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Paris Loves Letters

I'm just back from a stay in The City of Light, and just wanted to share an impression I had that typography and lettering are admired and extremely well respected there—possibly as much or more than anywhere else in the world. If nothing else, Paris is a city where history permeates everything, and you can almost trace its history through the many layers of lettering and signage that stretch back over many decades. I say respected because so much of it has been preserved, and not painted over or replaced just to be up to date. In fact, many shops kept and preserved the lettering from previous incarnations, even though the name and nature of the business had changed. It was refreshing to see that just about every business that had a public face, from the smallest boutique to the largest high-end stores, all took great pains to maintain an artful, thoughtfully designed appearance. Aesthetics on every level are a part of the culture, and an understanding of the importance lettering and typography seems to be universally understood and encouraged. Here is a small sampling of some snapshots I took while strolling around the city:

My new favorite restaurant in Paris—not so much for the food, as for it's graphics and interior.

The mosaic floor of one of Paris' many arcades.

A sandwich shop. I love those colored bottles!

Metro signage – not the typical art nouveau version everyone's familiar with.

Paris' Wax Museum . . . an Art Déco Extravaganza

A confectionery shop with signage that dates back . . . who knows how long? Still in perfect condition.

Contemporary tile work in the Metro's Concorde Station. This incredible project was begun in 1989 and contains the text of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This typographic work covers the entire arched wall and ceiling of the station.

And finally, (please excuse the shameless plug) while walking the streets of the Marais, I happened across a shop called "L'Art du Buro" which had my QWERTY pen displayed front and center in its window. Certainly an ego boost, if ever there was one!

"QWERTY" Pen & Card Case Released by Acme Studio

Acme Studio of Maui, Hawaii is known for having an incredible roster of world reknowned designers who have designed pens, watches, cufflinks, wallets and various other accoutrements for them. Some time ago I proposed a pen and business card  case to them with a vintage typewriter key theme. This January they've released my "QWERTY" pen and business card case design. Currently it's at the top of their New Releases page (click on "New Releases" at upper left) and and on their Designers page (click on my name a little ways down the list at the left).

I’ve always loved vintage office machines—especially old typewriters. I guess it’s because I grew up with them. My Dad was a writer, and my memories of him are filled with the sound of his tap, tap, tapping away day and night on his trusty old Underwood. When word processors started taking over, he just found it too difficult to make the transition. It’s hard to explain, but I think it had something to do with a kind of personal bond that he had formed with his machine. Because of my early associations with manual typewriters I still love not just their look and graphics, but especially the feel and clackety-clack sound of the keys, and the imperfect impressions they’d make on paper.

Those memories of my father and his Underwood are now very near and dear to me. Typewriters have now been pretty much relegated to the dustbin of history. The “QWERTY” keyboard layout still survives despite many attempts to improve on it. In designing this pen and case I saw an opportunity for me to create a small homage to these wonderful machines. It may sound odd, but the way I see it, in a way it’s kind of like one almost obsolete writing instrument paying tribute to another.

Acme Studio products can be purchased in Acme Shops worldwide, in better stationery and art supply stores, in museum shops, and online.