polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Typography in the City: Public Service and Pizzazz

by Min Li Chan

New York is a city of opinionated typography — clear, bold and with a point of view. Amidst the vibrant urban cacophony, a keen eye scanning the skyline and baseline will inevitably land upon a feast of serifs or absence thereof, ascenders and descenders, leading and kerning.

A designer friend living in Brooklyn once mused that the flourishing of typography in New York is a function of the city's density of creative cohort, enticed by the possibility of communicative surfaces.

Typography in the city is branding at its most commercial, as well as wayfinding for the public good. It is most effective when cognizant of sightlines, legibility and relations with its surroundings.

How should visual access and intersecting sightlines affect typographic decisions? How does a designer find balance between artistry and legibility? Should the typography blend into its surroundings or should it stand out?

Polis readers, if you have examples of urban typography you'd like to share, we'd love to hear about (and see) them!

Credits: Photos by Min Li Chan.

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