Even traditional crafts can’t escape the digital age

I love looking at typography, and one thing that never fails to capture my attention when walking around cities is their signages, especially hand-painted ones. It’s a dying trade everywhere with computers and printers taking over this once exhausting and back-breaking job. During a recent trip to the city of Kathmandu in Nepal, I was thrilled to see how hand-painted signage still adorned many of the shopfronts and streets.

Roop Jyoti Stationery

Fine Cullinan Jewellers

Gem's Ray Traders

What got me even more excited was when my friend from Nepal told me I was staying near a sign painting shop. I decided that the best souvenir I could get for myself from Nepal was my very own hand-painted sign!

After deciding on how big my sign would be, the colours to use, the layout of the words, and paying S$20, I left the shop and returned a week later to this…

This looked like it was done with Microsoft Wordart!

It dawned upon me that I had totally forgotten to specific the typeface, simply assuming the sign painter would use something we had seen on the streets, a slab/sans serif from yesteryear. And in case you are wondering, the year of establishment is correct because it’s based on the Nepali calendar.

My friend found out from the sign painter that he had chosen such a “funny” typeface because I was a tourist who wanted a souvenir more than to use it. After getting past the shock, I realised the whole situation was a rather hilarious. Firstly, my sign “In Plain Words” wasn’t very plain anymore. And more importantly, the sign painter had actually kept up with the times by upgrading his library of typefaces for painting, but here I was asking him to paint me something from the past.

Eventually, he agreed to repaint the sign. This time, I asked for a Helvetica-looking typeface, and here’s what he gave me…

It still looks “digitally printed” to me, lacking the kind of imperfection from something hand-painted. I’m pretty sure the sign painter either printed the words out and traced it over or depended on something he typed on a computer screen.

It shows you how even a traditional crafts can no longer escape the wave of technology today!

 

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