Last month, David Sinfield, senior lecturer and undergraduate programme leader of Graphic Design and Moving Image at AUT South Campus, explored the relationship between lettering, design and storytelling across time and space at TEDxManukau.
As a graphic designer, Sinfield’s research focuses on the potential of animated words to capture the human condition, which he communicated to the audience by providing visual and social observations on eroded street signs in South Auckland.
Growing up in Kentish Town, North London, a working class area where ‘the people had character, even if the architecture didn’t’, he fell in love with street signs at an early age.
“I think the reason I loved signs so much is that I saw the world differently to others,” says Sinfield, who struggled to read or write as a youngster. “When I saw a sign, I admired its colours, shapes and textures; not the words and letters.”
Now living and working in South Auckland, he’s reminded in many ways of his hometown, by local signage that tells a very similar story.
For example, an old piece of fabric stapled to a wooden frames, with lettering in leftover paint that simply reads ‘LAUNDRY’.
‘Businesses like these become local landmarks, so there is no need for elaborate signage saying they can save you money or do the work in half the time. They’re just hand painted by the owner,” says Sinfield.
“You can see that, over the years, the sun and rain have faded the paint, and the texture of the wood has started to show through. I like to think that these signs are maturing with age and coming alive. It’s just like our skin drying and wrinkling as we get older, and taking on a new character.”
TEDx is a global programme designed to help communities, organisations and individuals spark conversation and connection. This latest instalment from local branch, TEDxManukau, encouraged the audience to ‘explore realities, realise potential and be inspired to act’.
The line-up of speakers – touted as ordinary South Aucklanders, who are doing extraordinary things to make their community the remarkable place it is to live, love and work in – also included Dr Smita Singh, lecturer in management at AUT, and Rakesh Nauhria, AUT alumnus and general manager of Nauhria Precast Ltd, hailed as one of new disruptors in contemporary business leadership.