Wallpaper* Publishes Type-Tart Cards Gallery

  • Fonts in Use
Fonts in Use | Yves Peters | June 16, 2009

At the tail end of September last year I announced the Type-​Tart Card contest organised by St Bride Library and Plus Inter­na­tional design fes­ti­val in collaboration with Type. Graphic designers – from up-and-coming new talent to established names – were invited to “find the tart hiding in every type and create their own graphic numbers”. A selection of the entries can be found in the 21st Century Sex issue of Wallpaper*, and all 450 typographic tart cards are on display in a gallery on the Wallpaper* website. The collection is will be exhibited at KK Outlet, London from Monday 22nd to 29th June. Click here to download the invite.

Chelsea College (17 of 17) | A nice play on the origins of Courier.

Loran Stosskopf | Never thought a simple set of punctuation marks could be so explicit.
The type-tart cards are of wildly varying quality – from tired old clichés over mildly funny to deliciously witty or even outright explicit. The graphic style is equally eclectic, with some designs mimicking the crude, punk-like language of photocopied tart cards, while others resemble the glossy quality of contemporary high-end designs. Some attempts at wordplay fall short of the mark, while others are clever puns on both typographical terminology and the more racy language of porn and prostitution. The best achieve maximum effect with minimal means. The examples where parts of characters were customised into literal representations of genitals are quite poor and unimaginative, but I was amazed at how confrontational the purely typographic cards are, and marvelled at the unease I felt when examining what in fact simply are symmetrically arranged glyphs. Of course 450 cards are a bit much to discuss, but I made a small selection of cards that struck me for one reason or another.

Andrew Sutton | Fun play of words with “dominatrix” and FF Dot Matrix Grid

Ajda Rotar (01 of 02) | FF Extra is indeed one of the most extreme extra bold type designs around.

John Fairley (05 of 05) | Reference to both the typographic term and the BDSM practice.

Verena Gerlach (02 of 02) | A beautiful design with FF Chambers Sans by the designer herself.

Clusta (01 of 02) | Clever reference to the dubious origins of the Helvetica clone Arial, with a cameo by Baskerville.

Black and Ginger (03 of 03) | Witty wordplay with Rockwell.

Howard Marsden (01 of 03) | Too stylish for a tart card, but a nice use of Trade Gothic altogether.

Pete Hall | A perfect marriage of a curvalicious ampersand and curvaceous bodies.

Form, Becky Johnson | Could this use of Fontsmith‘s FS Lola be a reference to Copacabana, the famous Barry Manilow song?

Nick Greenwood | Cooper Black’s voluptuous shapes provided plenty of inspiration for many type-tart card submissions…

Form, Will Martin | … as did the rounded extra bold character shapes of Gusto for this one.

FSNM (11 of 12) | Raunchy multiple readings with Fry’s Baskerville / Baskerville Old Face.

Jack Siddons | Playing off the age of Aldo Novarese’s ubiquitous Eurostile.

FSNM (12 of 12) | Arial provided almost as much inspiration as did Helvetica, but this one’s particularly witty.

Jason Church (01 of 03) | Simple and funny.

Tom Browning | Elaborate concept to integrate the ITC Lubalin Graph name in an explicit message…

John Fairley (03 of 05) | … and a somewhat simpler one for Pump Triline.
Header image: Type-tart card by Darren Scott, using the original Kabel – yup, designed by Koch, first name Rudolf (not Rudolph; he ain’t got no red nose).

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  1. is it really necessary to sexually objectify people? i feel ashamed to be a designer. consideration to the implications of design, a sense of morality or a shred of ethics?

    Posted by blank on Jun. 16, 2009
  2. You raise a pertinent point, “blank” (I think I know who you are but it’s fine with me if you prefer to post this comment anonymously).

    This project feels quite ambiguous to me. Personally I tink there’s more to it than just fooling around with the conventions of pornography and prostitution. Viewing some of the type-tart cards genuinely made me feel uneasy and had me think about the concept of porn, the sublimation of sex in porn, and its pervasiveness these days, as well as our moral conventions and the attitude towards sex in Western society. To cut a long story short — being exposed to this project made me both feel and think, so I guess it works as both art project and social commentary.

