Week 24 Literature review

Something I think I have mentioned before, but it is worth repeating, because I really like the concept and the style. The map is the focal point of the website and easily links. The cool tones of the website are interesting, and that you can filter different types of the attraction. Each dot has a thorough description of the event/installation and photos, and occasionally multimedia too. The UI is slick and the curved corners (which I think is naff, usually) are cool. A great example of datafed and 3 column design. I wish I could design this well!


In a similar vein, this is an interactive map of cultural and foody places in Bucharest. Again, I like this (not as much as the line) and it shows information concisely and cleanly. I wonder how to present the information I have, where sometimes there are lots of dots concentrated in a small place. I have around 400 photos on my current map, but I haven’t written descriptions of them all. But I could categorise them, and perhaps make some walks based on a certain theme, in the style of Filo’type.

Alice Neve and Stuart directed me to this lovely exhibition in Tokyo: a created exhibition! Visitors decorate sea creature templates, have it scanned in and then see the image on the project walls. The website describes the project as so:

Color in a fish on the paper provided. See the picture you have drawn come to life in the massive aquarium in front of you, swimming together with the fish drawn by other people. If you touch the swimming fish, they will swim away. If you touch the food bags, you can also feed the fish. The tuna you draw will transcend the boundaries of the artwork and swim out into the Sketch Aquariums and Sketch Oceans of exhibitions around the world. And the tuna drawn in other parts of the world may appear and swim in the Sketch Aquarium right in front of you.

How amazing! The bridge between low-tech drawing and hi-tech projection is well thought out and worked really well. The scanner looks hi-tech, but I’ve seen notebooks that you can scan in your notes without lines being scanned in too, and have made a DIY version myself. I’m not saying it would be easy to implement, but it is very effective. That your artwork can become part of something bigger, and be around the world is magic and a real draw, whether adult or child.

How could I make this work with letters? I could use the drawn letters and project them in the gallery, scanning them in one at a time, and also using LED screens.


Easter: Brass Rubbings

I’ve taken a lot of photographs of typography for this project, and I wanted to capture some images in another way. On the high street, there are some brass bricks laid into the pavement that say interesting facts about the area. They are so easy to overlook under the busy movement of people that it’s a treasure to find a new one.

Commissioned as part of a larger art project by the council, Matter architecture and Richard Wolfestrome, they “celebrate and enhance the existing life of the High Street and its connection with the Forest and Wetlands through a suite of adjustments to the market and the public realm. The concept of a woodland walk, with clearings along its length is used to organise aesthetic treatment of existing elements in the street, bringing out local stories and histories and creating moments of pause and intensity.”

Now, they are battered and worn, with the black enamel chipping away, weathered by hundreds of thousands of feet and the elements but the engravings still provide a textural contrast.

The printing pirate of Berlin took urban structures like manhole covers, grids, technical objects and other surfaces of the urban landscape, to create unique graphical patterns on streetwear basics, fabrics and paper:

Yes, this doesn’t concentrate on typography, but I love how they capture the unseen and forgotten part of our streets and make them into something useful and desirable. The pieces are created on location (rather than an impression taken and printed elsewhere) which gives the feeling a sense of authenticity. It allows passengers to become viewers, observing the process as it evolves. It creates possibilities for communication, exchange and spontaneity. Furthermore production depends on factors like weather, time and season, which makes the project human. This approach takes a critical view and offers an alternative viewpoint on nowadays mass production. A part of the city is being extracted from its origin and brought to new life in a different context. By carrying the image around, people become part of the project themselves.

Emma-France Raff, the main creator of the project, says that their motivations are to stimulate our perception regarding the relationship to our surrounding, refine everyday routines, as well as being sensitive to the beauty hidden in the unexpected.

They run workshops in the street that allow people to make their on personal print, and to stop for a few moments, and appreciate the small things around them.

I wanted some way of showing this part of the environment other than photographs, and decided on brass rubbings. This inspired me to go out with a large pad and crayons one evening to see what I could find. There are a lot of utility covers and the Walthamstow Bricks, and I followed my feet to see what I could find.

