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Over the past couple of years I received quite a number of unusual and surprising requests to modify my type designs to suit projects of personal nature, but none top the ones that asked me to typeset and modify tattoos using Burgues Script or Adios. At first the whole idea was amusing to me, kind of like an inside joke. I had worked in corporate branding for a few years before becoming a type designer, and suddenly I was being asked to get involved in personal branding, as literally “personal” and “branding” as the expression can get.
After a few such requests I began pondering the whole thing from a professional perspective. It was typography, after all, no matter how unusual the method or medium. A very personal kind of typography, too. The messages being typeset were commemorating friends, family, births, deaths, loves, principles, and things that influenced people in a deep and direct way, so much so that they chose to etch that influence on their bodies and wear it forever.
And when you decide to wear something forever, style is of the essence. After digging into the tattooing scene, I have a whole new respect for tattoo artists. Wielding that machine is not easy, and driving pigment into people’s skin is an enormous responsibility. Not to mention that they're some of the very few who still use a crafty, hands-on process that is all but obsolete in other ornamentation methods.
Some artists go the extra mile and take the time to develop their own lettering for tattooing purposes, and some are inventive enough to create letters based on the tattoo’s concept. But they are not the norm. Generally speaking, most tattoo artists use generic type designs to typeset words. Even the popular blackletter designs have become quite generic over the past few decades. I still cringe when I see something like Bank Script embedded into people’s skin, turning them into breathing, walking shareholder invitations or government bonds.
There’s been quite a few attempts at making fonts out of whatever original tattoo designer typefaces can be found out there - wavy pseudo-comical letters, or rough thick brush scripts, but as far as I could tell a stylish skin script was never attempted in the digital age. And that’s why I decided to design Piel Script. Piel is Spanish for skin.
In a way, Piel Script is a removed cousin of Burgues Script. Although the initial sketches were infused with some 1930s showcard lettering ideas (particularly those of B. Boley, whose amazing work was shown in Sign of the Times magazine), most of the important decisions about letter shapes and connectivity were reached by observing whatever strengths and weaknesses can be seen in tattoos using Burgues. Tattoos using Adios also provided some minor input. In retrospect, I suppose Affair exercised some influence as well, albeit in a minor way. I guess what I'm trying to say is there is as much of me in Piel Script as there is in any of the other major scripts I designed, even though the driving vision for it is entirely different from anything else I have ever done.
I hope you like Piel Script. If you decide it to use it on your skin, I'll be very flattered. If you decide to use it on your skateboard or book cover, I'll be just as happy. Scripts can't get any more personal than this.
Piel Script received the Letter2 award, where they selected the best 53 typefaces of the last decade, organised by ATypI.
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