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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019

'I enjoy capturing those unseen details': The Kilkenny designer photographing vintage Irish signs

We spoke to James Kelly about his Irish Type project.

VISIT ANY IRISH village or small town and you’ll come face to face with uniquely Irish signage above the doors of pubs, shops, filling stations and more.

Unfortunately such signs aren’t as commonplace as they used to be. That’s why James Kelly, a graphic designer based in Kilkenny, started Irish Type (@irishtype).

Irish Type is a project dedicated to documenting Irish type and signage from across the country.

“Coming from a design background I’ve always had an interest in lettering and typography and have been documenting various elements since about 2010,” explains Kelly. “I started the Irish Type project over the past few months in an effort to try and catalogue and archive them all in one place.”

Spirit Store - estd 1887 #type #signage #typography

A post shared by Irish Type (@irishtype) on

Irish Type’s Instagram bio reads, “Type, signage, lettering, graphics, shopfronts, nostalgia.”

It’s a broad remit that allows Kelly to post everything from vintage Guinness advertisements to quirky shopfronts.

Kelly believes that there’s a “a lovely sense of Irish identity” to the signs, much of which can go unnoticed or unappreciated.

I enjoy capturing those unseen details and taking a closer look at the craft that went into many of these vintage signs.

#bluemonday #tims #bar #beergarden #🍺 #foundtype #irishtype #pubsigns

A post shared by Irish Type (@irishtype) on

This commitment to detail means Kelly will sometimes post a photo of a single letter or pay special tribute to something as small as an ampersand.

#R #👉 #foundtype #typodaily #lettering #typography #typoinspo #glyphs

A post shared by Irish Type (@irishtype) on

So strong is his fondness for traditional Irish type that he has recently started digitising some of the fonts he has stumbled across and created his own font.

abc Source: irish type/Instagram

When asked for a favourite sign, Kelly says he has a soft spot for signs that are cut by hand. Murphy’s in New Ross, Co. Wexford is a standout.

I love the colour combination. It was completely hidden until I walked past it. It’s got a lovely mosaic-covered shopfront with raised lettering.


A post shared by Irish Type (@irishtype) on

Kelly believes that more efforts should be made to document and preserve such signs.

“I think it’s important as they give a real sense of character of the towns and villages of Ireland,” he says. “It’s a detail that often gets overlooked and I think it’s very important to retain as part of our local environment and unique Irish culture.”

All it takes is a little TLC, he says.

“I know there are guidelines in place to try and protect these details of our culture but I think all new signage should be more closely regulated and considered.”

Every effort should be made to retain and respect these details as much as possible.

Cooper’s . . . #type #irishtype #shopfront #irishshopfronts

A post shared by Irish Type (@irishtype) on

You can follow Irish Type on Instagram here and learn more about the project here.


A post shared by Irish Type (@irishtype) on

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Amy O'Connor

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