Word on the street

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The paper discuss the influence an apparently anonymous and unattributed typeface can continue to exert on individuals and the contribution it can make to a sense of place long after it has been designed and entered into the public realm. Like most cities, Belfast has a range of street signs dating from different eras in the city’s development. Of particular note are a range of 19th/early 20th century signs made using a ceramic encaustic process whereby the lettering is formed from white liquid clay poured into an impression and later glazed. The signs where then assembled as individual tiles into a complete street name for application. These signs are commonplace in the older sections of the city and the weathering process has only contributed to their character. These particular signs and the font used appear to be unique to Belfast. Inspired by the unusual sans-serif capitals of the signs, the distinctive cellular matrix of the setting and the weather- worn aesthetic I will discuss the development of a contemporary digital display font. During the initial research I discovered that newer versions of the street signs had been generated which in turn led to contact with an Edinburgh based Urban Design practice ––in particular, Gordon Muir–– who had re-created the signs for a heritage project in recent years. Our conversations revealed how we had independently been drawn to the unusual characteristics of the font used in the beautiful signs. The paper intends to discuss the archival research and visual qualities of the font in reference to notions of place and culture alongside continuing resonance in a contemporary setting.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherAssociation Typographique Internationale
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 12 Sept 2010
EventATypI 2010 – 'The Word' Association Typographique Internationale - Dublin Castle, 8–12 September 2010
Duration: 12 Sept 2010 → …


ConferenceATypI 2010 – 'The Word' Association Typographique Internationale
Period12/09/10 → …
Internet address

Bibliographical note

ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) is the premier worldwide organisation dedicated to type and typography. Founded in 1957, ATypI provides the structure for communication, information and action amongst the international type community.


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