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Take an Urban Street Type Safari

Heard any good Comic Sans jokes lately? Designer James Victore doesn’t have time to listen to them — he’s much too busy taking other fonts to task.

Victore recently took a “Type Safari,” tooling around Brooklyn and Queens in an old Army Jeep with a camera in tow. In the resulting video, he looks at street type and signage and tries to “figure out what the hell it’s for.” As you can guess, he’s a bit, er, critical.

Where others see the familiar Starbucks logo, Victore sees “a fat, nasty sans serif.” In front of a copy-heavy banner promoting foster care, he observes: “What they’re trying to get the words to say, they should have worked harder and had an idea first.”

“So, this stuff interests me terribly,” he says, pointing out a giant, awkwardly designed vertical leasing advertisement running down the side of an apartment building. “To not just spell everything correctly but to actually put art in it. To actually put art on the street.”


And you can joke all you want about Comic Sans, but he doesn’t have much love for better-designed Swiss Modern fonts like Helvetica, either.

Sure, he’s grumpy, but rest assured the man knows what he’s talking about. Educated at the School of Visual Arts, Victore has won a legion of awards for his work and has exhibited collections in a variety of cultural institutions from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Palais du Louvre in Paris. He was tapped to make the video as part of a promotion by Adobe Typekit and Makeshift Space, a Brooklyn-based “creative community and shared workspace.” This fall the two have partnered up to lead a series of seminars celebrating typography called “Working Late.”

Type, and how it’s used, often gets dismissed as something that only matters to artists and designers. But there are a big takeaways for businesses, here:

  • Use type to show your message/brand as well as tell it.
  • Good work matters.
  • Don’t feel like you have to bend to what’s on-trend.
  • Quality and craftsmanship will always get noticed and appreciated — even by customers who don’t necessarily “understand” design.

“So, here’s a question: what’s beautiful? Does beauty matter?” Victore asks at the end of the video. I think we all know the answer to that one.

What do you think? He’s kind of like the design world’s Anthony Bourdain, no?

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