First you notice the city. San Francisco from 30,000 feet appears to be a tiny holdout at the very tip of a cloudy peninsula, but as you begin to descend you’ll find bridges and ocean, mountains to the north and east, and a patchwork quilt of skyscrapers at the northernmost tip.
But from this height it’s still a city, just like all the others.
Whilst the plane continues to slowly dip through the atmosphere though you’ll catch glimpses of landmarks, like a lens slowly bending the light into its focus. Do you see the Coit tower yet? Can you spot the buffalo in the park, the decorated trams? Perhaps you’re flying into the city at night, where you’ll find the dim and orange glowing hum of the Golden Gate bridge or maybe instead its neighbor, the bridge that heads north-east towards Oakland, where at dusk you can find its lights shimmering as if strung together with a set of loosely bound and luminescent pearls in the dark.
However, this peninsula is so much more than objects and faces and bridges; when you find yourself on firm ground once again, make sure to take a hike around the various districts of the city and tilt your head to the left. Now, a little to the right.
Slowly, if you’re patient, you’ll begin to see it; a city of letters will rise out of the city of San Francisco. Towering, hand-lettered numbers alongside defiant, bizarre characters will appear from nearby signs and walls where before there were only blurry squiggles. You’ll find yourself surrounded by a city fit for Italo Calvino with an alphabet of each and every kind on display.
There’s always a new shape and style of letter to welcome for the first time, even on the corner you’re standing right now. Here! Take a look at the sign behind you: that new style indicates a new district, a new idea, an alternative way of living your life. But at this point I’m afraid it’s far too late for you. Try as hard as you might, you can’t stop. You’ll forever be staring at all these letterforms. And now that you see the city of letters beneath the city of San Francisco, the real city will now fade into the background.
And, quite frankly, you won’t ever want to return to it. Instead, it’s now your turn to welcome strangers into the fold. You must act as a tour guide, revealing all these new shapes and exciting characters to your friends. Once you find yourself in the city of letters you must pass this new city along to the next friend as a gift, and as a curse.
Letter of the Week
I’m not sure how I missed Blanco by the Foster Type foundry and so someone is going to get the sack. But before I do that, here’s an example from the specimen that I particularly like:
Also this sturdy-lookin’ serif is clearly great for tables and other more data-adjacent use cases such as this:
I think what I adore most about all this though is the Foster Type website itself. It’s one of those sites where the UI and information is so well organized I can already feel myself hunkering down into it like an old and comfy chair: