Though my in-laws are always telling me how crazy I am to live in the most expensive city in the U.S. while they tout the many benefits of a quiet country life, I recently discovered yet another perk of living in New York City: free type tours. Last year James Victore took us on a Type Safari in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, and now Alexander Tochilovsky, a graphic designer and adjunct design and typography professor at Cooper Union, took Quartz on a spin around some of Fort Greene’s excellent signage.
“Tochilovsky has been keenly observing the letters on commercial signs, billboards, building names, house numbers, mailboxes, and even manhole covers during his regular walks in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives, and when he travels to other countries. ‘When I walk around any city, I usually start looking at signs,’ says Tochilovsky who was born in the city of Odessa (now Ukraine). ‘I start reading the city and I start to get an understanding of what goes on there.’
“For example, Tochilovsky pointed to the shell of what used to be a neon sign for a dry cleaning business. He explained that the gaspipe lettering style, popular in the 1940s, was most likely designed with curved letterforms to accommodate the bent glass tubing of the neon lights. The dry cleaning business has since closed but the clothing boutique that took over the space kept the name, primarily because of the sign.
“Over the years, Tochilovsky says he’s learned to expand his periphery, not just looking forward but also looking up and down whenever he walks down a street, almost like an archeologist. ‘It kinda sounds hokey, but it’s a way for me to touch history,’ he says.”
—Anne Quito, for Quartz