Typography Matters in Hospitality – Even for Irish Pubs


Our man in Ireland brings back this report in our intermittent series on poor choices in typography. In a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday and an effort to dull the sting of  the government’s latest austerity plan, he stepped into one of his wee locals, The Old Reliable – a pub so authentic that it still smells like a roomful of lit cigarettes, nearly seven years after the last one was smoked indoors.

The Old Reliable has been serving stout on Shandon Street for over 100 years, but you probably guessed that from the name and the sign on the awning. No drop-shadows, no beveling, no 3D effects. Just hand-painted serif capitals and a pint of Beamish for €2.80, thank you very much.

But just look at the mess they’ve made of their window display:

Scanty, ill-placed glasses aside, did you ever see a font less congruous with a centenarian Irish public house?

Guinness likely paid a local sign-maker to offer customized decals gratis as it attempts to unseat hometown brewers Beamish & Crawford and Murphy’s. We love a free sticker as much as anyone else, but in this instance The Old Reliable got ripped off.

If only the owner had taken a look at the signmaker’s other fonts before accepting Frutiger Black they would undoubtedly have found something (even Times in all-caps would have been a small bit better for Christ’s sake!) that would have helped underscore rather than detract from the establishment’s venerable charm.

After all, ITTET (it’s time for Ireland to revive 2009’s most reviled catchphrase) we’d like this local to stay in business. The regulars who’ve been frequenting the establishment since they had to drag their grandfathers home from it for dinner aren’t likely to be perturbed by dissonant letterforms. But the passersby who are spoiled for choice on Shandon Street just might keep walking in search of something that feels, for some reason they just can’t put their finger on, a little more, well…authentic.

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