The Uncelebrated Typographers of the Road

The Uncelebrated Typographers of the Road

Friday July 28, 2017 Written by Smith

It takes a surprising amount of skill and artistry to become the person who paints words like “stop” and “slow” on our roads. For a start, you have to be able to handle writing in superheated molten thermoplastic, rather than ink.

Thomas Lilley’s been painting the roads around Scotland since he was 16, and as this short film demonstrates, he’s got what it takes.

The film was produced by O Street, a British design firm who also commissioned Lilley to come up with his own custom typeface. They may chosen Lilley from a lineup of other "roadliners" at random, but his work is so nice we like to think he was handpicked for his skill. (His thick Glaswegian accent helps make this video extra watchable, too. “There’s no room for error,” he says at one point in the film. “We cannae go back... [Unintelligible.]”

We’ve written about the art of street writing before, so it’s not strictly true to say that the profession is entirely un-celebrated. Still, it’s always worth giving a little more limelight to the overlooked artists of the street.