    (I hope I make sense — not being a native English speaker sometimes makes it hard to articulate my thoughts on more serious subjects.)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 17, 2009
  3. Do we NEED morality in fonts? I thought it was brilliant, the fact that the first comment is negative and the second comment by Yves in which he said that it made him feel and think proves this for me. (I AM an English speaker and i apologize for that last sentence)

    Posted by eric on Jun. 17, 2009
  4. (I AM an Eng­lish speaker and i apol­o­gize for that last sen­tence)

    Thanks for the support! :D

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 17, 2009
  5. Actually there’s a number of high-profile designers who participated, as well as quite a few women. I would be interested to hear their thoughts on the subject and have them comment on their submission(s).

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 17, 2009
  6. Type porn is a victimless crime. :D


    Posted by mark on Jun. 17, 2009
  7. Not everything is everyone’s cup of tea. To me it’s ironic that people get bent out of shape about the fact that people get bent out of shape. Is being a provocateur done for the sake of pushing the boundaries of art, or is it for the entertainment of watching people huff and puff, giving us a license to huff and puff in return?

    Either way, Solomon was still right all those years ago when he wrote “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

    Great piece, Yves.

    Posted by Charlie Pratt on Jun. 17, 2009
  8. @Yves
    Thanks a lot for posting one of my cards here too.
    I guess with »quite a few women«, you also mean some of them being high-​profile design­ers too ;-)

    »I would be inter­ested to hear their thoughts on the sub­ject and have them com­ment on their submission(s).«

    This is a very good question. For me in the beginning it was indeed not easy to deal with the subject. Then I just decided to choose a card for a male prostitute/typeface (in fact these two cards are more ore less homo tart cards) which gave me more distance to it. Well, you can call me being a sexist too, but in a way you can’t design something like this without being one.
    I was also working on this project with a group of students (6 female, 3 male) and I have to admit, what was really worrying me is that the female students (and the male too) didn’t reflect at all about the fact that they were all designing cards showing women as a suppressed piece of meat meant to be used for sex. They were only worried about their friends judging their knowledge of certain fantasies.

    Why should the typefaces in this project be female? Because we mostly know female tart cards? In fact in the German language they all are female, and even then I think that some just appear male, some female and some neutral. Maybe like cars . . .
    It is strange that so many designers are still tackling this issue in such a non-progressive way without using it for criticism, while this could be the right platform for it.

    But don’t forget: The project was foremost meant to support the St Bride Library.

    Posted by Verena on Jun. 18, 2009
  9. I guess with »quite a few women«, you also mean some of them being high-​profile design­ers too ;-)

    Those denominations were never mutually exclusive. :P

    Thank you so much for your contribution; it is very enlightening.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 18, 2009
  10. I don’t understand people who get angry at a bit of tongue in cheek fun. These designs are amusing but not brilliant, I can’t see how they could possibly be insulting to someone with common sense.

    Posted by Ryan on Jun. 18, 2009
  11. I don’t under­stand people who get angry at a bit of tongue in cheek fun.

    Although I follow your reasoning, personally I do understand that people may get upset when being confronted with imagery that refers to porn and prostitution. You can’t deny that the female body has been objectified in contemporary Western society, and the pornofication of mainstream media upholds the delusion that human sexuality is a mere commodity. When looking at certain expressions of contemporary culture like mainstream music videos one can’t help but notice the misogynist undercurrents at play. It is very easy to condone a form of oppression and then dismiss any concerns by claiming it is only tongue-in-cheek.

    My wording is quite heavy-handed, I know, but I’m skating at the edges of my knowledge of the English language and I am trying to get a point across.

    I am not offended neither by most of the cards, but then again I am a man too, so I am not on the receiving end. I wonder if our reaction would’ve been the same if we had been women.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  12. @Verena

    (…) what was really wor­ry­ing me is that the female stu­dents (and the male too) didn’t reflect at all about the fact that they were all design­ing cards show­ing women as a sup­pressed piece of meat meant to be used for sex. They were only wor­ried about their friends judg­ing their knowl­edge of cer­tain fan­tasies.

