a result of property development and demolition.
posted by verstegan at 1:45 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

To be honest; generally typography posts are too much obsessive wankery for me.
But this is great.
To contribute; this * is a picture of a church around the corner. I often stop to gaze at the lettering "OUD KATH KERK" (Old Catholic Church) and above "St Jacobus". There's something very crisp and engaging about the letters.
Althought it shouldn't count as vernacular since I'm sure the church builders employed a professional type designer for the lettering above the entrance.

* This is the best picture I could find online. If anyone is interested I can take a close up of the letters. They're much better up close. But not now since it's raining pijpestelen.
posted by joost de vries at 1:57 PM on March 20, 2010

Papyrus is the Arial of nothing! It's more of a modern Comic Sans.
posted by chaff at 2:15 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is fantastic. Reminds me of my time in Delhi, where buses have intricate illustrations painted on their sides, and taxis are entirely hand-painted (with words), in ridiculously precise and beautiful script (regardless of their general condition...)
posted by tmcw at 2:18 PM on March 20, 2010

Great scott. I'm only on page 13. Of 46. Endless awesomeness.
This is exactly the kind of thing I'll notice when traveling. Definitely best of the web.
posted by joost de vries at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2010

oh what the... paris streets, signs and french vernacular - march 2006
posted by infini at 2:36 PM on March 20, 2010

Another contribution: The lettering on Le pavillion des passions humaines in Brussel.
posted by joost de vries at 2:48 PM on March 20, 2010

The American equivalents of this blog:

Journal of Urban Typography

Urban Typography on Flickr - some really gorgeous examples here
posted by shii at 4:31 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Touché, Chaff!
posted by joeclark at 4:34 PM on March 20, 2010

In a similar typographic vein - a delightful little French excursion Promenade dans la rue Raymond Ridel au travers sa numérotation.
posted by tellurian at 4:55 PM on March 20, 2010

This is super cool. I remember getting into a car with a friend once with the intent to go to Nashville, and feeling like I was in a whole other country the first time I saw a handpainted sign at a roadside diner that said "HAMBURGER'S".

Or this, that I saw in California, simultaneously awesome and inexplicable and a little disturbing.
posted by Valet at 5:09 PM on March 20, 2010

A ghost sign is a term for old hand painted advertising or signage that has been preserved on a building for an extended period of time, whether by actively keeping it or choosing not to destroy it.

Links to:
ghostsigns UK & others.

And on a tangent, satirical news show The Chaser rents the world's cheapest advertising billboards, including an Indian hand-painted billboard in Gujarat.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2010

Awesome awesome awesome!

I would say something more substantial, but I'm too occupied with the pretty letters...
posted by heurtebise at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2010

someone told me that spiekermann had designed the first font for a mobile phone screen evah. is that cool or what?
posted by infini at 8:56 AM on March 23, 2010

my lips are sealed.
posted by infini at 8:57 AM on March 23, 2010

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