The Typography of Panama City

Design is pretty advanced in the US. It’s hard to imagine that fifty years ago, brush scripts and cheesy Norman Rockwell-esque illustrations were the rage. Typefaces looped and swooped in an effort to make you feel warm fuzzies about the products they pushed.

But think of the fonts we see today in the logos of the largest companies in the US: Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. They’re all the same style — clean, professional, and, well… cold.

Photo logos

I never expected a typographic time machine when we hopped on a Diablo Rojo to check out the main bus terminal here in Panama City, but that’s exactly what we got.

Cruising through Calidonia, we couldn’t help but marvel at the hand-painted scripts and western-style faces that decorated shop after shop. Brightly-colored kiosks lined the streets advertising phone and shoe repair in fonts you might expect from a House/Poppl (type designers) lovechild.

So today I wandered down Via Central and up Avenida Peru to capture some of the things we saw.

One quick mention before the photos… yet another example of how awesome the people of Panama are. North of Via Central isn’t a great neighborhood, and when something caught my eye and I ventured that way, I had six people warn me to turn around before I’d gone one block.

Not just bystanders, but people who lived there! I’ve never had so many strangers concerned for my well-being before.

Anyway, hope there are others out there who appreciate typography porn. 🙂 Let’s start with our favorite…


Click to see the larger size.




































Have you found some interesting type or design away from home? I’d love to hear about it.

Stay tuned for the typography of Japan in March!

ps. If you like type, check out the excellent Ace Jet 170.

11 thoughts on “The Typography of Panama City”

  1. Funny you should mention the warnings about bad neighborhoods. I got the same treatment when I was there. I was walking around Casca Viejo on the first day and got an idea that I wanted to see the ocean so I started walking South. When I thought I should be about 3 blocks from the shore an old lady insisted (in spanish) that I could stay on the side of the street I was currently on, but the other side and the neighborhood past it was bad. Not wanting to put the ladyfriend I was with in any harm, we graciously thanked her and went back to the shops in the city.

    Your blog keeps reminding me how awesome it was there. I’m so jealous. Keep up the good work!

  2. Wow Todd! These are excellent photographs. I am envious of the digital range-finder. You are succinct about mainstream typography in the United States: it is supremely UNcreative and as you mentioned, “cold”. The typography of Panama is definitely an artistic expression, something you do not see often. Again, I am very impressed with the photos. I like the ‘G’ and the one that reads ‘MEMO’ in big bright red letters. Thank you

  3. Hey guys, I’ll be in Tokyo from March 11-16.
    Hopefully I’ll get to start my blog as well by then.
    Where are you guys staying?
    Last time I was there I stayed at the Sakura hotel in Jimbocho.
    Highly recommended!
    Would love to meet you guys for drinks or something!


  4. Hey Anna… I have no idea where we’re staying. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t figure out until after we arrived. We’ll get in touch with you when we get there, though…


  5. Todd,

    Back in my day, when someone took off to delay getting a real job we call it unemployment. Now it’s call “Travel Blogging”. Whood a thunk it!!! Just kidding, you know, I think that your next few months will be quite the educational adventure.

    I will soon hop on the mo-ped (Eric’s ride) and head south to join you. Elaine say’s this is a bad idea and she refuses to join me or support the effort in any way.

    But right now we are in Dallas visiting young Bryan. Headed for Alabama for a couple of days to watch the superbowl with a neice who lives there.

    Elaine says to tell you hello. We are both excited for your 18 month adventure and will check into the site from time to time to see what is going on. You are always welcome for a few days at the Jureczki home if you are in the area..

    David & Elaine Jureczki (known as Bryan’s parents)

  6. …you are such an asshole: Panama SUCKS!!!

    You say you were warned ..try you were being set up for robbery, mate. The people in Panama are the most helpless race of people in the world; they will kill you for bus fare on diablo rojo (0.25USD) or a fifty cent straw of cocaine.

    Get a life. If you go to Panama see Boca del Toro or the Pearl Isles. Panama City is unfit for civilized humans: the people are thieves, criminals, and most are only 2 chromosomes away from tree-swinging monkeys!!!

  7. Sounds like you had a negative experience. There are some desperate parts of town, but Panama City is a lovely place.

    The warnings were genuine (local friends later confirmed them) and I’ve found Panama to be full of friendly people quite distinguished from primates.

    I prefer the green mountain highlands of Boquete to beach bum Bocas (which is actually least fit for civilized humans among the places mentioned if we’re being honest).

  8. Nope, you probably were being considered robbery matter by the nice kind people except, 2007 and a year before, maybe a little after was a little quieter and less likely for harm to happen as everything was buzzing.

    Seen it happen too often when I was there (3 year stretch). Only thing I disagree with Douglas is about Bocas (also a dump). Never went to Las Perlas. There is not a lot to recommend people go see and do in Panama. If you think it is what it says in any brochure, think again.

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