Here are some of the images:

The texture gives the images a much more human and yet urban feel that would be impossible to capture with photograph pixels. They aren’t perfect: the wind caught the paper and the image shifted slightly, and sometimes the text isn’t legible at all! The wearing blurriness contributes a certain something to it. I also captured the patterns, not just the text because they came out much better than the text. I’m not sure what to do with them right now, but building a wider archive than just the lettering will make for a richer outcome.

During the process, I did have a lot of weird looks that I ignored, but a few people asked what I was doing. When I explained, they were charmed and wanted to know more about the project and more about what I had captured so far. Brass rubbings are an old fashioned activity for children in fusty museums, so it amused them for an adult to be doing it so intently in the middle of a pedestrianised high street. Maybe in the future, I can involve more people in getting examples to get people looking around them.

Cultural archives

Waltham Forest Oral History Project

Cultural Archives

There are many cultural projects in the borough, and two that stand out are Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop and the Facebook page “Walthamstow In Pictures”. The Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop has recorded residents’ stories for over thirty years, bringing the area’s history to life. Each record is unique, and it is possible to see trends of people making their homes here. The project is an outstanding example of the qualitative archives possible within a community, and it inspires my aims for Stowe Framework because it captures a wide range of views.

As another example, the Facebook page “Walthamstow In Pictures” publishes people’s photos of the area and have built up an enviable local archive. Rick, the person behind the page, has shared his motivation behind starting and maintaining the page, saying that he loves “love reading comments on the shared photos. [The sharing of photos has facilitated] childhood reunions [and] even families who lost touch with each other.” He preferred to keep his identity to himself as he feels that the page works best from an anonymous point of view. This approach has worked, as he has thousands of photos in organised albums on a page that has upwards of eighteen thousand followers.

This building is called the Ancient House

 The advent of social media has allowed keen amateur historians to build archives as they wish and enables the community to interact more easily. In comparison, the local archives stored at Vestry House Museum are available only in person and subject to curation. Above shows the comments and discussions on the photos. They are of equal importance because they collate memories that form the area’s history, readily as part of people’s everyday social media communication. 

If any fault were to be found with Walthamstow in Pictures, it would be that Facebook optimises the images and making them part of the Facebook infrastructure means it will be difficult to migrate the archive to another system later. Despite this, Rick’s work to maintain and increase the archive is focused and is to be applauded.

After the discussion of the term ‘vernacular’ above, the Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop and Walthamstow in Pictures are examples of vernacular archives. However, they are described as such not to deride these collections; instead, to differentiate between the origins of the archives and the easy way people engage with them. These collections have equal importance to the formal histories we see in museums and official online archives.

TD Week 12: Literature Review

 How does vernacular typography contribute to a sense of place and belonging in the community of Walthamstow?

Running past the William Morris gallery this evening I was reminded of a subject I’d like to include in my critical report. The subject of my question revolves around vernacular typography and how people use typography, regardless of design experience, to create an environment. Even if they don’t realise it. William Morris was a big proponent of socialism and text being beautiful and easy to read at the same time. This post collects quotes around this subject for use in my critical report.

According to AIGA’s 2019 Design Survey, only 29% of the 9,429 respondents identified as a designer of color, with only 3% identifying as Black. Can’t drill down any further. In direct contrast to the population of Walthamstow. Make the invisible visible and encourage people to become involved in design to make a more pleasant place for everyone.

“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
― William Morris
Classic quote in the Mall – mostly branded shops rather than locally run businesses.

“…I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few… ”
― William Morris

Typography is a gauge of a community, at the same time influencing it.

