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Gratiot and Riopelle is a locally focused type foundry that documents found signage in Detroit and turns it into fonts.
Gratiot and Riopelle is a locally focused type foundry that documents found signage in Detroit and turns it into fonts.
Gratiot and Riopelle is a locally focused type foundry that documents found signage in Detroit and turns it into fonts.
213 backers pledged $8,114 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Gratiot & Riopelle Type Foundry

$8,114

213

East Warren Ave & Barham.
East Warren Ave & Barham.

Gratiot and Riopelle is a locally-inspired and focused type foundry inspired by Detroit signage. As I archive found signage around the city, I'll find similarities in the lettering styles and create fonts inspired by the look of individual neighborhoods, then provide them as pay-what-you-can downloads.

I believe that design should be accessible to everybody. 

Currently, there aren't any pay-what-you-can fonts based on Detroit signage, but there are a lot of small businesses looking for affordable design, and even more areas that are losing their unique visual identity. As analog signs are removed, the neighborhood's landscape becomes more uniform as the use of pre-fabricated signs is encouraged.

Compare the sign for Johnny's Real Estate with its neighbor, for example.
Compare the sign for Johnny's Real Estate with its neighbor, for example.

By creating a usable font based on the signs in a particular area, and making it available to small businesses in that area, the visual culture lives on even if the sign it's based on is painted over or destroyed.

This project is a winner of the Knight Arts Challenge 2014 in Detroit. Funds donated in support of Gratiot and Riopelle be matched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Risks and challenges

My main challenge/risk is time. Old signs and handpainted murals are being regularly painted over by the city in a (slightly misguided) effort to reduce blight -- so, if I can't get to these quickly enough, they'll be painted over, sometimes even if the sign is on an open business who paid for the work.

I've been a freelance designer for several years, thanks in part to a supportive local design community. I'm confident I'll continue to get feedback on the fonts in this project from other designers in my shared studio and around the city to keep everything faithful to the source material.

Shipping of everything physical will begin happening sometime after the project is funded and I've made the first few fonts -- I've budgeted for printing costs and have a reliable printer to work with.

Shipping of digital goods, of course, will be a bit faster. :) You'll get them as soon as they're finished, and I'll be sending updates and preview shots regularly.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    One font of your choice.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    One font of your choice + download of poster & specimen book.

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    26 backers
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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    Two fonts of your choice.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    One font + printed archival-quality poster.

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    Ships to Only United States
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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    One font + printed archival-quality poster + printed specimen booklet.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Two fonts + printed archival-quality poster + printed specimen booklet. Plus, you get a super cool exclusive video of signs in the neighborhood of your choice.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Two fonts + printed archival-quality poster + printed specimen booklet + you pick the next area I source letterforms from!*

    *Has to be a neighborhood in the city of Detroit.

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Funding period

- (25 days)