Urban Lettering Walks

Urban lettering walks are day tours, usually lasting three hours, dedicated to seeking out beautiful, odd and intriguing examples of lettering in the streetscapes of a single city. The tours, which principally take place in the five boroughs of New York City, embrace a wide range of lettering in terms of style, technique and materials: inscriptions carved or cast in stone, painted “ghost” signs on brick walls, decaying neon signs, graffiti and more.

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Type Drives Culture—42nd Street from the Hudson River to the East River

42nd Street: A Lettering Walk by Paul Shaw. Type Drives Culture, March 4, 2022. Video by Liz DeLuna.
This video was made at the request of Zelda Harrison for the 2022 Type Drives Culture conference sponsored by the Type Directors Club. Liz DeLuna (of main5design) did the initial filming with assistance from her husband Bohdan. Although I contributed additional still images for the final video and art directed the titles, Liz did all of the editing and additional …
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By the Numbers no. 2 addendum—Fat Face in Chicago

Obviously people had difficulty in seeing the address above the doorway. The only solution was to design the house number in a Fat Face so large that it had to be positioned vertically. It looks great except for the screen at the lower portion of the door. I think the numerals are made of steel.
House number in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005).

By the Numbers no. 1—third addendum: New York didone stencil

The painted address of the Project Find Clinton Senior Citizen Center (originally known as Harborview Terrace) in New York employs didone stencil letters associated with Le Corbusier. The building was designed by Herbert Mandel in 1977. Whether he was responsible for the decision to use the Le Corbusier stencils for the supergraphics or they were the idea of a hired graphic designer is unknown. Either way, they look terrific—even covered in grime and with their paint peeling.
535 West …
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Chronology of Lettering Walks

This is a list of all of the lettering walks I have led or co-led since the beginning of Legacy of Letters in 1997. There are additional cities that I have not led walks in, but have the capability to do so. They include Amsterdam, Berlin, Leiden, London, Mainz, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Rochester (New York), Toronto, Troy (New York), Tulsa, and Washington DC. I have led walks for institutions, organizations, design schools, businesses and individuals. For more information about …
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Lettering Walk in Newark

Flaking gold leaf business address in Newark. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005)
Detail of the cast lettering on the facade of The Federal Trust Company building (1926) in Newark. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005).
CooperType is holding the second annual Typographics conference between  June 13 and 23. To complement the tours scheduled for Sunday, June 19, I will be leading a lettering tour of Newark, New Jersey.
Sunday, June 19
10 am to 2 pm
$25; $20 for students
maximum …
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Typefaces vs. alphabets: The case of a parochial school in the Bronx

Cover of The Speedball Text Book: Lettering and Poster Design for Pen and Brush (14th edition) by Ross F. George (Camden, New Jersey: C. Howard Hunt Pen Co., 1941). Courtey of Lee Littlewood.
On April 17 I led a lettering walk for the Type Directors Club in several north Bronx neighborhoods: Norwood, Williamsbridge, Wakefield and Woodlawn Heights. In Williamsbridge we looked at the lettering on the facade of Immaculate Conception Church on Gun Hill Road (at Holland Avenue). The name …
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The Rchive no. 21—Poets’ Row in Denver

In August I conducted a lettering walk in Denver for TypeCon 2015. As part of my preparation I spent the day before walking and driving around the city. My chauffeur and cicerone was Diane Wray Tomasso, former New York graphic designer and Denver preservationist, an excellent repository of knowledge of the city’s architectural heritage past and present. One part of the city which we visited but which did not make it into the TypeCon 2015 lettering walk was Poets’ …
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Walk this Way, Sign this Way: A Downtown Los Angeles Lettering Walk

Cole’s French Dipped Sandwiches, 118 East Sixth Street, Los Angeles. Photograph by Paul Shaw, 2010.
Walk this Way, Sign this Way: A Downtown Los Angeles Lettering Walk with Paul Shaw
Saturday | November 8 10am–1pm
American Printing History Association , Southern California Chapter
Here in Los Angeles, we call it the Downtown Renaissance. Over the past decade or so, Historic Downtown Los Angeles has been revitalized with a youthful new population that has brought with it a resurgence of fashion, culture, and the arts. Fortunately, vestiges of Downtown’s former glory remain throughout the cityscape, giving …
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Monumental Design: Lettering in Green-Wood

