Friday, February 8, 2008
Of all the storefront signs on the east side of Austin, Nubian Queen Lola’s is by far one of the best and most interesting signs to look at. It doesn’t have a clean, chic looking typeface like many of the shops on Manor. Nor is the architecture of the building itself very exciting. Rather, it is something more subtle about the hand painted, jostled typeface that draws the viewer in. After considering it for quite some time, I have come to the conclusion that Lola’s sign possesses something that none of the shops on Manor have, and that uniqueness is soul.
So what exactly does that mean? How exactly does one go about injecting “soul” into typography? In the case of Lola’s, it’s the hand-made aspect. As mentioned before, it is not at all a clean looking sign. The typeface seems inconsistent at times, there is no consideration given to the kerning of the letters, and by most, if not all standards, the leading is awful. But still, one can’t help but look at it and feel something of a warm invitation inside. The way there is a crown painted onto the Q of queen and that the v-shape of the Y on the word Sunday is formed by one of the many flying bird silhouettes in the background just make it feel welcoming. It may not seem like the cleanest place from the worn and faded face of the building, but after seeing the sign, the viewer is left with the impression that the food will have uniqueness and character. It will be a meal that cannot be gotten anywhere else in town and will surely be delicious.
After realizing the key to the sign was the hand-made aspect, I immediately decided that my hand would have to be clearly visible somewhere in the stages of making the poster. First, I tried using pencil around a typed and printed version of the sign, but that only gave me a typeface more fit for a haunted house after re-scanning the page and distorting it in Illustrator. There was no soul, just awfulness. Next, using a Helvetica typeface, I tried to change the layout of each line of the sign to make it seem a bit more inviting and playful. In addition, I used pencil and sandpaper to distort and blur the poster in order to give it a more faded, time tested feel. It resulted in something closer to soul, but I wanted James Brown on the set.
For the final iteration, I changed the layout of the text to something less playful and more straight forward and hand painted the letters of each word over the printed text. Also, I again used sandpaper and pencil to give it a faded, more venerable feel. The result was something that finally qualified as soulful. Not James Brown soulful, but still soulful. It didn’t operate on the actual storefront sign’s same level of soulfulness, but it certainly captured the essence of it.
The next phase of this project will be to hang several posters around the east side, pre-worn down of course. Perhaps allowing time to weather the appearance and someone else’s hand to deface the poster will finally elevate the work to the same level of the storefront’s soulfulness. And if not, it should definitely bring it closer, which is just another step in the right direction.