Grawlix – a type story on a comedy stage

Inspired by the best question I’ve ever been asked in a briefing meeting – “Could we have some sweary type?” I discovered that it has a name: Grawlix. Or does it? My sixth talk for Nerd Nite London goes down a rabbit-hole of research on cartoon history, fashions in writing, whether your choice of font can influence the tone of your swearing, signage, country music and whether AI can provide a system for swearing in symbols.

My last question was whether a grawlix had ever ended up in a hellbox, a letterpress printer’s bin for worn or broken type. And as I headed out to my talk, the lovely St Bride printing library sent me a picture of theirs. So here it is, with images from my slides.

Nerd Nite London is a monthly night of short talks on niche subjects, all proceeds to charity Shine Trust. Talks are live at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green, and on livestream.

If you’re interested to discuss talks, insight sessions or some bespoke design nerdery for your organisation, do get in touch.

And the project that inspired the talk? It was for Bowen Craggs. You'll find it here.