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A study in Public Typography


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Intro 7


The Kansas City Renaissance Festival is a theme park sized fair in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Food, shopping, live music, plays, dancers, and a royal parade are some but not all of the features one might find at this

years of huzzah and cheers!âˆŤ

fair. Although, if one dismisses this fair to be simply a fun place which includes these activities, they would be sadly mistaken.

Knights in armor duel on horseback to win the Queen’s favor as turkey-leg eating guests cheer the name of their chosen champion. Children ride on swinging dragon ships while their parents shop for crafts, jewelry, art, and costumes in over one hundred and sixty booths. Additionally, over thirteen stages house shows that go on all day long.

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As one walks through the parking lot of iron plated, fast moving dragons, the two towers indicating the entrance to the fair are clearly seen piercing the sky. The architecture speaks of the Canterbury style.


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“ But our sense of place is not just about a pragmatic awareness of our spatial orientation. What we find is that more than just providing a literal identification of location, the essential dynamic between utility and expression allows for lettering to say something more about the spaces and places around us.” ­—Paul Baines 10


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Within the world of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival lies carefully placed symbols which are meant to subtly whisk guests away into a time period that has long passed. Amid a field of royal blue floats the golden letters of welcoming. “Renaissance Festival” is read loud and clear even before you read the words. What makes this sign Renaissance? The average festival goer may not even realize what makes this sign so reflective of the European Age of Rebirth. Upon moderate examination, one can easily discover the similarities between this signage and “Old English” Blackletter typography. Here we see very similar flair and decoration used in the most basic of Blackletter fonts imitated by a contemporary typographer. With more elaborate decorations, the sign of the “Maypole” exhibits some of the characteristics of traditional Blackletter. Although some letters have lavish embellishments, the basic structure of the letterforms directly reflect that of traditional Gothic script used from about 1150 well into the seventeenth century.

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With more elaborate decorations, the sign of the “Maypole� exhibits some of the characteristics of traditional Blackletter. Although some letters have lavish embellishments, the basic structure of the letterforms directly reflect that of traditional Gothic script used from about 1150 well into the seventeenth century.

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A very small stage can be seen just passed the Maypole Area. Although unhabited at the time, it does its job in contributing to the Renaissance feel. The sign reflects that of Fraktur Font.

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As one walks around the exterior of the Enchanted Realm, one cannot help but notice the expressive qualities in the very Old English style signage. Despite the sign’s technicolor qualities, it also exhibits very strong ties to that of traditional Blackletter. The capital letters speak of traditional drop caps, the embellishments and flourishes radiate the fourteenth century. Y

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A sign clearly reflective of Old English sits outside of the Children’s Realm.


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Dan Marlowe is referred to as “the painter” of the Festival. He has been around the Renaissance Fair scene for quite a long time, traveling to all of the festivals going on year round. “This one is KCRF, Kansas City Renaissance Festival, we got codes for them you see.” Regarding the signage, he pointed out the importance of hand painting them. “Vinyl signage says machine work, the mistakes of hand painted signs speak of authenticity.” When Dan isn’t painting signs, he teaches painting lessons for young children. “I just started out walking around with a canvas, getting random kids to paint on the canvas around the festival. I let others do the painting for me, I’m like the Tom Sawyer of artists.

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Amongst a rack of Renaissance Festival Gear, a traditional college style shirt exemplifies the festival’s attempt to appeal to the contemporary masses.


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Sign painted by Dan Marlow. One of many which Dan admits are not of period. He claims that since Blackletter isn’t easily legible, they resorted to “more Helvetica-like type.”

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Amongst a rack of Renaissance Festival Gear, a traditional college style shirt exemplifies the festival’s attempt to appeal to the contemporary masses.

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Amongst a rack of Renaissance Festival Gear, a traditional college style shirt exemplifies the festival’s attempt to appeal to the contemporary masses.

Because the age of Renaissance is barely ever in most peoples’ contemporary lifestyle, it tends to get lumped into the broader categories of fantasy, medieval, or supernatural. Perhaps the creators of the festival wanted to broaden the spectrum of the event so as to attract a wider variety of participants. With that said, not all of the festival’s typographic elements accurately reflect Renaissance or even European origin. Because the age of Renaissance is barely ever in most peoples’ contemporary lifestyle, it tends to get lumped into the broader categories of fantasy, medieval, or supernatural. Perhaps the creators of the festival wanted to broaden the spectrum of the event so as to attract a wider variety of participants.

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This is the main “Food” strip of the Festival. Head to the right as you enter the festival and you can’t miss it. Here festival goers who are hungry or parched from cheering for the favorite knight can replenish their Renaissance spirit with anything from a giant turkey leg to chinese noodles.

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Amongst these signs is a moderately decorated one indicating that vegetarian burgers can be purchased at the indicated location. Aside from the fact that vegetarian burgers didn’t exist in the Renaissance era, this sign does not necessarily scream Renaissance. It is a subtle example of how fantastical elements are brought into the festival and meshed with the predominantly fourteenth through seventeenth century atmosphere.

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In this area of the festival, parents can comfortably drop their children off to unleash their inner beast on other youngsters. This free-for-all extravaganza is designated by a poorly crafted sign. Although the creator of this sign might have attempted to reflect the limited typographic capabilities of medieval barbarians, it still holds more structure than a fourteenth century barbarian might have been able to articulate. The typographer established their knowledge of capitol letters with the first word, and attempted to exhibit their extensive extensive knowledge in lower case letters to describe, “WeapONrY�. Poor quality? Yes. Renaissance? Not really.

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A festival worker waits patiently in his imitation bear pelt cape, ready to bestow a non-lethal, foam tool of war to any savage warrior brave enough to enter the esteemed Barbarian Battleground.

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In this area of the festival, parents can comfortably drop their children off to unleash their inner beast on other youngsters. This free-for-all extravaganza is designated by a poorly crafted sign. Although the creator of this sign might have attempted to reflect the limited typographic capabilities of medieval barbarians, it still holds more structure than a fourteenth century barbarian might have been able to articulate.

The typographer established their knowledge of capitol letters with the first word, and attempted to exhibit their extensive extensive knowledge in lower case letters to describe, “WeapONrY�. Poor quality? Yes. Renaissance? Not really.

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In this area of the festival, parents can comfortablr a poorly crafted sign. Although the creator of this sign capabilities of medieval barbarians, it still holds more structure The typographer established their knowledge of capitol letters in lower case letters to describe, “WeapONrY�. Poor quality?

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Renaissance Type Draft 6