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Vernacular Typography: A Digital Archive of Vanishing Urban Lettering

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Vernacular Typography: A Digital Archive of Vanishing Urban Lettering

You might not think of signage as something a person or company would feel strongly about, but it’s a true passion for us here at Duggal. We love creating billboards and graphics seen around the world, and naturally we frequently come into contact with our work here in New York City.

It’s always fulfilling to create something new, but having been in business for more than 50 years, we also hold a bit of nostalgia for the past. New York is a treasure trove of fading images painted onto buildings and hanging above storefronts. The flashing neon often takes the fame, but it’s the art (and in some cases, the dimming neon) that has the real soul.

When we came across designer Molly Woodward’s project, Vernacular Typography, we instantly connected. The Brooklyn native has built a massive digital archive of the world’s disappearing lettering.

“All over the world, there are cities and towns that retain their rich traditions of vernacular signage,” she writes. “Unfortunately, the fate of these typographic havens is being threatened by the uniformity of corporate advertising, which ignores and subverts local history and tradition.”

An extension of that perspective might be that new-age corporate advertising is an emerging art form in its own right, but we certainly agree with the basis – particularly when it comes to the never-ending construction in NYC and its assault on cultural capitals like 5 Pointz, which Woodward photographed more than a decade ago.

The designer said she started the project in Brooklyn after noticing that the signs she had grown up with were slowly being “replaced by chains and sterile signage.”

“Documenting these things was just a way to remember them before they disappeared forever,” she told the Huffington Post.

Indeed, Woodward does a phenomenal job of capturing the essence of visuals and their contribution to culture. And there are plenty of other people who feel like us; in 2012, Woodward successfully raised nearly $7,000 from 141 backers on Kickstarter to turn the Vernacular Typography website into a major online resource.

Keep up the amazing work, Molly. We’re big fans.

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All images © Molly Woodward 

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