As a young rebellious kid graffiti played a big role in my life, whether it was about making friends, stories or letters. Years went by and my passion for graffiti got serious, but it wasn’t until I enrolled in an arts and design high-school in Lisbon that I realised my love for graffiti wasn’t about adrenaline or running from cops either — it was all about the letterforms.
I’ve kept a good eye on the street art movement these past few years, witnessing its rise and booming. The idea of joining street art, graffiti and type has never left me. This is probably a starting point.
The main difficulty of paint lettering is getting the letters onto the wall, as fast and precise as possible. Many street artists these days use projectors or some kind of jig to help them. Although I am all in favor of this practice, I needed a method that didn’t rely on anything but me and a something to paint with. In similarity to sign painters, even though I couldn’t just wing a huge mural free handed. The idea of a quickly drawn grid, capable to hold proportional and well-drawn letters made a spark in my head. What if there was a system specifically designed to be used in typographic murals? This could be so useful to me that I set out to study other gridded alphabets and make ways to produce this one.The first geometrically structured alphabet is probably the Alphabetum Romanum, by Felice Feliciano. In his book, he shows and teaches the process to draw every classic Roman Capital from a subdivision of a square. Roman capitals were studied and scrutinized until they became the base of modern typography.
The first geometrically structured alphabet is probably the Alphabetum Romanum, by Felice Feliciano. In his book, he shows and teaches the process to draw every classic Roman Capital from a subdivision of a square. Roman capitals were studied and scrutinized until they became the base of modern typography.
Nevertheless, I think the Romain du Roi made a much more significant shift in the type design history. It was commissioned by Louis XIV in a wish to establish a style for his reign and to have a set of royal typefaces. I believe this typeface is such so important to the type world because it defied its predecessors. Unlike other Roman alphabets, that had developed organically through time, and only then systematized, the Romain du Roi was thought based on pure rationality and geometry. The letters were projected inside the grid before being cut into the type punch.
I also can’t go without mentioning the Plaque Découpée Universelle, a lettering device from the 1870s. This little stencil contained the whole alphabet (capitals and small case) and numerals. It was mainly used as a guide for sign painting in the following years, becoming part of the French lettering public domain.
This was a gridded alphabet like I needed it to be, but as most of the contemporaneous gridded alphabets I manage to find were either too strict and rigid, or too complex and detailed for my purposes.
To accomplish my ideal type system, the grid needs to be easy to draw, with only a bar of chalk and a ruler. My proposition for the master project is to find a balance between these conditions; between function and form, detail and simplicity, geometry and the human eye, grids and paint.