Artist: Ralph Acosta
Exhibition: LAX Signage set in Runway Gothic Bold (from his RELAX exhibition)
Media: Vinyl Transfers
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Marilyn Werby Gallery
Website: None at this time.
Instagram: None at this time.
About the Artist
Ralph Acosta is a Graduate student at CSULB, with an MFA in General Art. He graduated about 20 years ago. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, he and his family would often go to LAX just for fun (this is when security was not as strict as today–one could go almost anywhere in the airport at any time). Ralph loved these family outings and when he went back as an adult, he noticed the experience and vibe at LAX were just not how they used to be. For this reason, he set off to redesign the aesthetic of LAX, complete with a new standardized font for all text (Runway Gothic Bold), inspired by some of LAX’s architecture, within the airport, and a mobile app for tracking flights, etc.
LAX Signage set in Runway Gothic Bold is two large signs (one on top of the other), and is just one of the many examples of Ralph’s own font that could be used at LAX.
The left side of the top sign has a red, boxed graphic of an airplane landing on the runway; the airplane is actually the letter “f” from Runway Gothic Bold, turned on its side with two small, red circles underneath it to signify tires. In the middle of the sign is the word “arrivals,” which is blue and also set in Runway Gothic Bold. On the right side is a red arrow pointing at a southeast angle; the arrow is made up of a red 90 degree angle (with its square in bottom right corner), and a red diagonal line meeting the square at a 45 degree angle. This sign, including the graphics and text, is 84 inches long and 24 inches tall.
The bottom sign also has a red, boxed graphic on the left side, but of an airplane flying parallel to the runway (the airplane is also the letter “f,” turned sideways with two small, red circles as tires). The text in the middle of the sign reads “gates 26-32,” also in blue and set in Runway Gothic Bold. On the right side is a red arrow pointing at a northeast angle; the arrow is made up of a red 90 degree angle (with its square in the top right corner), and a red line meeting the square at a 45 degree angle. The graphics and text are 168 inches long and 24 incest tall.
All letters in Runway Gothic Bold are lowercase. Except for horizontal characters like “f,” “i” “j,” “l,” “t, and “1” all letters and numbers have some sort of a small break in the character, splitting it into at least two segments. For example, in this piece, the left side hump of the letter “a” is not connected to its top/tail stroke, which also has a break in the middle.
As stated before, Ralph wanted to redesign some of the aesthetic of LAX, particularly the fonts. LAX Signage set in Runway Gothic Bold is a prime example of this change. According to Ralph’s info paper in the exhibit, “Each of [LAX’s] terminals currently has its own signage system and none of them are friendly, fun or do they relate to the iconic architecture which was once an important feature of LAX. RELAX brings more cohesion using large-scale graphics and signage that was evolved from typography with the architectural shapes of LAX.” The font and graphics are not necessarily abstract, nor are they standard and ordinary; it takes some getting used to, but one eventually figures out that, for example, the sideways “f” with circles is the plane. Furthermore, it is interesting and rather clever to use “f” as the airplane, demonstrating the tie and continuity between features of LAX and the font/graphics.
I am personally not a huge fan of fonts. I briefly learned about them in my high school graphic design class, and I obviously appreciate a good, visually pleasing font. When I walked into the exhibit, I immediately noticed the font and was smitten with it; it was just so aesthetically pleasing to me. I cannot quite figure out why. Perhaps it is because it is new and “edgy.” Sure, there are fonts with breaks in its characters, but nothing exactly like Runway Gothic Bold. It feels modern and technological, yet also comforting. This may also connect to my liking of technology. I also really like the use of letters for the graphics. The “f” being the airplane was ingenious to me. Another piece by Ralph in the same exhibit, Baggage Claim Sign, does something similar. It uses a very large letter “b” with two wheels underneath it to signify that baggage is this direction. Again, this is just so cool to me.