Typography | noun | ty·pog·ra·phy | the style, arrangement, or appearance of printed letters on a page.

Typography has been a love of ours since the day we learned the definition. Elegant and abstract letterforms are an intriguing play with positive and negative space. They can be arranged for maximum legibility or rendered illegible as illustration. Typefaces can be condensed or extended, thin or wide, humanist or geometric. The possibilities are endless, as is our obsession.


For 7 Ton, typography has always been a bridge between graphic design and letterpress printing. We learned to hand-set lead type at the same time we were learning to set type on a computer. The methodical process of hand-setting and printing type reminds us of the importance of working with our hands and reinforces good habits when we get back to our computers. But enough about us, today we are beginning a series of posts that aim to encourage typographic investigation. This month we are scanning the local landscape for beautiful, horrible, hilarious signage.


We have a plethora of old decaying warehouses in Asheville which means we also have a lot of beautiful hand painted signage. They are hard not to love for people like us, but Margaret Kilgallen really said it best: "I like things that are handmade and I like to see people's hand in the world, anywhere in the world; it doesn't matter to me where it is. And in my own work, I do everything by hand. I don't project or use anything mechanical, because even though I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand, my hand will always be imperfect because it's human. And I think it's the part that's off that's interesting, that even if I'm doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I'll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that's where the beauty is."


The Bolts & Nuts Inc. sign is classic. All caps might not be easy to read in paragraph form but it sure looks nice in big blocky letters on the side of a building.  We should also mention that this sign appears to be the company's only form of advertising and if we have this right they opened in 1967. It has served them well and we hope it never changes.


The hand drawn lettering on the Blue Ridge Parkway is so quirky and charming that we couldn't resist including it. Plus it gave us one more excuse to make a trip up the Parkway.  The Parkway was established in 1936 during the New Deal and while we can't find much of a history on the signage we like to imagine some one sitting down at their 1930's drafting table sketching out the first rendering of this typeface. If you pay attention to things like kerning this sign will drive you insane, so look away fair typographer.


Oddball and Unique Specimens

Above: What came first the signage or the vent? There is a story here and we are dying to hear it. Seriously, if anyone knows more about this please contact us.
Below: The person who made this sign must have a sense of humor... right? We have to admit that its the message here that drew us in although the ingenuity is worth mentioning.


There aren't just old signs around town though. Our friends at Mighty Fine Signs are creating beautiful hand painted signage that we love spotting around town. This Chicory sign is just around the corner from our shop and makes good use of an old sign post. If you are in the Asheville region and are in need of a sign, you really couldn't go wrong with Mighty Fine Signs.



Those are just a few of our current favorites from around town. In the coming months we will explore other typographic themes and hope that it sparks your interest in typography, that way we have more type nerds to talk to. Be careful, once you start looking closely at the world of type you can't really turn it off. But don't take our word for it just listen to typographer Erik Spiekermann, "I'm obviously a typeomaniac, which is an incurable if not mortal disease. I can't explain it. I just love looking at type. I just get a total kick out of it: they are my friends. Other people look at bottles of wine or whatever, or, you know, girls' bottoms. I get kicks out of looking at type. It's a little worrying, I admit, but it's a very nerdish thing to do."