TypoPolo Exhibition

warszawa-2014-06We’re a little late with this post because we spent the weekend in Warsaw, where we went to see Pixies live (and it was pretty cool). But we also happened upon a nice little typographic exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art presenting the phenomenon of Polish vernacular typography.

warszawa-2014-06-14While not very large, the exhibition is pretty well thought out because it shows the history and ramifications of the whole phenomenon. Polish vernacular typography functioned in a different situation than e.g. American one, without the pressure of free market. As such, it was primarily informative but also pretty unconstrained. Sometimes business-owners did it themselves, but sign painter was also a job and the exhibition interestingly includes a few quotations from people who worked as such before economic transformation forced them out. It has a charming, if too small, collection of original signs from that time:

warszawa-2014-06-04 warszawa-2014-06-05 warszawa-2014-06-02 warszawa-2014-06-03From the top the signs say: “H. Dąbrowski, Tailor” | “Your Carelessness May Cause Fire” | “Tenants! Remember to Save Light and Water to Prevent Wastefulness” | “Please Don’t Smoke.”

When economy changed in the 90s, Polish street typography turned pretty terrible, which is showed in the exhibition with a collage of photographed street signs, clearly made by amateurs thanks to the sudden availability of cheap print and ready-made letters. Unfortunately, you can still see the results of this outbreak in the streets today.

And finally there is also a part of the exhibition which shows modern designs inspired by Polish vernacular. It includes not-so-interesting artsy compositions, but also more directed designs. This is, for instance, an identity designed as a diploma project for a fish stall in Ustka (a small town by the sea). The author designed the whole alphabet (called, I guess, “Fish from Ustka”), with marketing slogans playing on communist slogans.

warszawa-2014-06-06 warszawa-2014-06-08And this is another branding project for a shoe-maker. The old-fashioned job fits well the old-fashioned typographic look.

warszawa-2014-06-12 warszawa-2014-06-10And another interesting part (that we failed to photograph, apparently, but maybe you can see something in this through-the-window shot below?) was a set of re-created alphabets based on letters taken from old surviving signs, a sort of exercise in both inspiration and conservation.



  1. Very cool post. I used to live in Gdańsk and loved the signage there and throughout the country. That no smoking sign is brilliant. Cheers.

    • Yep, there are some amazing examples of outdoor typography om Gdańsk but also some pretty scary ones.
      Also, the script in no smoking is crazy charming.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: