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Curve Tall Hand and Punchline: A Philly Graffiti Handstyle Font Pairing

The process

Curve Tall Hand and Punchline Philly Graffiti Font by Curvazoid and Bret Syfert (Hyde's Lovelies)

Message from Hyde's Lovelies: This font project is aimed at designers and graffiti writers with access to design software and at least some typographical knowledge. Starting with the font "CurveTallHand", type a name. Most characters have multiple glyphs to choose from, so use your application of choice's glyphs palette. There are also two-letter ligatures such as "CU", "RV" and "E>" as in the above example. Adjust individual letter spacing (kerning) to your preference.

Message from The Curvazoid: "The Philly Style", What is it? I understood early on that there are many graffiti styles that originate from Philly – possibly half as many styles as there are writers. However, there is no doubt that those tall slender letters with an aggressive edge, which have become increasingly familiar worldwide, are particularly unique to Philadelphia. Out of all of the countless styles, the most popular and widely used in Philadelphia, such as the Tall Hand, are expertly crafted and shared among the community. This happens, quite literally, through the passing of books at gatherings in the park, and through the eyes of any child who grows up seeing these writing styles. Traveling through the city, styles slightly vary by neighborhood, and they've grown and changed over time, like fashion trends. Sometimes a letter style is attributed to one particular writer, and other times its origin is a mystery.

But most of the time, the letter styles exist because they work and they look right. In Philly, it's as if the first writers wielding quill pens signed into law those which are the best and most effective ways to write on walls. The strong dedication to tradition from every succeeding generation of writers in Philly, makes its writers more similar to tradesmen than vandals. It's no surprise that even graffiti of the city follows the path of the artisan. Philadelphia was originally the nation's trailblazer in craftsmanship and manufacturing. Once called "the workshop of the world", it led America into the Industrial Age: boasting the making of nearly every product, building material and method of construction. Relevant to the topic at hand, the first American type foundry was in the very heart of Philadelphia.

Curve Tall Hand and Punchline Philly Graffiti Font by Curvazoid and Bret Syfert (Hyde's Lovelies)

Explore the glyphs palette for lowercase characters and "extra bits" such as stars, arrows, faces, crowns and of course "double quotations" which emphasize the name. For a better fit, these extras can be raised or lowered, and there are asymmetrical glyphs of the double quotations which tuck in close to certain letter shapes. Part of the art of handstyles, is fitting as much "ISM" as possible into a given space (for example, the narrow, curved wall divisions that are visible to riders of the SEPTA Broad Street Line. An internet search for some of the Philly graffiti masters, for example "KADISM", will help you learn how these extras should be used.

And yet it isn't only the Tall Hand that signifies Philly Graffiti. Those punchlines that accompany the names, and further add to the legend and infamy of the writer, are Philly's other distinctive element. Many Philadelphians will recall a writer solely based on what they wrote beside their name in clean legible print. Therefore we also created the accompanying Punchline font to honor this phenomenon. Punchlines are not merely decorative novelties. Their purpose is to make a statement or catchphrase, or to establish an affiliation, date or place of origin. The punchline writing style is not meant to detract attention from the Tall Hand, but to match it, with the same casual yet confident strokes.

To create these typefaces, I teamed up with a talented designer named Hyde's Lovelies. We connected through a shared love for Philadelphia; its music, its culture, the places we used to frequent and the ever present writing on the wall. We split the difference between what works on paper and what's actually possible in digital typography. Why attempt to make a typeface based on this time-honored writing style? Why Not? It's been long overdue, and with the barrage of so-called "graffiti" fonts, we felt it necessary to try and create one ourselves with the care, attention-to-detail, knowledge-of -tradition and respect it deserves.

Curve Tall Hand and Punchline Philly Graffiti Font by Curvazoid and Bret Syfert (Hyde's Lovelies)

To add your punchline, switch fonts to CurvePunchline. If you set the overall kerning to "Metrics", it should automatically kern well, no matter what you type. Philly punchlines are usually to the right of the name, but its all about economy of space, so sometimes they need to be located elsewhere.

These modes of handwriting are not simple to comprehend nor are they easy to execute. So to translate them into type took us much time, trial, and error. Streamlining 50+ years of tradition and writing evolution felt like a near impossible task. Whether we fully achieved that remains yet to be seen. We realized that the best way to capture this particular flow and aesthetic was to provide a handful of handfuls; i.e. options and alternate characters for the user to experiment with. After all, graffiti is, in the truest sense, the complete individualized utilization of letters, where every word, name or combination of letters calls for a different move, strategy or connection. In fact, it is the antithesis of the uniformity of fonts.

We hope that users will study Philadelphia Wall Writing and apply any knowledge gained (or possessed from real world practice) when personalizing and customizing this font. We know that all this analysis and synthesis of Philly Style can never capture its magic, essence or that alphabetical alchemy that's only possible when somebody is inspired to write their name within the Philadelphia environment. Our intention is not to define Philly Style, nor recreate or replace Graffiti handwriting. We only aim to pay homage to it.

Curve Tall Hand and Punchline Philly Graffiti Font by Curvazoid and Bret Syfert (Hyde's Lovelies)
Curve Tall Hand and Punchline Philly Graffiti Font by Curvazoid and Bret Syfert (Hyde's Lovelies)
Curve Tall Hand and Punchline Philly Graffiti Font by Curvazoid and Bret Syfert (Hyde's Lovelies)

Another message from Hyde's Lovelies: Beginning at the age of 6, my school bus journey along Germantown Avenue in North Philly captured my imagination and influenced me creatively for the rest of my life. Looking out the window, a living art gallery of Philadelphia graffiti handstyles rolled past. I remember thinking that these taller than life tags must have been written by giants. As a young kid, I didn’t know anything about graff, but the Philly "ISM" has universal appeal, and I was hypnotized by it.

For years now, I've dreamed of somehow creating a font that was built on the Philly traditions of writing. I finally arrived at a point in my career where I believed I had the technical and typographic knowledge to make it happen, but I needed to find a real Philly writer to collaborate with. The last thing I wanted to create was yet another toy graffiti font. I remember seeing Curve tags and pieces appearing on routes through the city around the turn of the millennium.

He was an obvious out-of-towner, but there was something about his consistent legibilty, style and impact that stuck with me. His tags also quickly became Philly-authentic, for lack of a better word. This showed that he was doing his homework, respecting and learning the city's long standing graffiti traditions. To me, this was the perfect person to approach for a project like this, because I wanted it to pay homage to the uniqueness of ALL graffiti in Philadelphia, and not be about any one writer. Without even knowing Curve personally, I felt this kind of humility and respect from him, simply by seeing his work in the city.


To my surprise, he was open to the idea, pitched from this here random dude from the internet. Over the months we worked on this, we found that we definitely had one thing in common – a blinding love for the city and it's culture. I hope that comes through in what we've created here.

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