Typography is the almost lost art of physically arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing.
It was the mechanical extension of hand lettering signs for the purposes of orientation or advertising. The heyday of hand painted or typeset display art has morphed into a time of bold digital graphic treatments for numbers and letters.
But either way we love these prints and design pieces with their bold scripts, fonts and typefaces.
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They are capable of conveying so much – inspirational messages, historical resonances, and the general power of the written word. And they do it using a wealth of materials and styles, from antique to industrial to ironic.
Use typographic treatments wherever you want to grab someone’s attention or spark a burst of creative energy. There’s something curiously beautiful about pieces distilled down to simple letters, whether they carry explicit meaning, or simply showcase the written word.
Our top typography picks
Lovers of script should take a look at this cabinet, reminiscent of an old typesetting block with the letters of the alphabet carved into the drawers. Made of solid mango wood, this whimsical piece would be great for organising a home office. Or use it for tongue in cheek storage in a kid's bedroom. £737
Easy to read typography is a standard feature of international travel, so this decorative canvas really caught our eye. The neon bursts of yellow and red indicating two of our favourite destinations and the bustling, cosmopolitan vibe of an airport departure lounge really speak to our wanderlust! £28.74
For another take on typographic travel art, we love this printed canvas (over a metre wide) which would sit well on any contemporary wall. We can almost hear the clack of the letters flipping over £22.99
This Larousse De Poche multi-coloured 60 x 80cm print comes from designer Wayne Hemingway's Land of Lost Content cultural ephemera archive. Here colour blocks and letters from a French pocket dictionary create dynamic vertical and horizontal patterns that will literally wake up your brain. £55
Vintage street signs add a distinct urban touch to any room, but teens especially will love this bright red metal exit sign for it's 'get lost' message and iconic directional arrow shape. Pressed from metal, this piece is distressed for an authentic vintage vibe. £47.99
This 103 cm X 73 cm framed print features a well-known Andy Warhol quote on one of a series of iconic posters from his first exhibition outside the US in 1968. Warhol well understood the power of a pithy phrase rendered in a simple typeface. £150
Eddy Bennett is an artist who works free hand after the old traditions of sign painting. He is also a master gilder as evidenced by this wonderful original piece constructed around an old Victorian picture frame with 24-carat gold leaf, mother of pearl and enamel paints. £2,665
To turn a pejorative phrase on its head, Eddy Bennett hand painted the letters of this piece in reverse onto glass using 23 carat gold, 18 carat red gold and real mother of pearl. The technique adds depth and shimmer – this piece would look great in a room with low lights, a candle-lit dining room, for example £1,640
This limited edition print by typographer and graphic artist Nick Cranston uses acid yellow lettering on grey paper for maximum impact. A message of daily perseverance boldly delivered – perfect for the foyer as an inspirational reminder when you leave and arrive. £15
Another unframed poster reverses Cranston's yellow and grey palette for another positively sunny message. £15
Riffs on signage and display advertising, especially vintage pieces that harken back to the golden era of hand painted signs and movable type, are all the rage in contemporary interior design. Arranged into meaningful words and phrases, or reduced to basic graphic shapes and textures, these are hard-working and good-looking pieces of art that go far beyond functional.