The Landscape of Letters
his project, called the “Topography of Type” is an attempt to document the visual landscape of type. Small task. Right. Where do I look? What will I see and what will I overlook? Where do I go? Do I just wander around aimlessly or do I explore an area with determination? This website invites the user to explore its content in a linear fashion or as aimlessly as one would experience an unknown terrain. This website is not meant to inform about what constitutes good typography, how to apply or break typographical rules, or how to identify and properly classify typefaces based on the history of typeface design. In fact, a completely made-up classification system guides this topography of type. It’s how I see things when and where I walk.
The term Topography of Type can not be used without mentioning the “Topography of Typography.” The Russian avant-garde artist and designer El Lissitzky coined the term in 1923 in reference to his thoughts about the changing nature of words on the printed surface. El Lissitzky told the reader “that the new book demands the new writer”, “that inkpot and quill-pens are dead”, and that “the printed surface transcends space and time.” Today we are constantly moving our reading experience back and forth between the printed surface (pages, signs) and the digital space. While this website documents—through images—a physical topographical experience beyond the printed book it also presents it in the space of bits and bytes.
Some stores hide their names behind glass, barely visible to the outside while bolder establishments are not shy to yell obvious messages down the street. Others confuse eager shoppers with mixed metaphors. This is the topography of shop type. See the galleries.
There is typographical life on the surface on which we walk. Discarded type, lost memories, expired movie tickets and obscure poetry. It is nothing short of a treasure hunt to read what is right in front of us. See the galleries.
Reading around the letter forms. Approaching a message from all sides. Never shy of reading something into it when the depth allows. Go deeper. See the gallery.
A lot more terrain to cover with these topographies.
he topography of type is constantly changing. A store sign that was there yesterday has been replaced with a new message. A lost personal note appears out of nowhere. Typographic fragments got burned into the tar of a hot summer street. It all adds to the landscape and I want to “walk/read” it. I always find something to read on the ground, on walls, in or above store windows —everywhere. Let’s not forget the sometimes remarkably weird and truthful messages people leave for their neighbors, customers, or just for themselves.
And then I stumble upon somebody else’s documentation of a certain public display of typography. It all adds to the experience of the typographical landscape. And as erratic and varied the physical topography of type can appear, so can this blog. There is this saying by graphic designers and users of graphic design “There is so much going on—I don’t know where to look.” And sometimes I just want to say: “Well, then change the way you look. You might see something you haven’t seen before.” Stroll or scroll down the blog.