Called the “snail” by Italians and the “monkey tail” by the Dutch, @ is the sine qua non of electronic communication, thanks to e-mail addresses and Twitter handles. @ has even been inducted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which cited its modern use as an example of “elegance, economy, intellectual transparency, and a sense of the possible future directions that are embedded in the arts of our time.
The history of how a symbol has been repurposed since it’s first documented use in 1536.
Hop on the nostalgia train for a second. Think back to the 90s. To Nirvana, Linklater’s Slacker, and the flannel-clad rebels on the run from the 80s. To skateboards and graffiti and toe rings and VHS tapes. Things were messy then. And type design was messy, too. Words were splayed and chaotic, letters blurred. Textures were thick and heavy. Concert posters looked like someone had splattered paint on paper and then scratched out band names. You may have noticed it, you may not have, but at its peak, this typography style, called grunge, was ubiquitous. Alternative music cds, videogames, and zines—all the aggregate products of a wayward generation—appropriated its unfinished and frenzied aesthetic, and it became the largest, most cohesive movement in recent font design history.
It was everywhere—and then it wasn’t.
Whether you hated it, or loved grunge typography it had a big effect on 90’s graphic design. This post is a look back at the period with some examples on the effect it had on mainstream design as well as magazines like Ray Gun.