Letterforms are loaded cultural objects—they often reflect the people who made them and the story they want to tell. … In the long history of type design, designers of color have historically had limited access to the tools and knowledge necessary to create typography. This form of technological discrimination has had the effect of limiting the groups of people reflected in—and represented by—the typography we see in the world.
… [Tre Seals is] also cautiously optimistic about the potential of treating typography as a starting point for deeper conversations about culture and representation. (https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/tre-seals-is-turning-typography-into-a-radical-act/)

“I believe that all type and design is subliminal—no matter how monotonous or garish.” Tre Seals

“The best way to create diverse perspectives in design? Integrate more training and learning opportunities in primary and secondary schools that teach students to question the idea of design from the get go.” https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/we-all-want-more-diversity-in-design-but-what-are-we-doing-about-it/

Beatrice Warde’s use of a crystal goblet is fine for the time, but as a metaphor is out of touch. Maryam Ahmed suggests a baby bottle.

Typography and placemaking

Typefaces have a powerful role to play when it comes to defining places and spaces. They help shape the aesthetic and, much like handwriting, reflect a certain personality. Over time, they can come to form part of the DNA of a place. All of which is important if you’re a brand – whether establishment or service – trying to evoke and reflect the mood of an area. (https://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/features/typography/type-of-two-cities-how-fonts-can-make-you-feel-at-home/)

Am I cynical to think about brands capitalising on this? Shouldn’t the people of a community also have a say in this? Change the power dynamic.

History of typography very restricted to printed items until the Industrial revolution “when mass production brought about the need for product advertising and promotion. Cities began to fill up with posters, handbills, banners and print billboards, all featuring multiple fonts and styles. At the same time, cities exploded in size, with the addition of new building types. Office buildings, train stations and municipal buildings now required signs for identity and wayfinding. Typography was further simplified to meet these new sign types, though typography was still following customized versions of classical fonts until the 20th century. … The messiness and clutter of the commercial city was disturbing to many designers and intellectuals in Europe. Design movements developed to integrate design disciplines to better refl ect the greater mechanization of society. (https://signresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/Typography-Placemaking-and-Signs.pdf)

Typography and psychology

Brumberger, E. (2003). The Rhetoric of Typography: The Persona of Typeface and Text. Technical Communication, 50, 206-223. 

The existing research on typography has focused primarily on readability and legibility issues; only a handful of studies have attempted to investigate the personas of typefaces perhaps because typography has generally been considered transparent. In 1959, typography researcher Cyril Burt concluded that there had been virtually no objective research on the psychological aspects of typeface design and usage. Burt’s observation remains true today.

Very interesting study.

Week 11: Literature Review

TyPE Tasting

Sarah Hyndman runs TypeTasting, and her mission is “to change the way we think and talk about typography by making it fun and exciting for everybody. She specialises in making typography entertaining and relevant with humour, a dash of theatre and lashings of audience participation.

She creates multisensory installations, immersive events and innovative workshops designed to challenge assumptions.”

I asked her if I could talk to her as I think that her workshops are good examples of how she gets people to engage with typography. Most importantly, she aims to engage people from a non-design background. Just like me. However, she said that she was too busy (and looking at her schedule, I can understand why) and to look at her workshops.

So, tonight I went to one called Painting with fonts: geometric fonts that focussed on the Bauhaus. We had 3 tasks to create alphabets from as fewer shapes as possible. Here are my 3 goes.

There were good references that came up in conversation too:


Rick Poynor, of University of Reading, thinks that looking at only typography is reductive:

Graphic design’s full potential as a means of communication comes from the integration of type and image. It hardly needs saying, one might think, and yet it often seems today that the emphasis falls too much on type at the expense of the image. At the point where we might be better able than ever before to proselytize the purposes of graphic design, because public awareness of type and design in general in the 21st century helps to make this possible, instead we fixate on one component— the “font,” simplistically reducing public perception of visual communication to a matter of expressing our personalities by our type choices.” POYNOR, R., 2017. “Typographic Selfies”? Print, 71(2), pp. 21-22.

This is a valid concern: good design is greater than the sum of its parts, and focusing on typography ignores to some extent the broader context in which it is placed. Because typography is commonly overlooked in everyday life, a narrow field of view is necessary for Stowe Framework to engage the community.

