Sale notice lettering

White, handpainted, deliberately crude lettering in the style once used on shop windows – it’s all over the place

White, handpainted, deliberately crude lettering in the style once used on shop windows – it’s all over the place

We’ve been meaning to post about this trend for quite some time, but a new spot in the past week, plus the re-occurrence of some old friends, brought it to top of mind.

Our local Sports Direct is promoting its latest super sale thusly:


Here’s the poster currently promoting the Rolling Stones’ O2 gigs – check out the lettering bottom right.


One of the first ad campaigns we spotted using the style, which is often achieved by painting on glass or acrylic, was for the National Apprencticeship Service – this is the ad currently running, but the campaign’s been up for perhaps a year at least. The campaign is by Purpose (see comments).


Here’s an earlier one


One of the first websites we spotted using the style was Brand New in its promotion for last year’s Brand New conference – a more colourful variation on the theme which closely references shop signage


While It’s Nice That use a more classical version of the style for their Weekender section


If you don’t have the requisite skill with a paintbrush, Shutterstock now have a whole series of handpainted letters



A quick check of our Feed section reveals that the style is still alive and well – in projects such as 21.19’s work for the Australian Design Biennale


And, in slightly more refined form, Prada’s Il Palazzo iPad app


The Prada version looks more chalk-like. H&M, in contrast, use a more inky variant on shop windows – like the Oxford Street branch in London


While the sleeve for Scott Walker’s new album Bish Bosch by Ben Farquharson and designer Philip Laslett (featured here) takes a messier, painterly approach

Where’s it all coming from? We’ve certainly been noticing it for well over a year. There has been a general revival in signpainting techniques (as we reported on in our October issue) but this is not quite the same thing. It’s a more vernacular style – much more in the vein of ‘everything must go‘ daubings on plate glass or hurriedly painted protest messages.

As with all trends, this one has been around the block.Probably the first time we can remember seeing something similar in a design context was the masthead for 90s teen magazine Sassy – here’s a cover from May 1990


But another current ad campaign shows that the style goes back way further – check out the graffiti behind the sailor in Cecil Beaton’s photograph


Let us know any examples of the trend which you’ve spotted and we’ll add them to the post



Tom Actman at Mat Dolphin has spotted it on this Converse Christmas campaign


Check out the cover for horror novel Nightmare Me by designer/illustrator Aldous Massie (and his notes on how he did it here)



Thanks to CR contributor Jeremy Leslie of magCulture for reminding us of the section dividers used in Port #6, the food issue earlier this year (see his post here), done by Sara Cwynar


Ocky Murray at Cog Design suggests the 2010 London Design Festival identity from Pentagram


Via Twitter, White Hole Studio (@WhiteHoleStudio) suggest the cover to Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball album from earlier this year


Nike ad campaign for the French football team from January 2011, as spotted by ‘Char’ (see comments)


SWD started using the stye in 2009 for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (see comments)


Website, packaging and brand design for G’nosh by Mystery, as spotted by Steve McCardle

Rick Banks has also suggested Multistorey’s identity for the Lyric Theatre, in Hammersmith.


CR In print

In our December issue we look at why carpets are the latest medium of choice for designers and illustrators. Plus, Does it matter if design projects are presented using fake images created using LiveSurface and the like? Mark Sinclair looks in to the issue of mocking-up. We have an extract from Craig Ward’s upcoming book Popular Lies About Graphic Design and ask why advertising has been so poor at preserving its past. Illustrators’ agents share their tips for getting seen and we interview maverick director Tony Kaye by means of his unique way with email. In Crit, Guardian economics leader writer Aditya Chakrabortty review’s Kalle Lasn’s Meme Wars and Gordon Comstock pities brands’ long-suffering social media managers. In a new column on art direction, Paul Belford deconstructs a Levi’s ad that was so wrong it was very right, plus, in his brand identity column, Michael Evamy looks at the work of Barcelona-based Mario Eskenazi. And Daniel Benneworth-Gray tackles every freelancer’s dilemma – getting work.

Our Monograph this month, for subscribers only, features the EnsaïmadART project in which Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin invited designers from around the world to create stickers to go on the packaging of special edition packaging for Majorca’s distinctive pastry, the ensaïmada, with all profits going to a charity on the island (full story here)

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  • Paul

    Can anyone tell who created the Apprenticeships campaign material? Always thought they were pretty strong.

  • IC

    This style has been used to great effect for years.

    Marion Deuchars and Julian House (INTRO) are two good examples.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ IC

    I don’t think Marion Deuchars’ work is quite the same thing. She uses a very particular style of handlettering – her own hand. What we’re talking about here is a rougher, more generic, block-caps style epitomised by the Port and Rolling Stones examples above

  • White Hole

    Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

  • Paul

    @ Paul

    We did the Apprenticeships campaign here at Purpose, see here

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    Thanks Paul

    We’ve put that credit in for you and a link. Really nice campaign I thought

  • Char
  • David

    I’ve been putting a book together of something similar. A church local to me produces posters every six weeks with witty slogans and phrases advertising the church, God and His work. They are produced by a local sign writer and they are in a very similar style.

  • Jo Evans

    We used this style for the artwork for a dance company back in 2009 … Everyone liked it so much it stayed for the subsequent tours.

  • Steve McCardle

    Here’s another example of it being used on a rather tastey looking site :

  • Rick Banks

    The beautiful Lyric Theatre by Multistorey:

  • Stephen Dawks

    Anton Corbijn – Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion – 1993

  • White Hole
  • stu

    Its all so primitive, makes me wanna tear my shirt off and run through the streets…then eat a kebab like a dog!

    So what your saying is freehand seems popular! But hasent it always been?

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Stu


    Yes, freehand lettering has always been popular – this is more about the particular style that is common to the Stones poster, Port and the LDF in particular I think.

  • sam
  • Mark

    I think there is two distinct strands here, totally free form painted letters such as the port mag etc and hand drawn/painted versions of fonts like the G’nosh

  • Geoff

    Olly Murs did it first

  • Peter

    And if you want your own version 😉

  • Corporate photographer

    Love the toilet sign and the Rolling Stones poster. The typeface works better when it is contrasted against another more traditional typeface.

  • Tim

    I think this trend was re-started in 2006 with the POP magazine with Kate Moss on the cover.
    Very similar hand painted lettering to the Lyric Identity by Multi-storey a few years later.

  • Derek Kimball (DesignBuddy)

    Didn’t realize this was a trend. Now it makes me want to stay away from it. Not a big fan of following the “latest thing”.

  • Pickle Design

    Love Prada’s more elegant use. Good selection.

  • Anna

    Levis have been using this font in their Curve ID adverts for some time now as well. I’m not a big fan but it was a nice change when it first started.

  • Emma

    Anomaly and …,staat Amsterdam created Converse’s 100yr anniversary with ‘Welcome to the Converse Century’ campaign. Google it.Really great example of painted slogan typography-a few years old now. It revived the brand.