Signs of the Seaside: Coastal Lettering and Typography

Original artefacts and contemporary work explore the typographic vernacular of the English seaside.

Pieces on display in a graphic design and art exhibition.
A hand-painted sign by Dr Amy Goodwin created for the Signs of the Seaside exhibition (left) alongside vintage travel posters and an original painted and gilded ‘pleasure’ panel.

English seaside resorts have a rich and diverse heritage when it comes to lettering and typography. In Issue 03 of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine), designer and researcher Justin Burns (@jburnsdesign) explores one noteworthy aspect of this: the Tuscan letter.

Justin has been researching the typographic vernacular of English seaside resorts for his PhD, and recently curated an exhibition, Signs of the Seaside, at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft in Sussex, UK.

For those unable to travel, here is a look at some of the work on show, which spans the disciplines of graphic design, typography, sign painting, illustration, and photography. These sit alongside a host of original artefacts, including hand-painted signs, bill posters, books, and type specimens.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of online and in-person events. These are also listed at

Signs of the Seaside

All photography: Emma Croman / @emmacroman

An exhibition space with a capital R illuminated by white bulbs on the inside and a red neon outline.
The exhibition space and, in the foreground, the 1.5 m (5 ft) letter ‘R’, which once graced the entrance to Brighton Pier, and has been renovated and reimagined for the exhibition by neon artist Andy Doig (@andydoigneon).
One of the centrepieces of the exhibition is this 'Seaside Promenade Worship' commission painted by Dr Amy Goodwin (@amy.goodwin.signwriter). To the left is coastal photography by Rob Ball (@rob.ball).
Framed posted arranged on a wall with a hand-painted decorative sign board above them
Vintage travel posters straddled by an original painted and gilded ‘pleasure’ panel. Posters kindly loaned by Original Railway Posters.
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Work hanging on gallery walls, including three framed letterpress prints.
The S!O!S! piece by Anthony Burrill (@anthonyburrill) touches on a number of themes, as curator Justin Burns explains: "Burrill explores the impact of one of the most frequently used typefaces at the seaside: Playbill, designed by Robert Harling in 1938. Typefaces of this design and weight have been commonly used for ‘Wanted’ posters, Wild West themes and circuses. The prints are notice of the impact of typography at the seaside, and also a reference to a maritime call for action."

Further Reading

Curator Justin Burns has written a piece about the history and role of Tuscan letters at English seaside resorts for Issue 03 of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine). The articles linked below will then get you even deeper into various aspects of his research.


Exuberant Characters: Tuscans on Sea, in BLAG 03

Typography and tourism places: The case of the English seaside resort, in Annals of Tourism Research, volume 97

Seaside splendour, in Eye Magazine 101

Blogs for Eye Magazine

Across 2020, Justin wrote this series of blogs for Eye Magazine.

  1. Resorting to type on the graphic language of the English seaside.
  2. Are we there yet? on travel posters.
  3. Books of seaside revelations on guide books.
  4. Pier review on dimensional signs.
  5. Artificial sunshine on illuminated signs.
  6. Sea, sky, paint and pattern on patterns and decoration.
  7. Waves of popularity on the fate of coastal resorts.

More Event Reviews

Event Previews & Reviews on Better Letters Magazine
Previews and reviews of of sign painting and lettering events.

Event Listings

Event Listings
Sign painting and lettering event listings from BLAG (Better Letters Magazine).