type tuesday: Nikki Villagomez's Culture and Typography

It's Type Tuesday and today I'd like to introduce you to Nikki Villagomez and her blog, Culture and Typography. Her (very entertaining) blog studies how place and culture inform typography in public space. The seed idea for the blog dates to a project from 2004:

"Several years ago I founded and was president of the South Carolina chapter of AIGA. We had a ton of fantastic speakers that came through, but there was one event that had the most impact for me. I made friends with the president of the Honolulu chapter at a leadership retreat and talked her into doing a ‘Culture Exchange’ for our upcoming December event. We boxed up things that were specific to South Carolina in addition to projects designed for SC clients by SC designers. The Honolulu chapter did the same. We mailed the boxes to each other and on the day of the event, the packages were opened.

I was blown away by how much their culture affects their design and it forced me to look at design in a completely different way. Font selection, colour usage and other design choices inspired by the visual language of their cultural surroundings were inspiring and revealing."

From Nikki's Pinterest board, The Manhole Project.

From Nikki's Pinterest board, The Manhole Project.

Nikki's blog is really fun to read—her level of enthusiasm for the seemingly mundane manhole (Manhole Mondays) to ghost signs and No Parking signs knows no bounds.

"After my term as president of the AIGA South Carolina chapter was over, I stayed very active teaching typography and graphic design at the University of South Carolina. I had a couple of kids (one named after a font! ha!) and freelanced. These two exchanges stuck with me over the years. After I started working full time as an in-house designer for a healthcare consulting firm in Ohio 2 years ago, I needed a creative outlet. I started my blog purely as a way for me to feed my love for typography. I post 5 days a week and as of the spring of this past year, it has started to catch on."

She often compares vernacular typography from one locale to another. Here's a taste of her writing comparison of two signs, one from South Caroline and the other from Ohio. She titles her post "Holy Red Cursive Lettering!".

"This is one of those pairings that gets me all hot and bothered inside. And I mean that in the best way possible. What."

Both of these type treatments have such a story to tell and I’m totally listening. I lived in Columbia, SC for 9 years and Pecknel Music was around for as long as I can remember. I love these letters. They each have such a strong personality they couldn’t possibly be joined together. It’d be too overwhelming. So, they stand alone. That k is out of control. All she’s missing is a string of pearls around her neck and she’ll be ready to hit the town. That 2nd e looks a bit lonely but the l is right there lending a hand. 

Both of these type treatments have such a story to tell and I’m totally listening. I lived in Columbia, SC for 9 years and Pecknel Music was around for as long as I can remember. I love these letters. They each have such a strong personality they couldn’t possibly be joined together. It’d be too overwhelming. So, they stand alone. That k is out of control. All she’s missing is a string of pearls around her neck and she’ll be ready to hit the town. That 2nd e looks a bit lonely but the l is right there lending a hand. 

Unlike Pecknel, Carroll is happily connected and loving life. Not sure what’s going on with that 2nd l. He seems to be falling a bit. Poor guy. Such beautiful typography.
Unlike PecknelCarroll is happily connected and loving life. Not sure what’s going on with that 2nd l. He seems to be falling a bit. Poor guy. Such beautiful typography.

The popularity of her blog has led to numerous speaking engagements. She'll be speaking at AIGA San Antonio, AIGA South Dakota, AIGA Orlando and AIGA Upstate NY early next year.

"For my speaking engagements, I ask local creatives to take pictures of anything type related that is unique to their city (graffiti, ghost signs, manhole covers, etc.) and send them to me 1 month prior to my talk. I pair their pictures with pictures that I have collected (either taken myself or have been shared with me) from all over the world. It has made my presentation more interactive and each presentation is unique to the city it is in. It has been a really rewarding experience traveling to different cities and highlighting how easy it is to take our surroundings for granted and just how unique each city is." 

A sign in Columbus, Ohio. "I still can’t believe how awesome this sign is. Obviously I’m nuts for the type but the colours, the worn metal, the light bulbs…that CLOCK!"

A sign in Columbus, Ohio. "I still can’t believe how awesome this sign is. Obviously I’m nuts for the type but the colours, the worn metal, the light bulbs…that CLOCK!"