Kupferschmid takes a look at why readability has taken the place over idiosyncrasy:

“With hardly any other reason for the choice of one typeface over another, “readability” comes in handy when one has to sell a design decision to a client, especially a public institution or a corporate organization. The favoring of readability and legibility by clients keen to avoid untested or idiosyncratic designs may be understandable. …
Frutigerization of typographic landscapes is offset nowadays by a growing awareness of unique local lettering styles and increasing efforts to preserve them, not least through photographic documentation and archives. And young designers, who yearn for the hand-made typographic tradition to continue, slip into the vernacular and retro aesthetics in their work.”
“The tradition of letter forms past and present typical to a region is too rich and culturally significant to be relinquished to the “do-no-harm”, standardized typefaces like Frutiger. They can express so much more than just words and information. Letters are seen before they are read. Thankfully, recent developments in the digital media and young designers’ creative approaches to their work give some hope for the preservation of the older forms and the emergence of more varied and imaginative typefaces of contemporary cityscapes.”
Kupferschmid, I. (2015) ‘Between Frutigerization and tradition: diversity, standardization, and readability in contemporary typographic landscapes’, Social Semiotics, 25(2), pp. 151–164. doi: 10.1080/10350330.2015.1010319.

I like the idea that young designers are rebelling against the simplicity of modernism and creating an aesthetic that is easy to read while going back to previous references in history.

Week 10: Literature Review

I went to a fascinating lecture by Dr Maryam Ahmed in memorial of Beatrice Ward, a founder of St Bride’s foundation, Here are the notes I made at the time:

There were so many interesting points. One of them was that even though we don’t realise it, we all learn typography when we learn to write. We then forget we ever learnt it and it becomes invisible. I’d like my project to make typography more visible to the people in the community, because I think that is the first hurdle in getting people engaged and eager to consider their typographic environment.

Her students have undertaken a project called Wander Type where they undertook a project similar to the GeoType Wall project we did in the first week of GDE720. Her students could travel the world using Google Maps Street View, which is a fascinating way to consider new areas. Will her students miss vital context, or are fresh eyes vital to evaluating an area in this way? I think it is a bit of both.

This will be similar to my Area Survey workshop, but mine will be based in the area of E17. Like the WanderType project, I pick out typography that people living in the area for a long time might be a bit blind to what they see. On the other hand, they will know the history and be able to contextualise what is there. I will come in and not know the history, but will be able to see in a different way.

online lectures

Gerry Leonidas is a very well-respected typography lecturer at the university of Reading, and he gave a talk in 2017 about how to make a career in typography last.

Anyone can knock out good enough typefaces and typesetting, or programmes to do so. The role of the typographer is now to find the context around the type being created through practice-based research and to facilitate encouragement and discourse around type. Food for thought!

Week 8: Literature Review

References thus far:

Blankenship, S., 2003. Cultural Considerations: Arabic Calligraphy and Latin Typography. Design Issues, 19(2), pp.60-63.

Bourdieu, P., 1996. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. USA: President and Fellows of Harvard College and Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.

Fieldworkfacility.com. n.d. Hoe Street. [online] Available at: <https://fieldworkfacility.com/projects/hoe-street&gt; [Accessed 10 November 2020].

Frostner, M. and Sollis, R., n.d. Station Road Harrow. [online] Europaeuropa.co.uk. Available at: <http://www.europaeuropa.co.uk/#id-station-road-harrow&gt; [Accessed 12 November 2020]. 

Gaydos, B., 2007. [Ethno]Graphic Design. Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University.

Gunn, W., Otto, T., Smith, R. C., 2013. Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice. London, UK: Bloomsbury.

Hall, S., Held, D., & McGrew, T., 1992. The Question of Cultural Identity. In Hall, S. (Ed.), Modernity and Its Futures. p. 274–280. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hatherley, O., 2017. “London Streets Don’t Need To Look Like A 1940S That Never Happened”. [online] Dezeen. Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2017/11/07/owen-hatherley-opinion-walthamstow-high-street-london-shop-signs-sanitisation-mistake/&gt; [Accessed 10 November 2020].

