Huge window lettering?

Jennifer's picture

I haven't done much environmental design, so I'm not sure about this one:

I have to pick a typeface for vinyl lettering to go in a street-facing window. The art area is huge — about 6 feet by very tall — but the sentence has to be readable on the sidewalk and I don't know, across the street?

The sentences, about one each per window, are memories about the history of an area in the city, winning contest submissions. They'll also be part of an inside exhibit, and later a book. So history, first person voices, collective memory, lyric-poetry type stuff.

I like the feel of Filosofia and Mrs Eaves italics for this, even ITC Century roman — but the first 2 are definitely not strong enough for across the street viewing. I need something strong and quirky. With multiple weights?


Rafe Copeland's picture

I've seen a 'for lease' sign which was atually made in 3d (huge) and placed inside the window, and that was extremely strong. Set in Helvetica, but its originality came from the fact that was an a 3d object


adz's picture

Mrs Eaves is a genius typeface. One of my favorites. You'd be safe and no doubt successful using it.

I saw a window installation I liked the other day, the whole window was frosted glass and the type itself was left clear with a lot of negative space around it. Similar dimensions to your's as well, 6x6 Feet and the text was set in about 900pt.

Dav's picture

You could always consider trying/using a typeface that would originally have been designed to be legible in very small sizes, which should help the text being readable, even from across the street. (For example the fabulous 'Freight (Micro)' and 'Minuscule', with all its charming features and details.)


Reed Reibstein's picture

The typefaces suggested so far are rather unconventional for signage (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but for the more traditional style of signage/wayfinding type, check out this thread, this one, and this one.

jupiterboy's picture

Something slightly condensed with a large x-height is going to work in your favor. Consider the average height of a viewer/cars and other obstructions and placement/visibility above this level, contrast of the color in relation to the coatings/color of the glass and how the color of the glass can change based on viewing position. Sometimes a pearlized reflective vinyl can shift from neg. to reverse as the sun sets and the environment changes.

Folowing Dave's direction, you could look at Lucida Fax. I've used Apex new in a similar situation, but I was following the lead of an existing book design.

dezcom's picture

"The art area is huge — about 6 feet by very tall"

What a fun job! I just love huge type. As Paula says, "Make it Bigger" :-)


blank's picture

I don't know about Mrs. Eaves. On one hand, the letters look really cool, but on the other, it has pretty extreme overshoots that might start to look weird at that scale. Definitely test it with a full-size tiled printout first.

Jennifer's picture

You guys are great. I knew I'd get pointed in all kinds of useful directions.

Thanks for the thread links, the primer in street-scale design, and the pointers on x-height, width and small-size detail. And proofing!

Freight micro and apex new are indeed satisfyingly quirky ..

Jackie Frant's picture

Please remember - the larger the lettering - the more space needed between the letters. So when people pass by the window -- they can read it.

AGL's picture

Over saturated colors too.

russellm's picture

And don't forget to squoosh everingthing by at least 75%.

(just kidding! Really... Don't do it. :¬)

I presume the out put will be cut vinyl?


adnix's picture

As someone who plots and weeds vinyl lettering, please go for a nice sans like Gotham or Trade Gothic. A serif like Freight Micro in a bold weight would work if you are doing something in the 200-300 point range.

Just please avoid a Didot-like face. Those ultra delicate serifs are a bitch, even at large sizes. If someone asks me to weed the "Burberry" logo at 1 inch tall again, I'm gonna scream.


Jennifer's picture

Okay, so proof at 100% and play with letterspacing. Yes it will be vinyl peel and stick.

The problem with something as easy to work with as Gotham or Trade Gothic is they don't relate to the content in any way. But I hear you on the contrast point .. deadline approaching, still have to figure out who in this organization (#$*&^) will actually get on a ladder and whether it is in their collective agreement. Ahem! :)

thanks for your help.

Jackie Frant's picture

Sounds like a good plan Jennifer. Good luck and this thread will self-destruct in one minute.

Jennifer's picture

Just sent the files off:

Vonnes Black condensed. Chunky, space-conscious but clear, with some 1950-ish quirks. Proofed and taped up, passed the angled walk-by and across the street tests. Not the best thing I've ever done, not my favourite typeface in the world, but I can live with it here.

Here's a snip.

thanks everyone for chipping in.

dezcom's picture

Your file or link is broken.


Jennifer's picture

Again, above.

jupiterboy's picture

Give us a shot in situ, please.

Jennifer's picture

I think what I've done is pretty underwhelming. All I really got this time was the process, there was no time to do anything remarkable.

That said, it gets installed tomorrow afternoon, so I'll post and we can see if its at least apprehendable from a distance.

Jackie Frant's picture

Not to be a party-pooper, but just the old typesetter in me - since this is a quote by M.J. Florczak

1. Should there not be periods after the M and the J as they might stand for a first and middle name - or was he/she like Grant whose middle name was S - no punctuation needed?
2. Since this is a quote - should we have quote marks around it?
3. Since MJ is the source - it should be a 1/m dash - with no space between the 1/m and the MJ

and while I'm on it - since the second line has all that white space, it should be alright to move the source of the quote up one line. If this is large for display, and you want to fill three lines, I'd like to recommend then centering the source. Just a design thing.

Otherwise, it's done! And fine! And probably hanging up somewhere already. My comments are just comments...

Jennifer's picture

Hey Jackie, thanks for such a detailed look.

The client liked it so much we're adding 2 additional panels, and once they're installed I'll photograph and post the thing as it looks on the street.

I think many of your concerns about my choices will make sense seeing it in place. But some of the typographic things are also style decisions, yes? Like APA and MLA; no periods after initials are a decision to stick to out of a need for fewer extraneous bits.

to be continued ..

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