News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: Pedestrian Typography

This week, we poke fun at misspelled signs with Pedestrian Typography blogger Carolyn Sewell.

Pedestrian Typography blogger Carolyn Sewell in front of some of her favorite street art in the city. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Carolyn Sewell started the blog Pedestrian Typography two years ago as a New Year's resolution. It had long been her family's pastime to point out misspelled or humorous signs, so she says it was natural for her to start a blog based on her addiction. "I started the blog with the intent to post something everyday," she says. "Now I can't stop."

Sewell snaps photos of signs and street art that grab her eye and solicits photos from readers who spy something funny, beautiful, or interesting. A self-employed graphic designer, Sewell says that most of her readers are designers, copywriters, and photographers. Others, she says, "have a twisted, inappropriate sense of humor. And I'm okay with that."

A southern belle through and through—Sewell has lived in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee—she now lives in Rosslyn with her husband. We caught up with Sewell recently to chat about Washington street art and signage. Read on to see some of the gems she's discovered.

Most bizarre sign or message you've ever read:
"There are so many wacko signs out there, but if i had to pick my favorites, the Warwick Castle sign that reads 'Torture Chamber Unsuitable for Wheelchair Users' would be up there, as well as 'Juanita's Beauty Salon Bail Bonding Bridal Boutique'. And of course the 'Muff Doctor' auto shop and 'UnbeWeaveable' hair salon are classics. It's hard to choose."

Number of photos you snap in a week:
"I always keep a little camera with me. Most weeks, I shoot about ten photos. If I'm traveling, then it's more like 40 a day."

Number of reader submissions you get in a week:
"I usually get one or two a week. I would love (ahem) to get more than that."

Furthest place, geographically, that you've ever received a submission from:
"That would have to be the Woolworths sign from Christchurch, New Zealand."

Best neighborhood to see street art:
"14th Street, Northwest, between P and U streets."

Word most commonly misspelled on signs:

"It's not so much the words but the punctuation. Apostrophe abuse is the most common."

Favorite local street artist:
"Well, the only local street artist name I know is Borf, but his work isn't my favorite. Plus, I think he might be in jail. I do have an unhealthy obsession with Shepard Fairey, who recently did some work in DC."

Favorite font:
"There are many great fonts, but even more crappy ones. I'm always attracted to the font that doesn't exist—someone's handwriting. I crave the imperfections, the wobbles and goofs."

Finish this sentence: "If I were a street artist, my tag would read . . . "
"Pussy Azz. Nah, I'm kidding. But I did see that in DC a while back. Cracked me up. I think I'd use a symbol, like Prince, but less pointy."

What you'd say to Mayor Fenty about his resolve to erase Washington's graffiti:
"That's a really tough question. I know I'd be upset if somebody spray painted the front of my store or home, but if they did some beautiful stuff in the alley, I'd be ok with it. Some of those kids have skills!"

Pick one: Hand-painted sign or neon lights?
"Hand-painted. Always."

Best sign or logo in DC:
"There are some amazing ghost signs in the city, but my favorite is a Coca-Cola one in Southeast."

Favorite art, design, or photography blog, besides your own:

"I gotta give a shout-out to my girl Shikha, whose blog Death By Kerning has not only the awesomest name, but also awesome content. And I religiously read (and occasionally contribute to) Brightest Young Things. So snarky! And to throw in one non-local: Kate's daily drawings for Obsessive Consumption make me so happy."

Next week in the Blogger Beat, we talk sports and music with Information Leafblower blogger Kyle Gustafson. Check back on Wednesday to find out his favorite music venue, where he goes to watch sports, and which Jonas Brother (really!) is his favorite.

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