An Inaccurate, Incomplete and Absolutely True History of the City of Philadelphia

An experiment in storytelling through vernacular typography and publications

I’ve long been interested in vernacular typography, or what I like to think of as civilian typography. You can find it anywhere–menus on a food truck, protest signage, wanted ads in newspapers and on bulletin boards, and lost cat posters taped to telephone poles. What these all have in common is that they are created by the author of the message itself, and then displayed without any official permission (either because it’s on the author’s own property, or in a public space that is not easily policed by authorities.) * See above images: Books for sale on sidewalk in Milan; Matisse print in alleyway in Belgrade; Construction site notice in Milan; International newspaper rack in Berlin.

I’ve also always loved publications, from newspapers, magazines and books, to more independent ventures like zines.  Zines especially have similar characteristics to vernacular typography. They are unsanctioned. The author did not wait for a publisher to tell them that they were worthy of being published. They went ahead and put their message out into the world on their own.

I think the thing that civilian typography and zines have in common is the desire to communicate a message, and to do it with as wide an audience as possible, as cheaply as possible, and as cost-effectively as possible.

When I was studying at the Sandberg Institute, I had the opportunity to combine these two interests into a new project. I wrote a selection of short stories about Philadelphia which I compiled into a zine. The zine was given out at the opening of a group show at Amsterdam’s Milkweg gallery. I also did a live reading of selections from the stories during the opening.

I then took the cover design of the zine and created a screen-printed poster that was displayed on the front of the gallery, in the space that the Milkweg typically used to announce upcoming events.

The cover design was directly inspired by a bulletin display case that I saw on the front of a church near my old studio in Philadelphia (see above right). It’s a great example of captivating vernacular type. Remember, inspiration is everywhere. The stories also took on a life of their own, ultimately resulting in this book.

Project

Services

Industries

1 Faster Than_

Global Advertising Campaign

Adidas Running

2 Carbon Social Club

Identity Design

Podcast

3 PSFK

Digital Design & Strategy

Trend Forecasting

4 256

Digital Design & Strategy

Gaming

5 Good For One Fare

Installation and Book

Self-Initiated

6 Strategic HR

Book Design

Strategy & Business

7 Adidas Ultraboost 19

Global Advertising Campaign

Running Sports

8 City as Character

Book Design

Self-Initiated

9 Asian Arts Initiative

Book Design

Arts & Culture

10 Kill Screen

Digital Design & Strategy

Gaming

11 The World by Train

Book Design

Self Initiated

12 Next City Anniversary

Editorial Design

Urbanism

13 An Inaccurate, Incomplete and Absolutely True History of the City of Philadelphia

Installation and Publication

Self-Initiated

14 Philagrafika

Book Design

Publishing

15 Michael Snow / Photo-Centric

Book Design

Arts & Culture

16 LoDown x Radical Cutup

Editorial Design

Fashion, Arts & Culture

17 The Pool

Graphic Identity

Fashion

18 The World Stage

Strategic Design, Publishing

Non-Profit

19 Next City

Strategic Design

Urbanism

20 Akustikplatten

Identity Design

Music

21 Heartworm Press

Book Design

Publishing

22 Letting Go

Book Design

Arts & Culture

23 Steve Powers

Strategic Design, Publishing

Art

24 The Stumbling Present

Book Design

Arts & Culture

25 Swindle

Art Direction, Design

Arts & Culture, Fashion

26 Common Touch

Art Direction, Book Design

Arts & Culture

27 City Limits

Art Direction, Design

Urbanism, Publishing

28 Minimal Risk

Graphic Identity

Fashion

29 Riverview

Web Design, Graphic Identity

Real Estate

30 Fels Policy Research Initiative

Web Design, Graphic Identity

Education

31 Red Collective

Graphic Identity

Real Estate

32 Room 21

Web Design, Graphic Identity

Arts & Culture

33 ICPH

Web Design

Non-Profit