In other seedy neighborhood news this week on Brand New, we turn our attention to the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Unlike the Meatpacking District, the Tenderloin remains overrun by homelessness, crime, drugs, prostitution, liquor stores, and strip clubs, with the wee least bit of gentrification possible. To celebrate its history and its under-reported importance as a cultural hub, the Tenderloin Museum offers a permanent installation that illustrates the neighborhood, leads walking tours, and has a retail store that supports the non-profit organization behind it, Uptown Tenderloin. The museum’s identity and its merchandise were designed by the San Francisco office of Mucho.
A typeface was created taking letters from many of the signs in the neighborhood. Letters from porn establishments, drug rehabilitation centers, coffee shops, single room occupancy hotels were all borrowed and repurposed to create an eclectic identity that only the Tenderloin museum could own. We complimented this with a woodblock font to help suggest the gritty nature of the area. T-shirts can be purchased with street names of the neighborhood and a woodblock map of the area is also available.
The concept of making a concoction of letters from the signs found across the neighborhood is good but I would have liked the execution to use actual samples from those signs instead of taking letters from existing fonts. I can’t name or recognize all of them but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most in one form or another. If the quote above would have been worded differently I would have no issue as I like the effect the logo achieves. The logo could have easily been arranged in ransom-note style but forcing every letter into the same height and with proper kerning makes for a very interesting logo and I prefer the concept that it generates of restricted chaos, which sounds more like the Tenderloin.
The brochure is probably the best (or most representative) application of the project, extending the typographic language and introducing a condensed sans serif to complement it. The mixed letters do achieve a sense of shitty store signage and the dark red color conveys that this is not the bright, happy place moneyed San Franciscoans can buy into. Yet.
There is a second flavor for the identity that relies on woodtype, which looks cool but seems a little gratuitous and almost like a separate project. Overall, the identity does feel like something that belongs in the Tenderloin and not in SoMa, The Castro, or Nob Hill.