    When discussing this entry over iChat just after posting it I was intrigued at how the person at the other end casually mentioned one of the cards reminded him/her of “fisting”. My initial reaction was that I was content that society has “loosened up” sufficiently for two moderately acquainted people to exchange views on intimate human relationships and sexuality. It’s all about communication.

    But then I realised that we were in fact discussing an unconventional sexual activity that most people only know of from pornography. By talking about it we implied that we had in one way or another been exposed to said – rather extreme – variety of porn, and apparently had no problems with that. This proves that pornography is omnipresent in current society and has pervaded mainstream media, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. Young people are exposed to a completely skewed representation of human sexuality years before they have their first real life sexual experience. Without any proper frame of reference this can only have negative effects on the development of their own sexuality. Girls think they need to unconditionally please men and be constantly available, and boys are convinced women are submissive and willing. Terms like “slut” and “pimp” are worn like honour badges. A very detrimental influence and a negative evolution if you ask me.

    And my final realisation was that quite probably my own parents, and definitely my grand-parents hadn’t even been aware that a thing like fisting even existed. :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  13. i think you articulate quite well yves, better than some native english-speakers (like myself).

    i think some of these are quite witty and very clever, but i too find some of them a little unsettling… i guess it’s the fact that something like the arrangement of some punctuation marks can be so explicit.

    maybe i’m turning into a prude… oh well.

    i think think there is some amazing design here.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jun. 19, 2009
  14. maybe i’m turn­ing into a prude… oh well.

    This is one thing we need to be wary of in this type of discussion — to not let the pendulum swing back the other way. There definitely is room for a middle ground. One can be aroused by erotic imagery and still have misgivings about specific expressions of pornography. Pornography has existed since the dawn of time, and there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with depicting sexual activity. It all boils down to how it’s done, and the context in which people are exposed to it. There is such a wealth of shades of grey that it would be really stupid to start thinking in black and white.

    All links to Amazon and pretty SFW

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  15. One question beside this tart card project:
    Why are so many typedesigners and typographers so often coming up with the idea of comparing type and sex?
    I remember so many presentations where some speaker suddenly showed slides showing him (and I have never seen a woman doing this) nude or used sexual metaphors to explain his work. I always thought »oh please not again«, but found myself in an event of kinky jokes explaining things like kerning etc.
    Where does this affinity comes from?

    And I think that this has nothing to do with beeing prude, when you think that you don’t want to talk about sex with your colleagues and business partners.

    Posted by Verena on Jun. 19, 2009
  16. Damn, Verena, I must have attended all the wrong conferences and presentations. I never witnessed any of this! :D

    You’ll love the next TYPO Berlin. The theme is Lust, and if my presentation is withheld it will also have pictures of naked bodies. Not mine though. ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  17. The last presentation like this happened two weeks ago when two guys where presenting movie titles explaining that the title animations where the foreplay and the movie the sexual act, and therefore they only wanted to show sexy titles to the audience. No one was laughing, which really surprised them.
    So why must the theme for the next TYPO be LUST? How boring!

    Posted by Verena on Jun. 19, 2009
  18. So why must the theme for the next TYPO be LUST? How boring!

    Boring? I’m quite surprised you say that. It’s not any more or less boring than Space, or Image, or Music, or any of the other themes. Lust is one of the primal driving forces in our existence. Lust for life. Lust for power. Lust for each other. Anything but boring in my book. It offers a multitude of interesting approaches to presentation topics.

    On the subject of typography for example the blind lust for new typefaces drives some to gather as many fonts as possible. These illegal sharing practices are detrimental for type designers, as this prevents them from making a decent living with their profession. One could make an analogy with an abusive relationship, where one party only takes and doesn’t give anything back. This is but one example which can be touched upon around the theme of Lust.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 19, 2009
  19. I’m an over 50 female photographer and I thought these were creative and funny. I loved domi dotmatrix! These cards made me smile.

