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Cape Town Type launches a poster that every design lover will want


Cape Town Type launches a poster that every design lover will want

We’ve kept a close eye on the Cape Town Type Instagram account since it launched in June 2013. The account was started by Rowan Eva and Jordan Metcalf, and from the start, Instagram users were encouraged to tag any images they posted featuring Cape Town typography with #cttype. The Cape Town Type team's favourite images are then compiled into a weekly roundup, which is shared via the @cttype account.

visual inspiration and documenting culture

The @cttype account is both a socio-cultural document and a source of visual inspiration. It documents the typographical trends in Cape Town over the past four years, creating an electronic record of the city’s typography. Since the account’s inception, more than 5 000 Instagrams have been tagged with #cttype, and Rowan and Jordan have now put together an A1 print featuring 77 of those photos. (Consent was sought from all the individuals whose images are being featured on the print.) Two hundred numbered prints will be available for purchase from the end of January 2018. Get in touch with them via to reserve yours. We asked Jordan and Rowan about the past, present and future of Cape Town Type.

Can you tell us a bit more detail about how @cttype came about and what it aims to accomplish?

Jordan: Projects like this have existed for a few international cities for a while, and I believe Rowan mentioned the idea of starting a Cape Town-based one on Twitter. I've been taking photos of signage and typography for as long as I can remember, so I shot him a message to chat about it and I think it went from there. The idea is about documenting the culture of a city through its most visible and often utilitarian graphic design – the stuff we notice every day and the stuff we take for granted. Beyond the common styles of design and typography that exist in more corporate/internationally influenced signage and information design, which tend to look similar in most places in the world, each city has a rich and diverse visual language that comes through in the typography you find within it. So for me the project has two aims. One, to document the culture of Cape Town via its typography, and two, to get people to pay closer attention to the typography that exists around them. Rowan: I had been taking photos of all the house numbers in and around my neighborhood and tagging them on Instagram and after about two years I had run out of subject matter. At about the same time, there was quite a buzz around NYC Type on the internet. I thought it was a beautiful way to showcase a city and that is what sparked the idea of trying to ‘catalogue’ photos of typography in and around Cape Town. A group of us spoke about how we would do this on Twitter and then in the end, Jordan and I just went ahead and did it.

When you started the project did you expect to be able to say, four years later, that 5 000 Instagrams would have been tagged with the #cttype hashtag?

Jordan: The response has been great. It’s been fun to see the contributions extend beyond graphic designers and art directors to people outside of the creative community becoming more aware and excited about the typography around them. Rowan: I really thought that about four or five people would end up contributing photos and that after a year we'd lose interest. I never dreamed so many people would be interested.

Has creating the regular group shots for posts ever felt like a chore, or (almost 200 posts later…) is it always a fresh and fun thing to do?

Jordan: Rowan seems to be a man of infinite capacity, so although we shared the weekly selection aspect of it, he has been the one doing the real legwork of running the Instagram/Facebook accounts. And as a credit to his patience, I have a long thread of gentle reminders for me to get him my weekly selects. It’s always fun checking out the contributions but when you’re on deadline on a Monday morning it can be tough to make time for that. Rowan: Jordan is too kind. The group posts haven't been as regular as they could have been, but the fact that so much new material pops up and that people seem so interested in the project does keep it quite interesting. I am thinking of changing the format though, and just reposting a picture a day rather than a weekly wrap up – maybe after we've hit 200.

What’s your all-time favourite shot/typeface featured on @cttype? (Would be great to get the shot too if possible?)

Jordan: I don’t have a single shot but I would say in general, the handpainted signs along Woodstock’s main roads are some of the best pieces of design in the city.
Rowan: I couldn't pick a favourite, but there are a few that are intriguing. Like the handpainted ‘Bartenders Workshop’ sign and the handpainted ‘South African Typographical Union’ sign that adorns what looks like an empty building. Or the old Woolworths signage that was uncovered when a building was demolished in Claremont recently.

Could you see someone (yourselves?) ever designing or developing a unique ‘Cape Town’ typeface that captures the city’s spirit?

Jordan: There is no ‘Cape Town’ typeface. I think South Africa is too culturally diverse for any single typeface to represent it in a way that does it justice. Typography is diverse and purpose-specific. Any single style of type would only be paying lip service to a specific idea of Cape Town; one person's view of it, or what one person wanted others to view it as. This project is all about showing the diversity of visible language in the city, each piece of which is as ‘Cape Town’ as the next. Rowan: I don't think so. That would be like picking one person to represent all of Cape Town. We are so culturally diverse and interesting in our own way that it would be an almost impossible task. Picking just 77 photos for the poster was so hard that I almost abandoned the project. Visit Cape Town Type for more inspiration.