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The transition from local to massproduced graphics in skating.



Skating has transcended the line of merely being an enjoyable hobby, and has developed into something more. This something can only be defined as a lifestyle. Skateboarders often devote their time and money into skating. They become friends with others in the skating community and together they create a strong sub-culture.


Joey is in the first grade. For the past 4 months he has asked his mom if he can go to the skate park every single day. In this subculture certain brands and styles prevail that define the community. These styles get their inspiration from the skaters and skate parks, which are the origin of the movement. Certain brands are seen as the must have brands and are purchased at local skate shops. Larger corporate stores then emulate the brands and styles found at the local shops. The imitation styles are not viewed as cool by the skating community and are often purchased by people outside of the sub-culture. The brands and styles start at the parks, move to local shops, and then get picked up by mainstream stores. Typography plays a major role in the branding of skaters and their gear. By looking at the transition from skater to poser brands, this book will also show how the typography transitions.

The skate park is where all the action happens. Skate boarders go there for hours day after day to perfect their tricks and skills. This often means many accidents with the occasional trip to the emergency room. Skate boarders are tough, and the brands designed for them need to reflect that. Around skate parks, there are many signs that warn the user of the park and rules the skaters should follow. These signs look boring and do nothing to entice the average skater to actually read them.

graffiti in the skate park

Typography plays a role in the branding of skaters and their gear. The common type found around the skate park is graffiti. It often is rough and not that complex as far as graffiti goes. Some of the graffiti is based off of skating vernacular, while some of it is simply a rider’s name. A lot of the typography is found on the skaters themselves. The type can be found on their clothing and their skateboards. This gear is bought at skate shops that cater to the style that most skaters like.

graffiti Graffiti can be seen throughout Centenial Skate Park. Some of the graffiti is based on skating themes such as kickflip pictured to the right. While other examples of graffiti simply say a skaters name.


Skate shops are where skating brands thrive.

Signs found in the window at

This is where skaters can buy their skate

White Chocolate a local skate

board and gear along with everyday

shop in Lawrence, Ks. Many of

clothes to wear. There are certain brands

the store made signs used bold

and designers that stand out. Most boards

sans-serif fonts. These fonts

are designed and made in limited supply

are easy to read and grab the

and then distributed locally. This means

attention of those walking by.

that in different regions, styles can vary and that even dedicated skaters will never see every style produced.

Typography also appears on the clothing of skaters. It can be found in the form of a logo on everything. It also can be used to make a statement. In the store White Chocolate in Lawrence, Kansas, both serif and sans-serif fonts were used on the clothing and various other apparel. The type ranged from looking professional to grunge and homemade.


BOARDS The boards that are distributed in limited supply are valued and special to the boarder. These limited supply boards are made by designers who have made a name for themselves. Some of the names include David Carson, Ed Templeton, Jim Phillips, and Natas Kaupas. Typography found on the underside of a skateboard is often large and bold.

Skateboarders use their board as an extension of themselves and the design on the bottom should make a statement about the rider on it. Typography on skateboard ranges from hand-drawn letters that often resemble graffiti to a cleaner style that creates a more professional look. The skateboard has turned into a canvas where illustrators, designers, graffiti artists, and the skateboarders themselves have turned to put their creative ideas. The look is often colorful and very expressive.

Skateboarders use their board as an extension of themselves


TARGET Unlike skate shops that are run by people who love skateboarding, corporate companies try to appeal to skaters without having a real grasp of the culture. They imitate the skate shops, from designs of boards to how the gear is displayed in the store. Corporate companies try to capitalize on the success of skateboarding brands that have made a name for themselves not only in the skating world but also in the mainstream culture as well. Original skate companies have found a graphic style that appeals to an audience outside of the skate park as well. These companies have found a way to appeal to a larger audience without losing their original audience of the skating community. Larger companies create a few designs and then massproduce them for a large audience across the nation. The board designs then lose their appeal because they are common and not anything special to be valued by the boarder.

JAYHAWK BOOKSTORE Skateboards found at stores like WalMart are cheap, but many skaters are under the impression that “good skateboards aren’t cheap and cheap skateboards aren’t good.” Not only are these cheaper boards often inferior in design, but quality as well. Cheap boards break easily and therefore can be dangerous to ride. By spending a little bit more money on a quality board, the skater will actually be saving money in the long run with fewer repairs compared to the repairs for a cheap board. The large companies do not have the heart and soul that is found in the skating community, and this shows in their work. Backpacks and other accessories found at The Jayhawk Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas are based on skateboarding brands. These backpacks are then bought by mainstream students, including those who would never dream of skateboarding. The typography and graphics on these bags are often very expressive and bold and offer students a larger selection than the typical backpack.

Skating has created its own style and brands complete with graphics and typography. The type can be found in the skate park, on the skater, on the gear, in the shop, and even in mainstream stores like WalMart. Cheap boards give new riders bad experiences that discourage them from continuing on with the sport. Local skate shops are normally run by people who are dedicated to skating and promote it as a quality sport. These local workers can provide helpful tips on how to choose a board that is appropriate for a rider’s current size and skill level. These boards are not only a better quality when it comes to material and safety, but they are aesthetically more pleasing too.


Art has become an integral part of the skate world, and as long as designers and artists maintain an interest in the branding of skateboards, the skate world will continue to produce interesting graphics and typography.

CREDITS This book was designed as a student project at The University of Kansas for Patrick Dooley’s Designer as Author course, Fall 2010. Photos were taken with a Cannon Rebel and XSi edited in Adobe Photoshop. This book is typeset in Franklin Gothic and Memphis. The following material was used as inspiration and reference for this book: >> Signs: lettering the environment by Phil Baines & Catherine Dixon >> Lift and Separate: Graphic Design and the Vernacular by Various >> The Font of Youth, Newsweek >> An Interview with David Carson by Chad Neuman >>

Public Typography: In the Skate World  

A book documenting how public typography transitions from the skate park to merchandise in the skate shop. Wrote the text, designed the layo...

Public Typography: In the Skate World  

A book documenting how public typography transitions from the skate park to merchandise in the skate shop. Wrote the text, designed the layo...