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Brief: Words

published on 4 November 2015

Lou Stoppard asked students at Liverpool John Moores University to explore text within geographic space.

Lou Stoppard asked students at Liverpool John Moores University to explore text within geographic space.

Words

The aim of this brief is to explore the possibilities, subtleties and nuances of text within geographic space. You can look for text anywhere – on road signs, flyers, billboards, menus, hand-written posters etc. You are looking for text that is specific to the North and says something, however indirect, about the location in which you found it and the context in which it exists.  At it’s most obvious, this could be a road sign pointing you to Liverpool City Centre, and it’s most subtle it could be a small handwritten flyer featuring a niche colloquialism. 

It sounds obvious, but text can say so much – not just through wording, but also through design, location and placing. You should consider carefully the relationship between text and imagery – something that is particularly notable in the North thanks to the acclaim surrounding Peter Saville’s work with text and imagery for Joy Division, New Order and the Hacienda (one of the most pervasive and discussed elements of the North’s cultural output even today). 

On that note, you should look out for tropes within the text you see – font clichés, or references to famous graphic design work from the North. To quote Saville, ‘The typography that becomes evident in the nineties is the result of a handful of people making typography cool. New Order Untitled [the band’s 1989 tour book/magazine by Peter Saville) has Helvetica all the way through it. By the time we get to the late nineties, there’s a film about Helvetica.’

You should collect together a set of examples of text that is specific or poignant to its location that you can find while out and about. Try to find 3 distinct examples – you could spot a club flyer that references the typography and iconic black and yellow lines of the Hacienda, or a newspaper article propagating stereotypes about the North, or a poster that shows off an area’s cultural history and the passage of time simply through its continued existence and the fact no one has removed it from display, for example the prolonged appearance of ‘Liverpool 08 European Capital of Culture’ on posters, wall art and even fabrication and upholstery around the city. Find examples inside and outside. Look for work made by residents and officially commissioned. And, most of all, seek out text that tells a story in multiple ways, which are layered, subtle and rich.

'No golf', Central Park, Liverpool by Adam Murray
Visuals celebrating Liverpool's title as City of Culture in 2008. This graphic can still be seen around the city on fabrications and posters in 2015
Building commences on The Hacienda apartments in Manchester after the nightclub was demolished in 2002
New Order's Blue Monday cover by Peter Saville

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