Former graphic designer documents Berlin’s disappearing typography and custom lettering

Andy Dewhurst

As a divided city for much of the latter half of the 20th Century, Berlin has a distinct style, and this also applies to the typography of its signage. Today, though, it’s a city that’s transforming rapidly. Its economy is booming, and its property market is currently the fastest growing in the world.

In an interview with Atlas Obscura, former graphic designer Jess Simon talks about how he was motivated to immediately start documenting the various custom lettering that adorned the signs and shopfronts of Berlin. He describes how at the time they…

“…offered a direct line to a different city, a version of Berlin that had once existed but had now almost completely vanished. I felt the need to start documenting these artefacts before it was too late.”

Since making this decision, Simon has roamed the streets of Berlin anew and captured the city’s disappearing typography on camera. He describes how he came to better understand the themes and patterns that make the German capital’s custom lettering unique.

Simon describes how the typographic styles in Berlin, even if they are not unique to city, have been applied there in an idiomatic manner. He also talks about the notably different themes in the former east and west of the city, despite being unified since 1990. He does, however, indicate how little lettering remains from the DDR-era days, almost as if the new regime sought to quickly divest itself of its past following unification.

The full interview can be read on the Atlas Obscura website.

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