10 Typographic Art Installations


Typography enthusiasts know that sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than an elegant and expressive typeface. There is a science behind composing and arranging type, but often it is used for pure artistic expression. After spotting a unique typographic sculpture on Colossal that doubles as a bus shelter (featured below), we searched for other font-friendly installations that appeal to our inner typography nerd and explore our interaction with text (and art) in various environments.

There’s no mistaking where residents should wait for the bus in this Baltimore neighborhood. BUS is part of the arts initiative TRANSIT, which fosters “creative placemaking with Europe in Baltimore.” Featuring letters stretching 14 feet into the air and seven feet across, BUS offers a playful alternative to the dreary urban depot.

Photo credit: Matt Irwin Photography

Photo credit: Matt Irwin Photography

Created as a resting place outside the railway station to Frankston Foreshore Beach in Australia, Stephen Banham’s undulating bench beckons weary passersby. The cheery, cherry red script and ten layers of powder-coated galvanized steel make Banham’s installation strong, but inviting. The project is part of Letterbox’s Polite Signage series.

Kruger’s famous stream-of-consciousness captions plastered the wall of one gallery at L&M Arts, inundating visitors. From the LA Times:

In the west gallery, an untitled piece covers just about every square inch of the walls, floor and ceiling with big black letters that spell out pithy clichés about power and money. The experience of stepping into the space is far more compelling than the banal messages printed everywhere. You feel a bit like Alice falling through an information-overload looking glass.

Following an extensive restoration of the formerly underground Paddington Reservoir in Sydney, art collective Popperbox organized the creation of these poetic fragments in mossy text on the walls of the Paddington Reservoir Gardens. Modern Day Messages was composed with locally sourced moss and mud, and attached with clay soil, beer, and yogurt. The phrases were composed by emerging Sydney poets and “quietly [explore] growth, nourishment, rejuvenation and the future,” in tribute to John Thompson — “founder of Australia’s first resident action group, the Paddington Society.”

Environmental artist Nicole Dextras, whose work has been featured on Flavorwire before, discusses the concept behind her stunning text-based ice installations:

The visual poetry in this series aims to subvert the authority of the English language and the commerce of signage by representing words as vulnerable and shifting. Ice Typography absorbs light, melts and eventually leaves no trace; these words have more in common with dreams and oral stories than linear language. Words cast in ice interrupt our literal narratives, allowing a more integrated reading of the land we inhabit, as opposed to the past and current commodification of land as limitless resource. This fundamental split in perception lies at the crux of our environmental crisis. I therefore choose to create within an ephemeral vernacular to accentuate the collective physical and psychological experience of flux and change.

Guerrilla poetry or “melancholic post-situationist” performance? Scottish artist Robert Montgomery’s subversive billboards expose our innermost thoughts and the issues plaguing our modern lives.

Designblog’s Martina Gudmundson delivers insightful commentary on Typographic Matchmaking 2.0 / in the City — a wonderful project organized by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès’ The Khatt Foundation – Center for Arabic Typography. In the City looks at the union of Arabic and Latin writing and culture in urban space:

One of the reasons argued for the Typographic Matchmaking is, that because of the poor matches between the Arabic and Latin fonts, most bilingual design projects in the Middle East start in English before getting translated. Too often, the street sign you meet in the Middle East are written in a way that forces the Arabic language to adjust to the Latin language. The basic idea is thus to create new fonts that work both in Latin and Arabic, and especially to find types that create harmony between the different language structures. The aim of the project in the City, is also to bring back the sense of belonging to fast growing multicultural cities in the Arabic environment. One of the big challenges here, is how to deal with a visually already overcharged space. New alternative spaces within the contemporary, shopping dependent, urban structure may engage inhabitants on many levels and create a more emotional relationship with the direct environment and the larger world.

Another important reason is the demand for Arabic identity in the West. I could very well imagine that even people who do not speak Arabic, can connect to their roots through the presence of Arabic script.

Jenny Holzer’s text-based light projection installations need no introduction. I Stay (Ngaya ngalawa) featured songs, poems, stories, and other text by indigenous Australian communities, projected on the 62-foot steel beams at 8 Chifley Square in Sydney. From the artist:

The text I chose was influenced by a people’s history, but the themes, such as love and survival, are universal. The first person voice in much of the writing makes the artwork alive and immediate, accessible to many. Writing by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors was most compelling; it illustrates that what happens to individuals and groups, happens to society. The human themes here make this public space integrate and honour the personal.

One “public” space that often gets ignored when it comes to design is the office. Benoit Challand’s large-scale, letter-savvy office concept is refreshing in the face of corporate America’s love affair with cubicle farms.

The labyrinthine Gardens of the World in Marzahn Recreational Park in Berlin are a multicultural mélange. Alongside the Italian Renaissance Garden, Balinese Garden of the Three Harmonies, and others is the Christian Garden. Modeled after a cloister, visitors can observe text fragments from the Old and New Testaments that reflect onto the walkway when the sun hits the golden framework. The design emphasizes form and language, making it universal.