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Cultural Stories Revealed through Typography

Stephen Banham


An original look at the way typography affects a city’s landscape, full of quirky, poignant and often funny examples


Type and signage are part of our daily lives and the history of any city in which we happen to find ourselves. Old or new, every sign has a story to tell.

In Characters, Stephen Banham has meticulously researched the signage and typography of a city to present an exuberant collection of quirky, poignant and often funny stories. They range from how a call to mend a burnt fuse on a neon sign led to the discovery of 100 musical instruments hidden in a train station tower for 50 years, to the sign that had to be removed for eliciting illegal gambling.

From architecture and advertising to cultural history and much more, Characters is a book that will appeal to historians, designers and typophiles alike. Featuring a treasure trove of long overlooked examples, Banham reveals how typography is a rich form of cultural expression, redefining the way we look at our surroundings one letter at a time.

You will never walk down the street in the same way again.

Called a 'typographic evangelist' by UK Design journal Eye, Stephen Banham's design work has been covered in almost every type annual and design magazine. He is also the founder of Letterbox, a typographic studio based in Melbourne and has lectured in typography at RMIT since 1991. One of his most high profile campaigns in bringing typography into the public eye was the Death to Helvetica debate in the early 2000s. Since then he has run a series of forums on the social and cultural importance of letterforms.

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Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 22.9 x 22.9 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Publication date: 5 March 2012

ISBN: 9780500500262

About the Author

Stephen Banham is founder of Letterbox, a type studio based in Melbourne, Australia. He has written and produced over 15 publications on typography, including the Qwerty series (1991–96), the Ampersand series, Fancy (2004) and the Oblique series (2008–). A member of the International Society of Typographic Designers, Banham has been a lecturer in typography at RMIT University since 1991 and holds a Master of Design by Research.

List of Contributors

Rick Poynor