    Posted by Anonymous on Jun. 19, 2009
  20. @Verena : “So why must the theme for the next TYPO be LUST? How boring!”

    Prophet Mohammed: “The fornication of the eyes is to look with lust; the fornication of the tongue is to speak lustful things; the fornication of the hands is to touch with lust; the fornication of the feet is to walk towards lust; the fornication of the heart is to desire evil.”
    Looks to me as an interesting subject in combination with Type, Type design and Graphic Design in general.

    Posted by Rudy on Jun. 19, 2009
  21. This project continues to surprise me! Firstly I have been taken back by the number of cards submitted and the commentary it has generated!

    A bit of background: I am the originator of the project; and I am female!

    I am both an academic and practicing typographer and the author of ‘Tart Cards, London’s illicit advertising art’.

    I have always been interested in the typography of tart cards – how a group of people with no design knowledge have managed to create such a strong, cohesive and instantly recognisable genre – one which has found its way into mainstream design. I am also interested in the socio-sexual documentary the cards provide.

    The type tart card project has added to the discussion – and the comments have add valuable and surprising insights into current attitudes to sexuality and also typography.

    Thanks to all who contributed to the Project and also to those who have posted comments.

    Also not forgetting the Project was also about raising awareness of St Bride Library who first encouraged me to write Tart Cards. But itt was also about having a bit of quirky, carefree fun!

    Thanks also to Wallpaper* who gave a great deal of support to the venture.

    As a foot note, people ask why type is often given a sexual edge? I think that is inevitably – our vocabulary to describe type encourages it. Letters are ‘characters’ with a ‘face’ and a ‘body’ and ‘eyes’, ‘arms’, ‘legs’ . We give these characters names and part of the anthropomorphization of a typeface is to bestow it with the attributes of one of man’s strongest driving forces – sex!

    Thank you

    Posted by Caroline Archer on Jun. 20, 2009
  22. @Yves
    The theme itself of course doesn’t need to be boring. You know that I am a victim of the lust for type myself. I just hope, that the chosen speakers are going to interpret it in a (typo)graphic way, like you do.
    It’s just, that I’m afraid this theme could debauch some people to stick on bad habits of showing the usual kinky (and mostly for parts of the female spectators sexist) stuff. And this would be boring.

    I think your project was a great idea: Tart cards are a challenging media with a fascinating history behind. It gives a lot of inspiration for great typographic solutions. We all had a lot of fun and it really impresses me, that so many results were handed in.
    But could it be, that a lot of people were handing in their proposal using a pseudonym? Would this prove, that the theme is not easy to deal with or the participators didn’t want to share their fantasies too? I still wish, that more people would have designed more »unusual« cards and would have used this project in a more progressive way.
    Luckily I will have the chance to visit the exhibition next week, and I look forward a lot to see all the cards being displayed.

    Posted by Verena on Jun. 21, 2009
  23. Ah, now I see what your concern was, and what you meant by “boring”. You are right, in the “wrong” hands the Lust theme could indeed produce some unimaginative sexist presentation materials.

    I promise that I will include as many male models as female if I end up showing some skin. And it will be tastefully done. ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 21, 2009
  24. Completely forgot to thank Caroline Archer for joining the discussion and welcoming her to The FontFeed. How rude of me. :/

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 21, 2009
  25. Ok, I believe in your promises. This is just to tease you:
    ». . . Well, it’s always the same – as soon as there’s pretty nekkid girls involved… I only posted this to rank up our hits. ;) :D
    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 12, 2009 «

    Posted by Verena on Jun. 22, 2009
  26. I trust our readers understood that comment was very much tongue-in-cheek, hence the multiple smileys. :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 22, 2009
  27. :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

    Posted by Verena on Jun. 22, 2009
  28. i hate the fact that the trade oppresses women and men but i respect the design because of the bold and eye catching medium, so i thank wallpaper and who ever came up with the concept for the article. Lastly i would like to say this has helped come up with a way to advertise my new project

    Posted by Jake Paget on Jun. 30, 2009

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