Are you one of those people who at the end of each year have to admit that yes, they’ve spent way too much time staring at a computer screen, and yes, they swear that in the new year they will surely go out a lot more? Well, we would like to encourage you to make that resolution one more time, because it seems that there are a lot of fascinating discoveries to be made in 2016. At least, for those who are willing to look a little further, a little longer, and a little deeper. Why not follow the example of graphic designer Stan Van Steendam who, in his beautiful book Reading the Streets, proves that it pays off to just wander around on the streets, where the most interesting things are waiting to be discovered?
Reading the Streets is the sequel of Brussels Type, the beautiful book that Stan Van Steendam published in 2013, filed with photos of the typographic signs that give the streets of the Belgian capital their specific look and feel. For Reading the Streets Van Steendam travelled a little further from home, to interesting cities such as Paris, Warschau, Lisbon, Barcelona and Edinburgh. But his mission remained the same: to explore these cities intuitively, without a plan, without having done research, guided by nothing more than the nostalgic signs on the facades of the buildings. “These signs and their letters”, Van Steendam says, “always have a fascinating story to tell about a city’s unique past.”
But how does one ‘read the streets’, like the author of the book carrying this title?
“I just let myself be guided by the city as it presents itself at the specific moment I’m there, without looking up too much background information before starting my tour. I try to walk as many miles as possible, scanning the buildings for typographic treasures.” This way, your eye can get caught by things that other people would look away from after a second, without really looking. You get to know a city in a very specific way. “Everywhere I go, I immediately look for the letters in the streets. It keeps me alert and I find it stimulating. It’s a very personal way to learn about a city, and the search for letters can lead you to unexpected places. If I let words and typography guide me, then I get to know a knew story with every city tour.”
So, what are you waiting for? Go out, go look for stories, with your eyes moving rapidly left and right, up and down, scanning for letters that spark the imagination.