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Vernacular typography

Vernacular typography refers to typographic expressions that arise organically and spontaneously within a community, without necessarily following the rules or styles established by the graphic design industry. It is a unique visual manifestation that reflects the cultural identity, history and traditions of a specific place.

Vernacular typography can be very well crafted, but it can also be hastily and crudely created posters. Either way, typography and calligraphy are used to create visual communications. Look around you and identify some vernacular fonts that you find interesting. Document this through drawings, photographs, or collecting examples. Remember to ask permission if you are photographing inside train stations, markets, shops, museums or shopping centers, for example. Getting permission is usually easy, especially when people know you're working on a student project. In your learning log, write down why you selected the examples you did.

Memory activism

Molly Woodward has been documenting New York City's "found print" for the past decade: Woodward's work is crucial to preserving an important part of the city's visual identity. Her dedication to capturing the variety and uniqueness of local typography helps preserve New York's cultural and urban history.

Local signage is disappearing in favor of mass-produced signs and global corporate brands: The march of time and the influence of globalization are causing the gradual disappearance of vernacular typography on city streets. The proliferation of standardized signs and homogeneous corporate branding threatens to erase the diversity and authenticity of local typography.

In various corners of the planet, vernacular typography manifests itself with unique characteristics that reflect the idiosyncrasy of each region:

  • Brazil: The streets of Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro burst with the exuberance of Brazilian vernacular typography. Hand-painted signs with vibrant colors, irregular letters and compositions full of rhythm, are a reflection of the joy and warmth of the Rio people.

  • Mexico: From the vibrant markets of Oaxaca to the picturesque towns of Chiapas, Mexican vernacular typography is characterized by its color, its use of ornament, and its reinterpretation of traditional styles. A notable example is the "chilanga" typography, present in the signs of shops and workshops in Mexico City, where Gothic typography is mixed with decorative elements and witty phrases.

  • Argentina: Argentine vernacular typography is distinguished by its elegance and sobriety. In Buenos Aires, we can find Art Deco letters adorning the facades of old buildings, while in the provinces, vernacular typography is characterized by its simplicity and legibility.

  • Spain: A tour through the streets of Andalusia or Madrid reveals the richness of Spanish vernacular typography. From cursive calligraphy on tavern signs to Gothic lettering on church facades, Spanish vernacular typography reflects the country's cultural heritage and diversity.

Woodward: Vernacular typography project

Woodward is seeking to preserve vernacular typography through his "Vernacular Typography" project: his initiative is a valuable effort to document and share the typographic richness that defines the unique essence of New York City. His project not only seeks to preserve vernacular typography, but also to raise awareness of its cultural and aesthetic importance.

Vernacular typography is defined as the type found in the built environment that surrounds us every day: This broad definition encompasses a wide range of typographic expressions, from vintage and hand-painted signs to street graffiti and improvised urban signage. The diversity of styles and shapes reflects the diversity and vitality of urban life.

  • New York's vernacular typography stands out for its intensity and variety: The city is a treasure trove of unique and eclectic typography, where every corner reveals a new story through its signs and signals. The density and diversity of New York vernacular typography make it a fascinating object of study for design and urban history enthusiasts.

  • Local signage provides a window into the city's forgotten history: Street signs and signals are not only visual elements, but also historical testimonies that tell the story of the city's urban and commercial evolution. The preservation of these elements is crucial to keeping the collective memory of the community alive.

  • Local signage provides a window into the city's forgotten history: Street signs and signals are not only visual elements, but also historical testimonies that tell the story of the city's urban and commercial evolution. The preservation of these elements is crucial to keeping the collective memory of the community alive.

  • Vernacular typography is an important marker of regional identity and urban communication: More than just letters on a sign, vernacular typography reflects the unique character of a community and its lifestyle. The interaction between people and their urban environment is influenced and shaped by the presence and design of local typography.

  • The disappearance of vernacular typography diminishes our sense of the city's history and culture: Every disappearing sign is a lost piece of the urban narrative, a closed window to the stories and traditions that shaped the city. The loss of vernacular typography undermines the emotional and cultural connection that people have with their environment.

  • Homogenization of corporate signage can diminish the personal connection to a specific place: When local signs are replaced by standard corporate signage, the authenticity and distinctiveness of each neighborhood is lost. Familiarity and emotional attachment to specific places are threatened by the visual uniformity of global brands.

  • The preservation of vernacular typography is crucial to keeping the city's history and identity alive: The documentation and conservation of vernacular typography is essential to safeguarding the collective memory and cultural identity of the city. In addition to its aesthetic value, vernacular typography serves as a tangible testimony of urban and social evolution over time..

Woodward: Vernacular typography project
Woodward: Vernacular typography project
Woodward: Vernacular typography project
Woodward: Vernacular typography project

Beyond conservation

Vernacular typography is not only about preserving the past, but also using it as a source of inspiration for contemporary design. Designers and artists from around the world are incorporating elements of vernacular typography into their work, creating unique pieces full of personality.

