Daily Picture Show

'The Most Ridiculously Awesome Sign In All Of Chicago' And Other Sundry Photos

Shawn Hazen is not a Chicago type, but he does love Chicago type — as in typefaces. A graphic designer from California, Hazen moved to the Windy City four years ago and fell for the infinite assortment of exterior fonts — the "unique visual heritage," as he puts it. "I can't help but snap pictures of all the old, cool or quirky type," he writes on his website. "I literally can't got out to get a haircut or a hot dog without having to make a stop to shoot some funky sign."

Speaking of websites, Hazen has an online archive for his findings. But he also shared a few of his favorites — with commentary about what makes the subtly rounded corners of a "simple sans" so special. Warning: This gallery contains nerdiness not suitable for all ages.

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    This is one I only recently put up, and people seem to love it. I think it's the combination of the elegant script and the squarish sans-serifs below.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    On the site, I [write]: "This might be the most ridiculously awesome sign in all of Chicago." As type design alone, it's funky and great — but to be made out of bricks?!
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    I've got a fair amount of old neon on the site. This was one of the very first ones I shot. There's just a lot going on on this storefront and I kinda like it.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    A really elegant sans serif in the vein of Futura, but unique. And so light.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    This is a favorite. The letters are actually carved/traced into the plaster over the bricks. It's a great condensed type with very clean, round shapes that actually feel very contemporary. And coupled with the yellow and green ... so beautiful.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    I've got a lot of theaters on the site, too. This one isn't the funkiest, but it caught my eye as I was pulling together images. A beautiful custom variation on a simple sans. Squarish letterforms that are then subtly rounded on the corners. Really nice — I'd like to turn this into a whole font.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    Another one I want to turn into a font. I love this extended sans, reminiscent of Microgramma, but more stylish.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    Hidden on some side street by Union park. This old manufacturing building has this great type cast into the facade. I can only describe it as sort of "industrial deco."
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    A Chicago landmark, lording over the whole Fulton Market area. There's type running around the entire upper edge of the building — in variations of the blocky small caps on the name on the tower. Speaking of, note the horizontal cross bar on the capital G. It's those little touches brought by the sign-painter that I love.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    Speaking of little touches, I'm a sucker for a unique ampersand. This is a beautiful one, that livens up the clean Gill/Futura-esque sans.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    This was one of the first pictures I took, because of its delicious "homemade" style.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    There is an amazing stretch ... full of funky, possibly seedy, hotels. This is one of my favorites. The handmade type defies categorization and I think I actually let out an "Oh my" when I saw it.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    I live near a great Polish neighborhood, and nobody's got them beat on cool signs. In fact, I don't feature a lot of really new stuff, but this very much follows the "tradition" of old school sign-painting. And it's just too bombastic not to show.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    I love these old metal signs, secured with a web of chains to the bricks. There are a lot of these in town, but this one is in amazing shape — at least this side of it. The other side was a bit crustier. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably from the late '40s, due to the unique rounded letter forms.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen
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    I also really like seeing signs in transition. I bet this blocky, outline type was beautiful originally, but there's something bittersweet seeing it here, covered sloppily with the mismatched yellow paint.
    Photos and commentary by Shawn Hazen

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