Wednesday, September 12, 2007

7. North Woods Graphic Design

Another place Jean-Paul and I stopped, this time to make water, was a 4-H camp in Mora. There stood a 22-foot tall, bright orange statue of a Swedish Dala horse.

The camp had wooden-fenced corrals and scientific garden plantings labeled with hand-painted signs: red 1800s-style letters on a white background in blue frames, with short titles like "Low pH" and "Rock." Beautiful!

I must say that the one thing that struck me most about the North Woods was the graphic design. Don't get me wrong: the ecosystems are amazing, although the true "virgin" remnants are few and far between. (So many stands of pines are planted in straight rows, which is both breathtaking and weird.) The smells, too, are worth the trip. (Erotic pine funk!) But man-made beauty pokes its head out of the woods everywhere there are roads. Signs and markers crafted in an age of craftspeople. Oh, how I love the US Forest Service and Minnesota DNR signs: dark brown-painted wood with carved-out, round-edged capital letters painted butter yellow! They are a warm blanket of my earliest memories. The National Forest signs are like this, too, but in fat cursive!

So beautiful. In addition, signs for taverns (with on/off-sale liquor), shops, and diners are old and hand-painted, many with humorous names and pictures.

If you are interested in graphic design, I urge you to make a trip up north.

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