COPENHAGEN design ephemera

As a designer, one of the biggest thrills I have traveling to a new place is to look at, discover, admire the graphic ephemera in the urban environment. Wheat-pasting posters in public spaces began during the industrial revolution with the advent of mass marketed items and a burgeoning entertainment culture that was supported by the plethora of printing letterpress firms. At that time, the typographic decisions were typically made based on what words could be the biggest within the constraints of the static form of horizontal structure in the letterpress. Therefore wood cut type became extravagant which also mimicked the overly decorative time of what became known as the Victorian era. Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is actually the oldest theme park in the world established in 1843 as a large Victorian garden. Although pantomime and music were always a part of the facility, a formal theater was added in 1874. Many facets of the physical built environment within Tivoli including typography have an eastern influence which is described as 'oriental' in their historical timeline on their website. This evidence of trade and interaction with other cultures brought home in the industrial era and the turn of the century provides some insight into the culture of the Dutch at the time. Although there was a very short ride of a roller coaster at the establishment of the gardens in 1843, it wasn't until 1914 when the original wooden roller coaster was installed and is today one of the only one's in the world still in operation. Fast forward to now when during peak season, Tivoli hosts 'Friday Rock' concerts that they started back in 1997. Today those are some of the posters that are found throughout the city and while our group was visiting we got a chance to be in the crowd for Morten Breum. The sensibility of historical Victorian type can still be found in the Tivoli posters that are produced now with modern technology with the flair, hint, ode to the past.

Due to the amount of construction in the small city, there seems to be an extra amount of surface for the installation of the wheat pasted posters beyond the circular marquees that are found throughout. The phenomenon is an interesting and eclectic array of disparate designed ephemera at times placed with respect to the other items on the walls providing an interesting repetition and contrast from the historical architecture. It was through reading these posters that I became aware of several art exhibitions that I wanted to visit prior to my departure. Otherwise, I enjoyed the pop of color, the simple typography (compared to what the Victorians might have seen), and the unpredictability of walking through the streets to see what you can find. Apparently, our group of designers was something out of the ordinary for the tour guide who grew up in the area. She commented by the end of the trip that she has never seen people take pictures of signs, numbers, posters, colors or textures and that gave her a new appreciation for the place she calls home.

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