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Lettering-Zitat von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

photo: Hari Klein

The Man Outside

In May 2021, the whole of Hamburg reread Wolfgang Borchert’s post-war drama »The Man Outside« and celebrated the author’s 100th birthday as part of the »Hamburg liest« literature festival.

Nefeli Kavouras, one of the organizers of the festival, had the idea to place quotes from the play on doors that were important in Borchert’s life. She asked me to develop a lettering style that would connect the play and its period of creation immediately after the Second World War with the present day.

Notizen für die Lettering-Zitate von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

First, of course, I reread the piece and collected interesting quotes.

Project

Lettering-Zitate für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest«

Work done

Reseach, stylistic development, lettering and digitization

Format

Lettering aus Vinyl geschnitten
ca. 70 cm breit

Year

2021

Client

Ham.lit e.V.

The research: handwriting in the postwar period

My first idea was obvious: »I’ll just imitate the author’s handwriting.« But Wolfgang Borchert’s handwriting seems modern and hardly suggests which era it comes from.

So I researched what kind of writing and lettering existed in public spaces in the immediate post-war period. The decisive idea came from a photo of a message written in chalk on a bombed-out house wall in Cologne. The writer mixed Sütterlin script and the Latin letters we use today.

I don’t have the image rights for the photo, but if you are very curious, you can look at it on the website of the NS-Documentation Center of the City of Cologne.

Lettering-Zitate von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

When I was looking for a style for the quotes, I also tried this: brush lettering one meter wide. We quickly discarded this approach because it looked too commercial.

Detail eines Lettering-Zitats von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

But the detail shows how energetic and beautiful this lettering was indeed.

Stylistic choices

Taking up the principle I had seen in the photo for the design of the quotes, I developed a connected script that incorporated some elements of Sütterlin script: angular, broken rounding on letters like »n« and »m« and a bow on the »u«. I also replaced some Latin letters with their Sütterlin equivalents.

To keep the typeface from looking nostalgic, we decided that it shouldn’t look too handmade. Instead, I redrew it with vectors to give it clean shapes with smooth edges. In production, we also chose bright yellow vinyl–it’s easy to see on dark panes and looks quite contemporary.

Lettering-Zitate von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

Finally, I wrote the quotes in small with a pencil, like a somewhat stylized handwriting.

Lettering-Zitate von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

The quotes were going to be about 70 cm wide–this is a size comparison with one of the handdrawn lettering and a printout of a finished quote.

From hand drawn lettering to vector shapes

We decided to have a plotter cut the quotes out of vinyl instead of me painting them by hand. This way they’d be easier to remove after the festival and we could put quotes in more places. For the plotter, we needed clean letterforms without too much detail, so I traced the text with vectors.

Vektorform des Lettering-Zitats von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

Vectorizing

Redrawing the sketches with vector curves takes a lot of time and countless clicks, and the process is hypnotic: the biggest challenge is to fine-tune the shapes without getting lost in their details.

Edits

I mark the edits I want to make to the vector shapes on a printout, on paper imbalances are simply easier to see. The many notes are my work orders for the next round of revision.

Making of Lettering-Zitate von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021
Lettering-Zitat von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

The quotes in public space

Two weeks before the literature festival, Nefeli Kavouras placed the quotes from »The Man Outside« at locations in Eppendorf, the Hamburg neighborhood where Wolfgang Borchert grew up in the 1920s: in front of his birthplace, on the door of his school, on the window of the University of Hamburg.

Lettering-Zitat von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021
Detail eines Lettering-Zitats von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021
Lettering-Zitat von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021
Lettering-Zitat von Chris Campe aus dem Stück »Draußen vor der Tür« von Wolfgang Borchert für das Literaturfestival »Hamburg liest« 2021

photos: Hari Klein