I’ve been doing a lot of reading about typography, it’s history, it’s meanings etc and felt it was time to really look at some typography.

Whilst I was on holiday in the South of France this year I took a few photographs of typography I saw whilst out and about. I’m going to look at some of these here.

You don’t have to speak French to know what this means. It was on a train running from Nice to Les Arcs. What I found interesting in the South is that they are fond of their scripty-typefaces, I suppose to emulate that idea of freedom. Relaxing sunny days. As this is an informational image, I would have expected something “clearer”, however they seem to have made it part of the brand.

French Corn Flakes packet

These were quite possibly the best cornflakes I have ever eaten in my life. Own-brand cornflakes. Leaving the Carrefour logo for a minute, just get a load of the “Corn flakes”. It doesn’t inspire any kind of “oooh, yum” in me. It’s factual. It’s yellow on red – sort of reminding me of McDonalds, which makes me think cheap yuck. Take away what it actually says, it could be a label on anything, not delicious breakfast cereal. And it was delicious breakfast cereal. I suspect it has a lot to do with being own-brand (cheap) and it makes it look cheap – it fulfils it’s purpose really. This is cheap breakfast cereal, we’ve used a basic typeface with absolutely no message being communicated other than “cheap Corn flakes” – job done.

Thinking about our big supermarkets here, Morrisons is the only other one I can think of with a seriffed logo. Carrefour’s gives off a warm, almost cuddly vibe. It has substance and looks like it has a history. The experience of the supermarket is exactly the same as that of our sans-serif Tescos mind you. It does strike an odd contrast here with the “Corn flakes” typeface and the two don’t look like they belong together at all.

House Number

Decorative apartment number in Plan de la Tour. It looks sort of handwritten with the varying weights in the numbers – which goes back to the South of France vibe. Plan de la Tour is a tiny village in the mountains, very French, very sunny. The numbers are decorative, the handwritten quality makes it seem homely.

Propriete Privee

I thought this was interesting, if only because of a chunky seriffed typeface on a road sign in all capitals. For the record it means – Traffic Prohibited Except Residents. I don’t think the blue sign needs translating.

To me the blue sign has more authority. The red one seems more informational than an order. The blue sign is easier to read I think, the letters have more breathing room.

Sortie Vehicules sign with graffiti people

I loved this sign, but it might be to do with the awesome little people and the way the colours work together. This is a home-made sign, “Vehicle Exit”, essentially, no parking in front of these doors. The type seems to have been stencilled on and on it’s own seems quite authoritative, but since it’s worn down and within it’s context it seems quite friendly.

These are just a few things I picked out from the holiday. I’m starting to realise that typography is absolutely everywhere and this has lead to an idea I’ve had for an experiment. I’m also noticing that typography isn’t always well chosen, or that something I might find ugly may actually be doing it’s job perfectly well. That leads into the whole successful design argument which I won’t go into here, but I do think is worth considering when analysing something visual – it’s not just how it looks, but how it works.