The South End is pretty, yes. But imagine being able to explore the neighborhood's most intricate design and typopgraphy through a map-guided tour right on your smart phone.
That's the idea behind web designer and South End resident Brendan Ciecko's latest side project, "Fontly." Fontly is a free, user-generated database of photos of the most interesting fonts in the world, all searchable by location.
Ciecko said inspiration for the new app came from his time living in Europe and in Boston, where he learned to have an appreciation for instances of typography that serve as a window to the past.
"There are all these artifacts and relics around Boston that tell the story of early or ongoing immigration, the visual trends of that time, and what people valued culturally or aesthetically," said Ciecko. "It's a visual anthropological project."
The way Fontly works is, you download the app, take a photo of an interesting sign or physical letter design aspect of a building, tag the location, and upload it to the main server. Then, others in the area can see what interesting places have been tagged and go visit them. There are already several thousands of uploads of cast iron lettering, Victorian-era signs, and much more.
"We're trying to help people appreciate the value of these signs," said Ciecko, noting that one popular place on the app in the South End is Concord Street. "If you walk from townhouse to townhose, there are these gorgeous instances of typography on stained glass windows. But the overall larger picture for me is unveiling typography and being able to interpret the locations and data, where the highest densities are, and the areas where this type of signage is in danger."
A South End Entrepreneur
Ciecko, 24, who by day runs Ten Minute Media, a web design company that boasts clients like Katy Perry and Mick Jagger, got his start in digital media at a young age.
"I started geeking out when I was 11," he said, adding that his first web design clients, bands like Saves the Day and Dashboard Confessional had no idea that he was 13 years old at the time. Ciecko completed one year of college at Hampshire before leaving to focus on founding Ten Minute Media.
Now a resident of the Union Park neighborhood, Ciecko is excited to have the idea for the self-financed Fontly project out of his head and into the app store.
"Three months ago I told myself, 'I have to do it' and then just moved it forward," he said.
Ciecko said he hopes the app will help the younger generation to preserve the our history, and focus on keeping around the instances of interesting typography that we have left.
"It's beautiful and rewarding to see an instance of typography that makes you smile or tells you a little bit about the past," he said. "That's a goal of Fontly and a goal of mine."