Calligraffiti and the Evolution of Typographic Arts
Have you heard of this popular new style of calligraphy called Calligraffiti? As the name suggests, it’s a fusion of classic calligraphy and graffiti. And it’s really, really cool. In this post, we’ll explore what Calligraffiti, why it’s so amazing, and why you should keep an eye on it.
But first, let’s take a step back and talk about the evolution of lettering as whole.
There’s no doubt that calligraphy and lettering are incredible forms of art. Part of what makes them so amazing is just how old these varieties of visual language really are. The work we know and love today is the product of thousands of years of development. Therefore, it’s common to think of these typographical applications as classic practices that have made a popularized resurgence in recent years.
However, this is actually a mistake. Despite the fact that these practices date back thousands of years, what we’re really seeing is a continued evolution in typographic expression.
With the emergence of graffiti and street art in the past 40 years, typography has become a common form of artistic expression. Original styles are being developed without any formal training in typography. Graffiti has exploded into a brand new culture. This urban aesthetic has influenced and encouraged new kinds of lettering artists.
The Birth of Calligraffiti
The term Calligraffiti was coined by the Dutch graffiti artist Niels “Shoe” Meulman in 2007 during his solo exhibition.
Shoe, born in 1967, began tagging at age 12 and became a street legend over the course of the next 20 years. In the 1990s, he began studying graphic design. Shoe produced some notable design work in the commercial realm during his time at various advertising agencies.
The convergence of his formally trained design skills and his graffiti background came together in the 2000s and a movement was born. Calligraffiti was revered by artists worldwide.
[Niels Meulman] describes it as “traditional handwriting with a metropolitan attitude” and a “way of translating the art of the street to the interior of museums, galleries and apartments”. In an interview he explains the technique itself as “directness in the whole, finesse in the details. An even balance between seeing and reading word and image. […] letters, writing and language itself becomes an image or abstraction. On the other hand, basic shapes and splats become language.
Shoe Interview with The Hidden People
After nearly a decade, Calligraffiti has caught on in the arts world and the style is widely recognized all over the world.
In the interest of expanding the movement, Shoe founded the Calligraffiti Ambassadors in 2015. The CA is a worldwide community of artists hand-selected by Shoe to represent the movement’s style. At the time of this writing, there are over 35 artists in the CA and the list of incredible artists continues to grow.
The goal of this post is to shine some light on a niche style of lettering that many folks are still unaware of.
I picked up Shoe’s book Calligraffiti: The Graphic Art of Niels Shoe Meulman when it was released back in 2010 and have been a fan of his work ever since. If you’re interested in the movement, I would suggest picking up that book. It’s inspired me to create calligraffiti work of my own!
You can also read about it in depth on the Calligraffiti Wikipedia page, which contains a list of the Calligraffiti Ambassadors. I encourage you to explore their work. Every single member is an amazing artist.
As I mentioned earlier, the art of calligraphy and lettering continues to grow and it’s exciting to see where it will go next. It’s an amazing time to be a lettering artist.