Holland, C., 2009. Farrow And Ballification. [online] Fantastic Journal. Available at: <http://fantasticjournal.blogspot.com/2009/07/farrow-and-ballification.html&gt; [Accessed 10 November 2020]. 

Leeson, H., 2014. Classifying Signs. The Recorder, Issue 1, p. 19-26.

Mills, A., 2010. A Dictionary Of London Place Names. New York: Oxford University Press.

Snodgrass, N., 2018. Facilitating Diversity: The Designer’s Role In Supporting Cultural Representations Through Multi-Script Type Design And Research. Master of Fine Arts. Kent State University.

Villagomez, N., 2015. Culture + Typography. New York: F+W. 

Walthamforest.gov.uk. Regeneration | Waltham Forest Council. [online] Available at: <https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/content/regeneration-st-james-street-improvements&gt; [Accessed 10 November 2020]. 

Walthamforest.gov.uk. Statistics About The Borough | Waltham Forest Council. [online] Available at: <https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/content/statistics-about-borough&gt; [Accessed 31 October 2020]. 

Wforalhistory.org.uk. Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop. [online] Available at: <http://wforalhistory.org.uk/&gt; [Accessed 8 November 2020].

Week 7: drafting my Literature Review

At the end of week 8, I have to hand in a draft of my literature review. Here is where I got up to at this point:

How does vernacular typography contribute to a sense of place and belonging in the community of Walthamstow? 

Visual communication is ubiquitous in every environment that we inhabit, from private space to public spheres, in the form of signs, advertisements and arts. Furthermore, humankind’s instinct for language unites us, allowing us to express ourselves and our cultural identity, whether orally and aurally or through language’s written form: type and lettering.

Stowe Framework seeks to explore the vernacular typography in Walthamstow, an area of North East London, and highlight how the typography informs us of the changing demographics and builds the area’s culture. This literature review will present the history of the area and its communities before it considers how current academic studies apply in this instance. Finally, the review will consider how Stowe Framework can bridge academic study and community engagement to enhance awareness of, and safeguard our visual history.



Located in the northeast of London, UK, the Domesday Book recorded Walthamstow as “Wilcumestou”, or the place of welcome, from which Stowe Framework derives its name (Mills, 2010). It remained a rural area until the nineteenth century, when train travel allowed office workers to live in the borough and commute to work, boosting the population. The population rise was echoed in the 1980s when the Victoria Line of the Underground extended to reach the area.

Through the centuries, 

Examples of Typography in Walthamstow

Walthamstow has three areas that can be considered commercial centres: the first, Walthamstow Village; and the High Street and Wood Street, both of which formed as a result of the transport links to the area.

The link between Typography and Culture

“Typography is more than legibility, and more than aesthetics. It is the search for greater power in the written word. It is the embodiment of a culture’s identity. It is the celebration of humanity” (Blankenship, 2003).

“Type does not exist within a vacuum, it is predicated on cultural change and motivated by underlying social structures that may not be readily apparent to an observer looking in” (Snodgrass, 2018).

Studies on typography

In 2006, Gaydos launched a project called Visual Scavenger Hunt that asked people around the world to photograph objects in their environment. He had the goal “to have individuals focus on how visual communication can make our communities similar, and also how it makes them unique” (Gaydos, 2007, p.93). He compiled the submissions from 25 people from 20 different cultures that focussed on a list of subjects such as a business card, a restaurant menu, and a piece of graffiti to create a “contrast between variable and control [that] made for an exciting cross-cultural comparison” (Gaydos, 2007, p.93). The study was as broad as it could be, with the instructions translated into thirteen languages, and gave Gaydos insight into a wide variety of cultures. 

The heart of the project is very similar to Stowe Framework in that looking at the visual culture can represent the communities around us. From there, a researcher can conclude the similarities and differences between the visual responses and, therefore, those societies.

