Our Type is a project I started over seven years ago as a way to document the disappearing shopfronts, signage and typography of Ireland’s towns and villages.
I began to notice around the time of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ that many of Ireland’s towns and villages were starting to change rapidly and many of the traditional shopfronts and signage were being replaced with your everyday chainstores that are seen everywhere across Ireland today. It was pretty sad to see this as we have a very unique style of shopfront here in Ireland that is completely different to that of the rest of Europe and even Britain.
I have had a strong interest in typography from an early age, as my Dad used to collect old enamel signage that he used to find at auctions across the country. He even displayed these signs on the back of our garage and I was always intrigued by their colours and typography from an early age. I think I initially started the Our Type project while studying Visual Communications in NCAD as part of a project in 1st year and have just been doing it ever since. It is really enjoyable and I always try to speak with the owners of the shops and premises as much as possible. People really love to tell the stories behind their premises and for me this is just as important as the visual documentation.
I have found that there are certain areas of the county have a certain style of lettering used, such as areas in West Cork, Kerry and Limerick there are a lot of ceramic letter forms used on shopfronts (Wood’s) while shopfronts in more northern counties such as Donegal (O’Faoilin) and Cavan (E. O’ Ceallait) tend to use the Gailic spelling of their names on the frontage.
Almost every weekend my wife and I and our dog end up jumping in the car and heading off to some random town in search of new places and it is also a really nice way to get to see the remote parts of Ireland and to get off the motorways and explore our hidden towns and villages.
I am in the process of producing a book called Our Type which should be realised sometime in the new year so keep your eyes peeled for that too.
Words and Photos: Trevor Finnegan