Cities can evoke typographic responses, not necessarily in any literal sense but simply feelings about place gleaned from a personal experience of being there or from memory.
My motivation for making a series of typographic screenprints of city names was the continuing war in Syria, which has devastated towns and cities, and particularly ancient Palmyra. The news made me reflect on the resilience of cities over time. Palmyra has suffered appalling destruction, of human life as well as historic fabric. That anything or anyone is still standing is testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the idea of urban community. Palmyra, on the main trade route between east and west, connected peoples and cultures for thousands of years. As a place it is rooted in time.
I also wanted to celebrate some of the world’s most vibrant cities today. In different ways their enduring energy, architecture, history, culture and people are all part of what excite us. Each has its own sense of place, which in itself is open to personal response.
My own response, through making the city’s name in type form, is intuitive not objective. Constructing letterforms with a pencil and a knife – designing cut-outs – is somewhat different from either calligraphy or type design. There is the creation of shape immediately and irrevocably in paper, then its recreation in print. Each form is different and individual. No technology. Just hand and eye.
The cities I have chosen are places where I have worked as a designer or visited as a traveller, or both. In that sense they are an external perspective on famous locations that, in some way or other, most of us know or can imagine.
The prints take references from each city’s architecture, signing, design aesthetic or culture: the Modern and Post-Modern co-existing side by side in Los Angeles; the vertiginous insistence and pace of New York; the vaunting trajectories of Dubai; the ever-present zing of street signs in Hong Kong; and the inscriptional capitals of Rome. Each city has a story to tell in type.