The older lettering derives from the traditional signpainter’s lexicon of graduated inlines, swash capitals, curling banners and ornate nouveau flourishes. It’s possible to spot type derived from commercial fonts such as Busorama, Balloon, Crillee and Stop on the more recent signs, though used with added gloss, shiny highlights, drop shadows, light bulbs, and airbrushed neon glows.
The art is almost always unsigned, but a common hand may sometimes be discerned, especially in some of the more recent work. What connects all the work is the desire to communicate – as loudly and as brashly as possible – the promise of a damn good time.
Rian Hughes is a graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist, author, and typographer. From his studio, Device, he has produced watches for Swatch, Hawaiian shirts, logo designs for Batman and Spiderman, and an iconoclastic revamp of British comic hero Dan Dare. A retrospective monograph, Art, Commercial was published in 2002, while more recent books include Cult-ure: Ideas can be Dangerous and Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s. His comic strips have been collected in Yesterday’s Tomorrows, which launched recently at the ICA in London. A forthcoming book, Soho Dives, Soho Divas features images documenting London’s burlesque artistes. More at devicefonts.co.uk.
The images shown here are taken from Hughes’ book, Carnival, one of an occasional ongoing series that he publishes via Blurb, the print-to-order site. The series, entitled Misc., features anything from “unseen design experiments and personal sketches” to “strange clippings, themed ephemera and curated detritus”. Hughes has produced 11 titles so far, and they are available from blurb.co.uk/user/store/rianh.