In comparison, Stowe Framework focusses on one area, Walthamstow. Firstly, the encompassing borough of Waltham Forest “is one of the most diverse areas in the country” with more than a third of its population born abroad according to the 2011 Census (Waltham Forest Council, 2020). As such, the area could be viewed as a microcosm of our global society and functions as a concentrated ground where “cultures hybridize and reinvent themselves” (Gaydos, 2007, p.63). Stowe Framework aims to highlight and honour the many strands of the Walthamstow community.

The control of the physical area opens up the research to a broader selection of typographic examples than the Visual Scavenger Hunt. However, a list of potential examples does support study participants whilst they conduct research.

Research methods

I have my own bias

Can I look outside, given that I moved here only recently?

Given the wide range of people, there will be different views.


Mills, A., 2010. A Dictionary Of London Place Names. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gaydos, B., 2007. [Ethno]Graphic Design. Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University.

Blankenship, S., 2003. Cultural Considerations: Arabic Calligraphy and Latin Typography. Design Issues, 19(2), pp.60-63.

Snodgrass, N., 2018. Facilitating Diversity: The Designer’s Role In Supporting Cultural Representations Through Multi-Script Type Design And Research. Master of Fine Arts. Kent State University.

Walthamforest.gov.uk. 2020. Statistics About The Borough | Waltham Forest Council. [online] Available at: <https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/content/statistics-about-borough&gt; [Accessed 31 October 2020].

week 6: Literature Review

Snodgrass, N., 2018. Facilitating Diversity: The Designer’s Role In Supporting Cultural Representations Through Multi-Script Type Design And Research. Master of Fine Arts. Kent State University.

I cam across this paper when I was researching for my Artefact submission in GDE720, and I was interested in its inclusion of multi-script type design. I’ve since delved deeper into it to see how it has approached its subject and what research methodologies it has used. It makes some great points about typography, and my project would sit in an adjacent spot to it. As such I have used as a springboard for my own research, rather than quoting from it too heavily.

This has been a great help for looking at how MA papers are structured and what they include, from interviews and chapters to research methodologies. I’d like my outcome to be more based on how to run a project, though it is very useful from a research standpoint. Of particular interest to me was:

  • Interviews conducted with type experts with questions included in appendices. There are eight (eight!) and I am struggling to get people to respond to me.
  • Surveys with analysis of respondents with questions included in appendices


  • Blankenship, Sherry. (2003). Cultural Considerations: Arabic Calligraphy and Latin Typography. Design Issues, vol. 19, no. 2, p. 60–63., doi:10.1162/074793603765201415.
    • “Typography is more than legibility, and more than aesthetics. It is the search for greater power in the written word. It is the embodiment of a culture’s identity. It is the celebration of humanity”
  • Hall, S., Held, D., & McGrew, T. (1992). The Question of Cultural Identity. In Hall, S. (Ed.), Modernity and Its Futures. p. 274–280. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Leeson, H. (2014). Classifying Signs. The Recorder, Issue 1, p. 19-26.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1996). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. USA: President and Fellows of Harvard College and Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • Smith, R. C., Vangkilde, K. T., Kjaersgaard, M. G., Otto, T., Halse, J., Binder, T. (2016). Design Anthropology Futures. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
  • Thompson, N., Sholette, G. (2004). The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Week 5: Literature Review


  • Lupton, E., 1993. (qtd. by Barbara Glauber). In: B. Glauber, ed., Lift and Separate: Graphic Design and the Quote Vernacular Unquote. New York: Cooper Union, p.5.
  • Poynor, R., 2013. No more rules. London: Laurence King.
  • Keedy, J., 1993. I Like the Vernacular … Not!. In: B. Glauber, ed., Lift and Separate: Graphic Design and the Quote Vernacular Unquote. New York: Cooper Union, pp.6–11.


