Walthamstow, London, UK
What is the designer's role in engaging the community with typography and placemaking in Walthamstow?
Aim and Objective
Walthamstow has been recognised as a hub for hundreds of years and has a fascinating history of diverse trades and crafts that people from around the world introduce and develop when they settle here.
Stowe Framework focuses on vernacular typography because it is a powerful marker of regional identity and has a remarkable ability to capture the character of time and place.
My project aims to engage the Walthamstow community in their typographic environment and to discuss how type influences the way we feel about the content it displays. I aim to highlight the uniformity of corporate advertising, which ignores and subverts local history and tradition, and to collect and document examples of the vanishing symbols of local culture. Other local projects have captured memories through oral history and online archives; Stowe Framework is the first to document typography.
At the end of eight months, Stowe Framework is just beginning.
To get a thorough understanding of people’s views, I devised activities for the community that include a typography scavenger hunt and art-based creativity that I distributed in groups and schools. The Covid-19 pandemic significantly hampered the primary research within the community, and led to the outcome being a plan for a launch of the activities and website.
WEBSITE & ONLINE TOOLS
A redesigned website includes elements of play where visitors can view project details and its background, engage with the activities, find out event details and explore the project. Maps are integral to the website, showing examples of typography around Walthamstow and locations for the events.
Online, participants can draw their own letter, challenged by different prompts. The results are posted into a gallery and once a threshold for number of letters has been reached, participants can choose to remix letters and distort them. The colour of the letter is decided by the current outside temperature. This tool and function shows how data and community can be merged for satisfying results.
Stowe Framework would be launched during the E17 Art Trail where people host exhibitions and events on the first weekend of July. A selection of event, such as history and photography walks, would be hosted and include an exhibition at a local gallery, where I would give information about the project and allow visitors to take part in the activities.
Walthamstow has been historically industrial, from the London Rubber Company to Walthamstow Film Studios, with sawtooth roofs featured heavily in the skyline. The typeface takes inspiration from this architectural pattern. For my project I have begun to design a new typeface to embody the architectural features, and is summarised as:
“A new variable typeface inspired by the architecture of Walthamstow to embody the innovation powered by the community. Its aesthetics will be geometric to represent the community’s burgeoning awareness of typographic style. It will shift its appearance on weight, width and roundness axes and include the full set of glyphs in Latin and European scripts. It will be designed for eye-catching display type in both print and screen-based media and for free personal use by the community.”