Sunday, May 18, 2008

Graffiti 101 | Guerrilla Design

Understanding the mystery and language of graffiti, from I Love Typography:

The language of graffiti culture, like that of hip-hop culture, with which it is closely allied, is deliberately cryptic. Graffiti is meant to be readable by graffiti artists and enthusiasts, but illegible to the general public. A writer refers to a graffiti artist. A crew is a loosely organized group of writers, who often write the initials of their crew members along with their own name.

A tag is the most basic form of graffiti, a graffiti writer’s personal signature or logo, drawn in one color. The tag might include a character, which refers not to a letterform, but to an iconic cartoon figure. Tagging is the act of writing the tag with a marker or spray paint. A slightly larger and more ambitious version of the tag is known as a throwie or a throw-up. A typical throwie has a background color and an outline in a second color. The interior color of the letters on a throw-up is known as the fill or fill-in. When the second color is only roughly sketched or lined in, the throwie is known as a scrub. The most ambitious graffiti of all is work that is done on a large scale in at least three colors, often incorporating fades or blended colors. This is known as a piece, short for, of course, a masterpiece.

The plastic cap or tip on a spray paint can determines the line weight. The standard caps that come with spray paint are known as sucker tips, and are often replaced with others, such as skinny tips, thin tips, thick tips, fat tips, or flare tips. The largest fat caps are sometimes known as softballs because of the soft round marks they make. Line width is sometimes described in fingers. A four-finger line is, for instance, about as a wide as a hand. Bubble letters, quite out of fashion now, were an early style of graffiti lettering with a rounded shape, and roller letters are large-scale tags drawn with paint rollers. To bomb an area is to profusely cover it with tags or throw-ups. To kill an area is to bomb it beyond a point of diminishing returns.

Have you got that?


Garret Ohm said...

Great post - I'm a huge fan of Graffiti as art. When done tastefully, it can transform some of Baltimore's most dingy masonry walls into a work of art. Now someone just needs to come out with some sort of graffiti paint that doesn't contain CFCs that damage our Ozone Layer!

Garret Ohm
Orange Element
Design + Communications


Hi Garrett,
Thanks for the comment. Are you aware of the British grafitti artist Banksy? He is working in multiple overlays that are amazing. His work is very political and evacotive. I believe he curated the latest graffiti exhibition at the Tate in London. I was going to post on it, now I have a fan to post to! Thanks, jan

michelle said...

great post!!! I am currently writing my dissertation on the links between graffiti, architecture and public spaces. Would you be interested in discussing this topic with me? Again great post! mic