We invite you to look closely at the vernacular typography that surrounds you. Pay attention to details, letter shapes, colors and composition. Each sign, each hand-painted sign, tells a story and tells us about the identity of a place.

  • Document: Capture images of examples of vernacular typography you find in your city or town.

  • Share: Post your photos on social media with the hashtag #tipografiavernacula.

  • Research: Dig into the history and characteristics of vernacular typography in your region.

  • Uses: Incorporate elements of vernacular typography into your own creative projects.

Examples of vernacular typography

In the field of design and visual communication, collective memory takes on a unique relevance, becoming a fundamental axis to understand and preserve the cultural identity of communities. Through various visual, tangible and intangible elements, a historical legacy is built and transmitted that shapes the perception of the world and social cohesion.

The sign / lettering

Beyond being a mere advertisement or an inscription on a wall, the sign manifests itself as an artistic expression that reflects the cultural identity of a community. The manual skill of the signer, his knowledge of typography and his creativity come together to create letters that not only communicate, but also tell stories, transmit values ​​and reinforce cultural identity. Clearly it is not a trade restricted to Mexico. (Learn more about the elimination of the signs of the Benito Juarez Delegation in CDMX, Mexico)

Tipografia en un aparador Brazil
Tipografia en un aparador Brazil

Ejemplo tipografia tipo rótuilo.
Por el norte y por el sur. Ejemplo tipografia tipo rótulo..

Graphic characteristics of the sign

  • Manual skill: The sign maker must have skill in handling brushes and other instruments to create letters and designs with precision.

  • Knowledge of typography: Mastering the different font families, their characteristics and applications is essential to create legible and attractive signs.

  • Details: Part of the knowledge of typography includes attention to details when creating signs, and one of them is the mastery of contrasts of tones or colors.

  • Effects: The application of special effects is also highlighted, such as shading to the sides, as well as the ability to outline typography applications.

This same element is repeated and has a composition, where the title is generally highlighted but also the most important elements, such as the price, the date or even the protagonist of the narrative.

Types of signs

  • Hand Painted Sign – The traditional technique, using brushes and paints to create letters and designs.

  • Vinyl Sign: Use sheets of adhesive vinyl to display letters and graphics.

  • Illuminated Sign – Uses lights to illuminate the letters and create an eye-catching effect.

  • 3D Sign: Create letters with volume and depth, using techniques such as embossing or foam.

The importance of preserving the signmaker's craft

The job of the sign maker is important because

Their cultural value: Signs are part of the cultural heritage of the communities.

Its aesthetic beauty: Handmade signs are works of art that enrich the urban landscape.

Their communication capacity: Signs are an effective means of transmitting information and messages.

An art in danger of extinction: With the arrival of digital printing and mass advertising, the trade of the traditional sign maker has been threatened. However, its artistic and cultural value remains invaluable, so efforts have been undertaken to preserve and promote it.

To learn more about the subject and see more images you can click here to me: Board de inspiracion de Pinterest.

Variant of the sign: Sonidero

In the vibrant world of cumbia sonidera, the sign becomes more than just an advertisement or decoration. It is transformed into a piece of visual art that reflects the identity, creativity and passion of this urban culture.

The composition of a sound label is an explosion of carefully selected elements that transmit the contagious energy of cumbia. The name of the sonidero, often written in large, bold letters, usually takes center stage, attracting attention and establishing the artist's identity. Images alluding to cumbia, such as iconic characters (El Gran Silencio, Chico Che), dancers in dynamic poses or musical instruments such as the accordion and the tumbadora, complement the composition, creating a visual narrative that evokes the essence of this contagious rhythm.

The sound sign is not limited to being a simple advertising tool. It is an artistic expression in itself, which reflects the creativity, style and vision of the sonidero. The typography, often handwritten or personalized, provides a unique and distinctive touch, differentiating sonidero from other exponents of cumbia. The elaborate designs, with meticulous details and plays of light and shadow, turn the sign into a work of art that attracts the eye and awakens curiosity.

The making of sound signs is a traditional craft that is passed down from generation to generation, preserving artisanal techniques and knowledge. These artists, known as "sonidero letter makers", have great manual skill and a deep knowledge of typography, design and sonidero culture. Their works, which adorn the streets and the sound festivals, are part of the cultural heritage of this urban culture, reflecting its history, its values ​​and its traditions.

Sound characteristics

Among the characteristics of the Sonidero stylistic typographic group, we have thick and rounded edges, strong and bold fonts. In addition, it is common to find metallic effects and abundant hierarchies, such as the name of the group, the name of the artist or the dates of events.

  • Gradient colors are usually in striking and phosphorescent tones, or in contrasting tones.

  • The inner edges are usually white and the designs are usually composed horizontally for city wall applications. However, this does not limit the possibility of creating vertical posters.

  • Fonts can vary, but generally feature gradients of two or three colors towards white or contrast.

