We recently went on holiday to Fowey in Cornwall. It’s a bit hilly and out of the way but it’s a gorgeous place. This is the view from the house we stayed in:
While we were there, we noticed nice signs on some of the houses which seem to have been designed and made in the same place. We took photos of them and I thought I’d post them here.
In 18 Harbourside you can see the hallmarks of this sign-maker, with the scorched-clay cream and terracotta colours and concentric circles emanating from the centre. The designer’s interest in typography is also evident. The font reminded us of the famous Computer typeface, but that might not have been intentional.
That famous Computer font in full (sort of)
This next one is the first example of the boat motif appearing in these signs. Fowey is a harbour town so boats are a bit of a thing there.
Again, lots of attention has been paid to the typeface, which is a block Roman with slightly sloping serifs. Staring at it long enough you start to see some imperfections in how the type is laid out, but that’s to be expected as this wasn’t done in Photoshop.
Here’s the smallest and most boring one.
We spotted it towards the end of the trip, after we’d seen all the other signs, and only photographed it because we recognised the style. If I’d walked past this sign on its own I don’t think I’d have given it a second glance. It’s still a nice sign though, especially the style of the numbers, although the “B” sits a little too low.
So now we’ve got 38B out of the way let’s move on to the last two which, you’ll be pleased to hear, both feature boats.
Number 45 is quite a simple and compact arrangement with only three elements: the number, the boat, and a couple of squiggles representing the sea. The style of the numbers is a bit more distinctive than in the previous signs where the designer seemed to be using other typefaces as a template. He or she seems to be discovering a form of their own, which is nice to see.
As good as it is though, number 45 is a test run for the best of the bunch: number 53.
The chef d’oeuvre
This sign wins on every score. Firstly, the concentric circle effect has been toned down – it’s still there, part of the sign-maker’s design language, but it’s not in your face like on 23 Beam Reach and it doesn’t do any fancy spiralling like on 18 Harbourside.
Secondly, the composition, with the boat centred above the numbers and the mast lining up with the left hand side of the 5. There’s a lot of empty space in the sign but it’s being put to work by how well the sign is laid out.
Thirdly, the design of the boat itself. If you ask me it has more character: a ‘working’ boat, unlike the others which look like yachts for leisure. I know nothing about boats though so maybe you shouldn’t ask me.
And then finally there’s the numbering, which takes the distinctive, personal style of number 45 above to the next level. It has some similarities to Souvenir, a classic 1970s typeface (from 1914, natch) but it really has its own personality.
Next time we go to Fowey I’m going to try to find more of these signs and to figure out where they come from. In the meantime I’ve created a set on Flickr with the photos above. If you know anything about them, leave a comment!