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At the Bar with Ramiro Espinoza

This month we invited graphic and type designer Ramiro Espinoza as our guest ‘At the Bar‘ – a series of inspirational talks curated and hosted by us here at Design Bridge Amsterdam.

Our very own Jo Hawkes shared some insights from this inspiring At the Bar session…

As the leaves in beautiful Vondelpark transform into a golden and red blanket peppering the ground, our first Autumnal At the Bar of 2015 kicked off with guest speaker, Ramiro Espinoza. And what better way to enter this cosy or ‘gezellig’ season than to learn about the handwritten lettering found on windows of traditional Dutch Brown bars; places we’ll all be spending more time in during the colder nights ahead.

At the Bar_Ramiro Espinoz #2

A graphic and type designer born and raised in Argentina, Espinoza has lived in The Netherlands for just over a decade now. After studying KABK’s TypeMedia (MA) in The Hague, he was captivated by the visual culture of The Netherlands and decided to stay on and produce type design that is contemporary, yet rooted in the culture and history of Dutch letter forms.

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As well as forming the ReType font foundry, he has taught typography at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Escola d’Art i Superior de Disseny in Valencia, Spain.

He became interested in the crafted script typography found on the window signs of Brown Bars, and set about researching their heritage and place in today’s digitally-led world of type design. Known as De Amsterdamse Krulletter, or ‘Curly letter’ in English (more about that here on our blog), the letters are created through a highly skilled form of calligraphy, yet are a little known asset of the city. Ramiro’s recently published De Amsterdamse Krulletter book documents the various examples of them, and starts to pave the way for their rejuvenation into the public consciousness. Through visiting and talking with the owners of the bars, he discovered the stories and craftsmanship behind this almost forgotten art form.

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After learning about the origins of the style (originally created by Jan Willem Visser, a Dutch sign painter), Ramiro designed his own digital version of the font, Krul – you can download it here. He touched upon his experiences of other people using his typeface for shop windows or brands, sometimes not to his meticulously high standards. His deep passion and desire to advocate hand crafted typography really came across as he talked of the rushed and amateur painting jobs that he has spotted, and examples where the attention to detail and an expert hand have been missed, resulting in an unprofessional and mediocre finish.

At the Bar_Ramiro Espinoz #5

Inspired by the lettering, we too now enjoy the curly type on our Studio’s meeting room doors. Just like our work here at DB, we wanted the craft and the finer details of the lettering to shine through. So, by using the font designed by Ramiro as a base, we briefed skilled calligrapher Jasper Andries to paint the signs on our doors by hand. They look fantastic and bring a sense of traditional Dutch design to our historical stable building.

Amsterdam Studio hand-painted doors

Amsterdam Studio hand-painted Bay door

Thanks to Rob Becker for the lovely photographs of our hand-painted doors.


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