March 1, 2004
Typography of Christian Schwartz
Type designer Christian Schwartz’s roadside attraction.
Type designer Christian Schwartz bases his fonts on an unexpected juxtaposition of design theory and historical letterforms with hand-painted roadside designs, license plates, and hardware-store stencils. “Something I’ve tried to do in my work is mix high and low,” he says, “putting them both on equal footing.” His typeface Los Feliz is based on the signage at an auto mechanic’s shop in Los Angeles; Neutra-face is an interpretation of the metal addresses that Modernist architect Richard Neutra hung on his buildings.
The fonts Schwartz calls the Pittsburgh Project—drawn while he was a student at Carnegie Mellon—apply sophisticated concepts to forms with humble origins. Interested in designing a monospaced typeface, where each letter gets the same amount of space in a line, Schwartz came up with Pennsylvania, which took inspiration from the state license plate. 5608 is based on a stencil set he found. Local Gothic derives its mismatched letterforms from a Rally’s hamburger stand Schwartz used to walk by on his way to class. “It looked like they had bought their letters at four different times, and it had this fantastic texture to it,” he recalls. “It was completely postmodern and deconstructed, but if you took one letter out and looked at it individually, it was a nice, well-behaved vernacular type.
“I really like the idea of indigenous typography—things that are specific to a certain region,” Schwartz adds, citing travel as a source of visual fodder. “In each town along the way, one sign painter’s style would be the flavor for all the signs and all the type in the town. I like looking at that stuff.