What is meant by vernacular typography exactly? The concept of the vernacular within graphic design came about in the 1970s to 1980s as a reaction to the rule-based schools of modernism. Designers took inspiration from outside of the design world, and vernacular came to mean “natural, unschooled sensibility free from the stylistic self-censorship of modernism” (Lupton, 1993). Equally, Poyner states that “vernacular design’s appeal lay in its authenticity, the sense that it was a natural, unfiltered expression of the way people felt, of their local concerns, untainted by strategy, marketing imperatives and the slickness and calculation typical of the design’s elite professional class” (Poynor, 2013). Both Lupton and Poynor recognise that work termed vernacular took an instinctual route with design, free from the calculation and underlying marketing strategy. The recognition of vernacular resonates with the aims of Stowe Framework, because the project aims to reflect what is here in the community.

A champion of vernacular design in the 1980s, Tibor Kalman and his New York design company M&Co viewed vernacular design as “just there, part of the landscape, a form of visual slang” and that it was “a source of clean, honest inspiration” (Poynor, 2013; Lupton, 1992). While Kalman accurately recognised that most people pay no attention to their design environment, his view was naive to the politics between the dominant culture and subcultures by which he was inspired. Vernacular, and drawing inspiration from it, has its problems. By designating a design or piece of typography as vernacular, it creates an ‘othering’ of the said piece and a division that suggests some design work is more laudable because of its origins. Lupton describes “the term ‘vernacular’ is also relative: it places a standard language against a lesser dialect, a dominant culture against a secondary subculture” (Lupton, 1992). In this project, ‘othering’ could take the form of comparing branding of multinational companies, for example, Nando’s, Sainsbury’s, HSBC, against small businesses with signs designed by the community. In Walthamstow, it is the multinationals that stand out and seem ‘other’. While Stowe Framework concentrates on what I see as the vernacular, it includes visual references to large scale because to the people of Walthamstow, these pieces of lettering are as much part of the environment as a local butcher’s prices on a chalkboard.

Nag’s Head pub, Walthamstow Village

The research underpinning tries to embody Kalman’s technique of seeing what is truly there and often overlooked, while respecting the context by reporting and analysing. As Keedy describes: “What is needed is an awareness of what crossing cultural/historical boundaries actually means, as well as an understanding of the importance of context” (Keedy, 1998). Stowe Framework focuses on typography rather than overall vernacular design, but the same design criticism applies to typography as a subset of designed work.

Week 4: Literature Review


Again, this week I found it incredibly hard to engage. although I did reach out to Fraser Muggeridge of Typography Summer School. So far, I have heard nothing back.

Hoe Street

After last week’s look at a project at the St James Street end of the High Street, I’m going to take a look at a different one. The project is juxtaposed in outcome to another project on Hoe Street that adjoins the High Street’s eastern end, also commissioned by Waltham Forest Council. The agency Fieldwork Facility undertook work to collaborate with ten locally-orientated businesses to “understand their needs and see how shopfront improvements can increase opportunities for business” (Fieldworkfacility.com, n.d.). The Hoe Street project had similar aims to the St James Street project, in that they both “decluttered years of redundant signage giving the streetscape room to breathe and making Hoe Street a more inviting place” (ibid.). The agency advertises that more detailed case studies are available upon request, but the report has proceeded without the extra content after multiple attempts to contact them.

Fieldwork Facility describes their process as one to “smarten appearances and celebrate independent businesses for their idiosyncrasies” and as can be seen above, the results are joyfully independent and preserve the businesses’ identities (ibid.) For the Moonlight supermarket, they “celebrated the family ownership with Turkish patterns incorporating ‘moon phases’ and moonlight colours” with the typeface using circular ‘o’s also evoking the moon image (ibid.). The result is eye-catching, sensitive to the owners’ heritages and fits in with the other shops around it.

The new frontage for Ashlins Natural Health is particularly impressive, because it is backlit with LEDs that change in relation to the outside temperature and ensures that it fits in with the new slick estate agents on its stretch of the street.

For The Office of Bodyart Tattooing, Fieldwork Facility honed in on the business owner, Terry, who is one of the first ever foreigners to be granted membership to the Tattoo Club of Japan. To honour his achievement, his logo was redesigned to be a rising sun made of needles and ink drops. The street signage is in English and Japanese to celebrate Terry’s no-nonsense attitude and tone of speech in all communications.

