Good Sign for Melbourne Designer

It’s always nice to see Australian creators gain attention and accolades overseas – even more so when they hail from Melbourne. And when they’re written up in a lauded international publication for a book about Melbourne … well, that’s impressive.

Stephen Banham’s Characters: Cultural Stories Revealed by Typography (co-published by Thames & Hudson and the State Library of Victoria) is dedicated to public signage and typography in Melbourne. It gets a rave review on Salon today, as ‘a book that is exemplary in nearly all respects’.

The review was originally published on respected design website community Imprint, by Paul Shaw, a writer who, as he admits, ‘has become infamous for no-holds-barred critiques of books’.

Here’s just a taste of the review:

Characters is more than a cool collection of images, an occasion to wallow in nostalgia for the past * a time before the Internet, computers, franchises and chain stores, international corporations and globalization; a time before Helvetica. It is a collection of stories about signs that go beyond the aesthetics of color, design and type to reveal the cultural, social and economic changes that have happened in Melbourne over the course of a century. Banham, owner of Letterbox, a ‘type studio’ in Melbourne, has researched the history of how the signs were conceived, designed and manufactured; what has happened to them over the intervening years; and what they have meant to different generations of Melbournians. Thus, Characters is a book about place as well as about time.

The stories in Characters are short but often smart, eloquent, funny and poignant. Banham stresses the importance many of the signs have to Melbournians, not just to graphic designers and typographers, as part of the city’s cultural identity and visual history.

If you’re interested in intelligent discussion and cultural writing about the city we call home, you might want to check out these videos of previous events, discussing Melbourne in terms of its history, green lifestyles and social equity.

And watch this space for our program launch this Friday 3 February, when we’ll be announcing the details of a new events series, Ideas for Melbourne.

Here’s a flavour of the feast for your eyes (and grey matter) that awaits you between the covers of Characters: