Aside from the kid down the block with the stencil kit painting addresses on curbs for her side hustle, I’d never given them much thought. They were a seventeenth century invention used primarily to paint liturgical passages inside houses of worship. With a little care the artist would come back and fill in the gaps left in the letterforms that had those floaters like O and A and P and D, R,Q … that’s a batch of cleanup! Those necessary gaps in the letterforms were kept to a minimum, unobtrusively in the same location on any font. For that matter the first printing fonts that emulated the stencil didn’t occur until the 1930s. Type on a press didn’t need breaks so why would they bother?
This trend is about breaking the rules we’ve taken for granted. As designers, we understand the vernacular and impressions these letters form in the consumer’s mind. Stencils are a visual shorthand for industry, construction, the common individual, and grass root efforts. This is still strong in the public’s associative vernacular. Note in this trend the designs have taken liberty with where and why letter breaks occur. Old precepts have been abandoned and though the symbolism remains the modified breaks are telling a new story and building visual traction. The visual branding of Cohere by Pentagram Partners is especially effective. A variable responsive font was built that adds or subtracts letter breaks reflecting the divisions of biological cells to reflect Cohere’s efforts. Just as well those early stencilers left their letter breaks, or we may never have gotten here.
CLIENT: LOUISA PARRIS
CLIENT: PERSONAL BRANDING