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Studio curio#1: name plaque

Posted on August 10th 2010

curio noun – an unusual object

I am a bit of a collector. If I see something that interests me I like to have it around me when I work, as inspiration or a reminder of a time, place or person. I am going to try and post a short explanation of some of the random items I have in the studio. Explaining why I like them and the history or background behind them.

I discovered this name plaque on a shelf in the garage when visiting my parents house recently. The plaque was previously mounted at my Grandfathers doctors surgery. My ‘Grandpa’ had taken over the running of the surgery from his father in 1948 so I’m unsure whether the plaque was made for my Grandpa or Great Grandfather. Either way it dates back to an era when things were made to last.

Although the copper plaque is obviously not in its original condition (I actually like the fact it’s a little eroded) it could easily be restored to its former glory with a tin of Brasso and some paint. It’s a weighty object and is far more interesting than the current vinyl on plastic signs you see at doctors surgeries. I especially like the typography on the plaque. The letters look to have been machined or stamped in to the plate and then the relief has been filled with paint or resin (now mostly gone). The letters have an interesting rounded, octagonal form but also have a slight irregularity to them.

I’m in the process of digitising the letters on the sign and also developing the letterforms that aren’t on the sign, between jobs as a personal project. I hope to turn it into a full working typeface, possibly called surgery sans. You can see the letters I have traced above and the ones I have created in the same style below.

The letters now need turning into a working typeface, for the moment this will be limited to uppercase Roman A-Z. The time consuming part of this is ensuring that the kerning (the space between each letter pair) is correct so that when type is set, the characters have a visually consistent space around them, I haven’t started this yet. Once done the letters can be selected and used as you would with any other font.

My Grandpa isn’t alive anymore, but the plaque takes pride of place on my book shelf and hopefully I will be able to use the new typeface for a project at some point.

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