The two projects, located at either end of the High Street, had similar aims of improving the areas’ images and helping businesses and differed in their approach. The St James Street project focussed on resurrecting a rosy view of the past compared to Hoe Street, which achieved its goals by concentrating on the individual businesses and their value to the community.

Week 3: Literature Review


Walthamstow is well connected to the centre of London but far enough out to foster its own identity. This observation is crucial to the typographic environment. Walthamstow has four areas that can be considered commercial centres: the first, Walthamstow Village; and the High Street that links with St James Street and Wood Street, all of which formed due to new transport links. These streets have been of interest to design critics and have been subject to various regeneration and heritage preservation projects.

In 2017, journalist Hatherley noted that on the High Street was an “assemblage of Lithuanian and West African grocers, Bulgarian restaurants alongside eel and pie shops, a plethora of charity stores, a busy street market mostly full of tat with the odd bit of gold. It is an exhilarating, warm and convivial fragment of a world where borders are irrelevant and nationalism a joke” (Hatherley, 2017). Map 1 lays out a selection of multicultural business signs on the high street that patch one end to another.

Turning our attention to typography, the High Street shop fronts as varied as their fares. Hatherley reflects on this, saying that “many of the old signs were and are naff, some of them very enjoyably so … What they do instead is display to the pedestrian that they’re in a place where people from every continent live without discord. Today, that means a lot” (Hatherley, 2017). Residents of the area might disagree that there that people “live without discord”, usually on social media; however, what tensions there are, play out in a subtle way that allows the High Street to exist in its ever-changing state.

St James Street

On the west end of the High Street, near St James Street station, a council regeneration project in 2017 has led to ire from locals and design critics alike. The shop facades were redesigned using colours from a muted palette with identical uppercase san-serif names, irrespective of the nature of the business. In an area survey in 2014, before work taking place, a report from the council stated that “reflective materials and inappropriate lighting can detract from the historic character of the conservation area and give an inferior quality appearance to the area. There are many oversized, internally illuminated and inappropriate signs within the Conservation Area” (Waltham Forest Council, 2014). 

Given that the council marked the area for historical conservation, the signage is not in keeping with what was there before. The views in 2013 are brighter in colour and less uniform than in the early 1900s. Still, I suggest the older photographs give a false impression, partly due to the monochrome photo processing. It is only an opinion that the signage “can detract from the historic character” and “give an inferior quality appearance” (Waltham Forest Council, 2014). It creates the sense of othering of the community.

Journalist Owen Hatherley believes that “urban coherence is a good thing. But the remodelling of the shop signs of Walthamstow is an anally retentive mistake, driven by a total misunderstanding of what makes London interesting”. He goes on to say that “this particular approach to conservation is a ‘sanitised version of the urban streetscape, with its heritage paint shades and expensive bread shops’ which is ‘as historically suspect as any other era’s vision of the past’” (Hatherley, 2017; Holland, 2009).

Holland argues that “‘for all its assumed sensitivity, it is ultimately more about a certain kind of pervasive middle class aspiration than it is about conserving the past’” (ibid.). This view is echoed in critical design writing: such projects exemplify how harking back to the past results in the outcome being “robbed of its authenticity and historical context” (Keedy, 1998). Lupton speaks similarly scathingly of nostalgic design, describing it as “a falsification of history, not a return to it; it treats the past not as the roots of the present, but as a distant entity” (Lupton, 1992). With the muted colour palette and modern san-serif typeface, the project is a hybridisation of historical features and contemporary aesthetics that neatly fits the nostalgia category.

It is easy to criticise work done in good faith to improve an area; however, the criticism levelled at this project is vital to forming future projects, such as Stowe Framework, that are as sensitive to the present as to the past. Four years on, new businesses use their own branding, in sharp contrast to the regenerated business signs and making the regeneration project appear contrived. This public work to restore the building facades and the walkways have been well-received. It is only the redesign of the shop fronts that overstepped historical conservation into sanitisation.