type in cuba


Typography in Cuba… Where to begin? During our time in Cuba, typography was by far the visual element I geeked over the most, running off in all directions to take pictures of as many words, letters and numbers as possible.

Cuba is a melting pot of typographic styles: from colonial times, to art deco, to lettering, to modern type, you can find a bit of everything, everywhere.

For the sake of beginning somewhere, I’ll start off with wayfinding (i.e. typography who’s purpose is to help guide and situate people). In the old town of Havana (Habana Vieja), where most of Havana’s historic and best preserved buildings reside, the signage for streets, plazas and in some cases specific buildings were printed on tiles, decorated with detailed and colorful patterns. These signs reminded me a lot of the street signs in Madrid, which makes me believe they originated from Spanish colonies.

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Many other wayfinding and informational signs were more 3-dimensional, with borders and letters extending beyond the base of the signs, or with letters and numbers carved into surfaces.

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Store fronts, museums, restaurants, casas particulares (homes where rooms can be rented for the night) and hotels made use of every material, type style and surface to display their names.

You could find them made out of metal, inserted in a gate, or stacked vertically.

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They could be illustrative and detailed.


Or carved out of a block, with a seamless, traditional typographic logo.


On the corners of buildings.

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Or on the floor.

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Made out of mosaics.

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Hand-lettered and hand-painted.

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Or using scripted letters (often used for shopping centers).

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They could be hanging retro neon signs.

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Geometric and reminiscent of Art Deco. And generally reminiscent of older movements.

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They could be literally old, fading into their surfaces to sometimes become more texture than type.

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Or entirely modern.

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They could play with irregular baselines and letter sizes.

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Or have quirky letterforms leaning in various directions.

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Or this. (How do I categorize this? Seemingly-French-Inspired-But-Reminiscent-Of-Venetian-Masks-Somehow?)

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As for signs made for government propaganda, those were often hand-painted, and used boxy, all-cap letters.

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They could even be made by wiping the dirt off a surface.


Other uses sometimes sported a stenciled look, like the letters on this old train.

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Cigar packages boasted impeccable typography, with beautiful old-school, detailed designs and letterforms.

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And I don’t have too much to say about the typography on this sign, but I just love how a doorway was created for the sole purpose of resting a sign atop it.

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Last but not least, there was some really beautiful, artistic and experimental use of typography in the design nook at the Fabrica de Arte (an old factory renovated into a vibrant and popular arts and culture center).


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One response to “type in cuba”

  1. Great comments blending style with history.

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