Type In The Wild

Firstly, I’ve never put in much thought about type in signages/posters/billboards around Singapore – or maybe I subconsciously do. I could, however, tell whether one poster or even a shop sign looks aesthetically pleasing or not; and that is actually what I think, we all have been learning in class. Why does it look aesthetically pleasing? All of this is thanks to, the font used, kerning, leading, emphasis, harmony, etc.

And these are some pictures which I took when I travelled to Tiong Bahru/Redhill area. In general, what I noticed about sign boards (not for shops, but for directional, instructional ones), is that the fonts are more formal and readable. For the “Tiong Bahru Road” sign and the “Pedestrians, use crossing signs” in the picture with a cat, they are sans serif type, Grotesk Sans Serif – heavier in weight, uniform and cleaner as there are no serifs. As these fonts are easily readable, the text on the signs has both form and function. (Unlike the No smoking sign which has an awkward (to me) serif font that says “By Law” – lighter in weight, too much vertical stress as the “L” barely visible.

Many of the other shop signs and even the poster, used sans serifs fonts. Overall, they give a cleaner look and enhances readability. However, some places choose to use serif fonts but I realised that they are mostly brand names (many alcohol brand logos are in serif), short words and texts or that they have a more “traditional” look.

Here comes the bad typography. (in my opinion)

(The irony of this picture though)

Regardless, I think the suitability of the typeface used is extremely important and determines the outcome. Some fonts just don’t work out. For example, the menu picture from Tiong Bahru Bakery – yes, the handwritten typeface style is cute and friendly but it takes quite some time to read a font like that – it is lightweight, irregular, and has asymmetrical curves. Other than readability issues, it is not entirely a bad font.

The last bad typography would be the “Xiao Long Bao”. Firstly, the g stands out like a sore tongue. I have no idea why they chose comic sans, but I do find the readability good as it is heavier in weight and the round edges make it look like “friendly, less-edgy and approachable”.

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