Learn more about the documentary about cartel sonidero en el siguiente post..

design products

Esoteric product design is a fascinating discipline that combines symbolic, aesthetic and functional elements to create products that convey spiritual energy and meaning to their users.These products can range from ritual tools such as wands and bowls to decorative objects such as amulets and statues.

Main features

Symbolism:  Esoteric products are often loaded with symbolism that represents different spiritual, religious or magical concepts.Symbols can be universal, such as the sun and moon, or more specific to a particular tradition or culture.

Aesthetics: The aesthetics of esoteric products are often striking and evocative, using vibrant colors, rich textures and unusual shapes to create visual impact.The goal is to create objects that are appealing to the eye and inspire a sense of mystery and wonder.

Functionality: In addition to their symbolic and aesthetic value, esoteric products must also be functional. They should be designed to be used in rituals, meditations or other spiritual practices. The functionality should be intuitive and comfortable, so the user can focus on their spiritual experience without distractions.


The materials used in the design of esoteric products are often natural and sustainable, such as wood, stone, glass and metal. These materials are chosen for their natural beauty and perceived energetic properties. Some materials, such as crystals, are believed to have healing or protective powers.

Examples of esoteric products:

  • Ritual Tools: Wands, bowls, cauldrons, swords, bells, etc.

  • Decorative objects: Amulets, statues, incense, candles, etc.

  • Clothing: Capes, tunics, jewelry, etc.

  • Books and other reading materials: Tarot, spell books, grimoires, etc.

Design Considerations

When designing esoteric products, it is important to consider the target audience and purpose of the product. The design should be respectful of the audience's beliefs and traditions, and any cultural appropriation should be avoided. The product should also be well made and durable as it is likely to be used in rituals or spiritual practices.

Grocery bag or butcher bag

The design of products and signs in groceries, stores and retail stores plays a fundamental role in the customer experience and business success. An attractive design and clear signage can increase sales, drive brand loyalty and create a pleasant environment for shoppers.

The design of the grocery bag is not only limited to being a practical container for transporting products, but also becomes a crucial element to strengthen customer loyalty towards the brand. This bag is not only a means of transportation, but an extension of the shopping experience. Being carefully designed, it creates a feeling of complacency and personalized attention from the butcher to the customer. This attention is reflected in every detail, from the choice of material to the inclusion of distinctive grocery store elements.

The bag is not only robust and resistant, but also offers insulating and cooling properties that ensure the freshness of the products during transport. Its high-quality material not only ensures durability but also helps maintain food quality.

Additionally, the bag design incorporates elements of the grocery store's direction, such as logos or distinctive symbols that reinforce the brand identity and help customers easily identify its origin. These elements not only add aesthetic value, but also strengthen the emotional bond between the customer and the store.

The bag's design also stands out for its clever typographic choice and visual layout. Although the typography is simple, it is carefully selected to convey the brand's values ​​and personality. Every design detail is precisely chosen to reflect the diversity of products available in the store, from fresh foods to canned goods.

The grocery bag not only fulfills its practical function, but also becomes a powerful vehicle to strengthen the brand identity, improve the customer experience and encourage loyalty towards the grocery store. Its carefully crafted design is a testament to the store's commitment to quality and customer service.

Wrestling posters

Lucha libre posters are a Mexican folk art form that combines vibrant images, bold typography, and emotion-filled language to promote wrestling features. These posters are not only advertisements, but they are also pieces of graphic design that reflect the culture and history of Mexican wrestling.

Main features

  • Images: Wrestling posters often feature images of wrestlers in action, with dynamic poses and exaggerated facial expressions. The colors are bright and striking, often using red, yellow and blue. Images can be realistic or cartoonish, depending on the artist's style.

  • Typography: Typography is a key element in wrestling posters. Large, bold letters are used to highlight the names of the wrestlers and the main event. The typography is usually ornamental or "gothic" in style, giving the posters a striking, traditional look.

  • The typography used in wrestling posters is usually a mix of styles, but some common elements are:

  • Thick, sans-serif fonts – These fonts are easy to read from afar and give signs a bold, impactful look.

  • Ornamental Typography – Letters with ornaments and flourishes are used to add a touch of tradition and style to posters.

  • Distortion Effects – Letters can be stretched, compressed or curved to create a more dynamic visual effect.

  • Language:  The language used in wrestling posters is exaggerated and full of emotion. Phrases such as "Fight to the death!" or "Don't miss it!" to create expectation and attract the public. The language can also be humorous or even poetic.


Lucha libre posters originated in Mexico in the early 20th century, when wrestling began to gain popularity. At the time, posters were made by hand, using techniques such as woodcut and screen printing. Over time, poster production became industrialized, but the basic style has remained relatively the same.

Wrestling posters have had a significant influence on graphic design, pop art, and popular culture. His bold and colorful style has been imitated by artists around the world. Wrestling posters have also become collectors' items, and some original copies can sell for thousands of dollars.

To know more about the wrestling documentary click on the other post about: Sensacional de diseño.

Vernacular typography is a cultural treasure that we must protect. By valuing it, recognizing it and using it, we are helping to preserve the identity and history of our communities.

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