I will be doing a lettering walk at historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on Sunday, September 14 from 1 to 3 pm. For details and to reserve a place click on the link above. Although I have often included cemeteries in my various lettering tours, this will be the first time that I have done an exclusive cemetery walk.
18th century tombstone for Maria Heuys Boerum, Green-Wood Cemetery. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2014).
Although the cemetery was established in 1838, …
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Sagmeister unmasked

The TDC lettering walk on Sunday, May 19 was a gray, rainy mess. Although five participants stuck it out to the end, it was a miserable day and the new signage gems that we found in the Woodhaven and Richmond Hill neighborhoods were overshadowed by the difficulty of photographing them in the drizzle. Not only was my camera wet but so were my glasses. I had no idea what I was even looking at as I took photographs—and the results …
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Los Angeles Lettering Walk

I am leading a lettering walk of Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, March 2 from 10 am to 1 pm. It will be a reprise of one that I did during TypeCon 2010. The walk will take in the usual range of urban lettering sights—carved inscriptions, metal letters, painted signs, plastic signs, vinyl signs, terrazzo letters, vernacular writing, graffiti (maybe)—but most of all we will see lots of neon signs, both active and dead.
Dancing Girls (detail) neon sign.
To register …
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The Lettermaniac or Literaphiliac Profiled: A Day with Alexandra Horowitz

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Experts. Jacket design by Tal Goretsky.
Alexandra Horowitz, Professor of Psychology at Barnard College (Columbia University) and author of Inside of a Dog (a no. 1 New York Times bestseller) has just written On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (Scribner). One of the eleven “experts” is me, a literaphiliac—someone suffering from a malady that “makes one seek, and see, letters”—in Horowitz’s view. Guilty as charged, though I would have used the term lettermaniac. Anyway, I …
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Typo-Pizza in New Haven

On Saturday, November 17 a small group of New York area lettering enthusiasts finally made their way to New Haven to see Yale University’s lettering delights. It was a trip that had been planned in the summer and cancelled twice due to inclement weather. The idea for the trip was sparked by an article on lettering at Yale written by Reed Reibstein for an upcoming issue of Codex. The trip was co-led by Reed and myself with Nick Sherman  (Mr. …
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Walking tour of The Loop in Chicago on October 10, 2012

Magnificent Mile and The Loop, Chicago
Wednesday, October 10
4 pm to 6 pm
students $10
professionals $20
sponsored jointly by AIGA Chicago and the STA
Chicago is one of the world’s great urban centers, noted for its rich array of excellent architecture spanning over a century. This makes it also one of the best places to see a wide variety of lettering, especially in the heart of the city: The Loop. I will lead a walk down the Magnificent Mile, across the River and around …
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Shave and a Haircut: 2012 SEGD Conference: The Bridge

Barber Shop, Crown Heights (Brooklyn) (2007)Last week (June 7–9) the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) held its annual conference in New York City. For the final session on Friday, June 8 of the 2012 SEGD Conference: The Bridge Anna Sharp and her colleagues at the New York design firm Two Twelve put together a short interstitial slide show of lettering in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Their goal was to “depict the diversity of cultures, essence of the …
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Woodhaven and Richmond Hill Walking Tour on June 10, 2012

Wood-Rich Color, Woodhaven, Queens (2008)
Woodhaven and Richmond Hill
Sunday, June 10
11 am to 2 pm
$15 for SEGD 212 Conference attendees
The next lettering tour of New York will be of the adjoining neighborhoods of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill in Queens, accessible via the elevated J train. Both have solid business areas with good examples of pre-digital commercial lettering: paint shops, jewelers, candy stores, beauty salons and pet shops. There is also the usual institutional lettering to be found in New …
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