OK, so, with any luck, this marks post one of my weekly posts (best laid plans and all that!).
Elle and I have just got in from a five day stay in (unusually) sunny North Wales. We’ve been staying in my grandparents’ chalet in Morfa Bychan, Porthmadog at the foot of the Lynn peninsula. Once a buzzing harbour town, it’s a tourist trap with some beautiful scenery and some less-than beautiful tourists. We trotted off on Friday with Elle’s friend Katie and two cars of friends following a few hours behind. We had a blast playing on the beach and reverting to seaside toddlers. From a slightly more appropriate perspective however, one of the things that stood out to me was the effect that ageing and decay had on the signage and way-finding throughout the area.
The unmistakable ‘British-ness’ of our street signs being iconised in cheap canvases in the Range and other such bargain basements seems extremely London-centric with ‘Borough of Westmister’, ‘SE1’ and ‘Underground’ being plastered on every printable surface imaginable. To me and other letter lovers what makes a quintessentially British sign is more about the Johnston, Gill and Calvert adorned surfaces than the red, white and black of the capital. Having said that, the walls of my house include a LOT of tube-related artwork due to a joint fascination Elle and I share for the aesthetic and engineering of the underground, but no road signs or the like. To me the reason is simple; the beauty of those London pieces lie in their history and the implied century of culture behind them. ‘M6 (North) via M69’ doesn’t quite have that charm but neglect it for a decade or so, slightly play with the brand guidelines and suddenly that charm and charisma comes flooding back.
Weaving through the twisting tracks around Porthmadog the signs and typography have no lack of character and it’s not just because it’s dual-language (though that certainly helps); it’s because it’s terribly maintained! Algae adorn it’s surfaces, scratches and dents distort them and they feel like they’re of another time. Naturally I kept this little revelation to myself. I dread to think what the group would have labeled me had I bored them with my typographic tales – I got a dodgy enough look when I suggested black isn’t an ideal colour for an ice-cream parlour!
TL;DR – old signs are pretty.