An assortment of vintage product logos as seen in the wild. The beautiful Kent-Coffey logo was stamped into the inside of a dresser drawer.
We recently took our daughter on the “North Pole Flyer,” a two-hour there-and-back passenger rail excursion that comes complete with a wooden train whistle gift from Santa himself. While it was fun to ride in some older passenger cars and see the cramped quarters that were supposedly “first class” back in the day, the real treat for me was seeing the typography on the exteriors of the cars. Since the train was made up of a hodgepodge of cars from several different (defunct) lines, it provided a variety of graphical styles from at least a few eras. Here are some of the snaps I took:
Remember these?!? Yes, I’m that old and so are some of you, apparently. I snatched this up for a buck at a local thrift store and it looks untouched both inside and out. Nice hand-lettered “Spiratone” logo pairs well with the Cooper Black and the mod deep blue bars finish up a nice and simple package design. Well done.
I’ve been snapping photos of hand-painted signs (or otherwise handmade) for as long as I can remember and only just today went over the 600 mark. After a recent trip to visit my former home, NYC, I discovered several new “reveals” that were the result of City Gates or Coca Cola awnings being removed during renovations. Luckily I had a decent enough camera on my phone to capture them with. After all the years of having this obsession, you’d think I’d never leave the house without my digital SLR. Click here to view the photos.
A rotating exhibit at the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center of the Seed Savers Exchange highlights some beautiful seed catalog covers from days gone by. I’m nowhere near Decorah, IA, but if you aren’t either, don’t fret. They’re updating this Facebook photo album with samples from the exhibit. Hopefully they’ll be adding more as this is merely the inaugural selection. When you’re done, you should also check out another album of “Early 1900’s Seed Catalog Tin Signs & Magnets,” which they’ve re-issued as tin replicas that you can buy in their online store.
Hey, lovers of visual junk. Long time. Well, I just uploaded some new-ish photos of hand painted/hand made signs from around Austin to my Flickr (click image to jump on over):
I’m a sucker for 1950s color advertising photography, with its over-saturated colors and idyllic subjects and scenery. The packaging for the baia Instamount Photo Cube was no let down in this respect. Looking like scenes from bygone family-oriented TV shows the sides of this box, which held a once ubiquitous acrylic photo cube, wreak of family values and WASPy middle American life. The eye-catcher for me, though, was the simple 3-color baia logo set in a bold, slightly extended version of Clarendon. It feels rather modern for such a classic and commonly used typeface perhaps due to the even/odd interplay of the flipped words’ alternating characters. I owned a baia 8mm film editor some time ago and never paid much mind to the faded, black logo on it. I’d surely have kept the thing if the logo had appeared like this.
The HandpaintedType project is a collaborative, on-going effort to preserve, well, the hand painted type of Indian street painters. A 10-minute documentary video introduces the project’s website visitors to a few of these forgotten masters as well as the computer-aided scoundrels who’ve made their skills “obsolete.” In the fast-moving haste of bustling Delhi, business owners prefer cheap and speedy Arial-based signs over the comparatively arduous, though stunningly artistic hand-painted banners of yore.
Behold this recently acquired stash of Bell Records 45 RPM and 78 RPM 7-inch vinyl records, which were distributed by Pocket Books and featured cover versions or “sound-alike” versions of popular tunes of the time. Sound-alike versions were cheap to produce and, beyond the flat rate the musicians were paid, cost the record company only publishing royalties on top of manufacturing and distribution. A nickel and dime game perhaps, but there was certainly profit to be made if enough unsuspecting customers bought the sound-alikes instead of the real McCoys. Some of the songs featured in this collection are Jackie Wilson’s That’s Why, here performed by otherwise-lost-to-history act, “The Muses” and the Kingston Trio’s hit, Tom Dooley, performed by the equally anonymous “The Four Dreams.”
“The Lost Type Co-Op is a Pay-What-You-Want Type foundry, the first of its kind.” So reads the first line on their About Us page. I had to read their About Us page because I wanted to find out what the catch was. Here are several typefaces—many vintage-inspired—that I’d like to own and each has a pay-what-you-will price model that ruffled the skeptical feathers on this bird. But there’s no catch. The Lost Type Co-Op really does sell high quality fonts designed for print and sometimes web use (@font-face) for whatever price—including zero dollars—you are willing to pay. Upon entering the amount and clicking the DOWNLOAD button on a particular font’s page, your download starts immediately and you are then redirected to PayPal to complete your order. Yes, your product is delivered before you finished paying for it.
Fellow type-obsessed collector, Molly Woodward, has embarked far beyond the shores of this occasional blogger’s endeavors with her website, blog and Kickstarter-funded film project, all appropriately titled “Vernacular Typography.” Visitors of my Hand-painted & Hand-made Signs exhibit may see some overlap, possibly in one or two sign photos, but definitely in a related passion for the often overlooked typographic relics scattered throughout cities as exotic as Havana, Florence and Newark. Her film has been successfully funded and I can’t wait to see what comes of it. While future generations may not have the real artifacts to admire and study, there will surely be sufficient digital archives thanks to the tireless efforts of folks like Molly. Cheers!
Click on over to Letterheady, a one-page scroller featuring letterhead designs for such notable figures as Nikola Tesla and Adolph Hitler to obscure companies like the Liverpool-based Robot Salesmen Ltd. They appear to be legit, with sources linking to other sites from which the examples were culled. Some seem to have been Photoshopped to give them an empty, unused state. Who cares. They’re fun to browse and fit right in here with my love of Visual Junk.
I like Radiohead. I’ve always liked them. From the earnest songwriting of their youth to the rejection and gradual acceptance of their own fame to their continued exploration of what “music” is. I also appreciate the attention they have always paid to the visual component of their works having hired numerous designers, animators, illustrators, filmmakers and artists to create their albums’ packaging, videos, posters, websites, t-shirts and more. And that is precisely why I was a bit perplexed to see the masthead on the website for their new album, The King Of Limbs.
Finally, the fruits of my labor are made apparent in the new and ever-relevant dingbat font designed by Jeff Levine called Eckhardt Signwork. An archivist of forgotten letterforms, Mr. Levine was inspired by many a sign photo found in the collections on this website as well as on Forgotten-NY.com, a terrific site I once blogged about years ago. As with many of his previous fonts Eckhardt Signwork reveals a caretaker’s handling of the tattered lettering that lay within these scratched and rusty relics. And while I’ve certainly received emails from all sorts of folks thanking me for the inspirations, I’ve only seen a few examples manifest like this. I can’t wait to see “YES” appear in print one day soon!