Lambeth Council came to Atelier to look at replacing a number of aging street signs in the SE27 area. However, we quickly discovered that the signs in question were beautiful hand-painted enamel signs dating from the mid 20th century.
This method of production is a rare thing to find in the 21st century, and costly at that. Thus we decide to recreate the type face especially for Lambeth Council for the sole purpose of retaining the visual identity and the heritage of the area.
Although a straight, alpha-numerical, typeface would work, it does not recreate the true peculiarities of a hand painted sign. In order to do this a wide selection of alternatives were designed using a combination original painted characters or taking features from one letter and applying it to another.
Additionally, we noticed that the sign writer often took great liberty in adjusting the width of their letters so as to fill the sign appropriately - be that by making short names longer or squeezing longer names. To address this in our contemporary rendition, a number of alternatives were designed that were either thicker or thinner that the originals.
We also designed a selection of street based alternatives, such as 'Rd' for 'road' and 'Ln.' for 'lane'.
Some further abreviations were also designed for common words that may appear in a London based signage system, such as 'Number' and 'London'.
Below is how the alternatives and the abreviations were used. Not only did they aid in making each sign that little bit more special, they also helped decrease the financial and the environmental impact of the signs.
The first batch of 20 or so street signs were completed in July 2016 and were steadily installed in November of the same year to to much celebration of the local residents.
The typeface itself is named 'Northwood' after the 'Great North Wood' that Norwood - the area in which these street signs are going up in - is now situated. It is under a special arrangement so that the font can only be used on street signs supplied by Lambeth Council in that area.