Jake Tilson was commissioned by the London architects Haworth Tompkins and the Everyman theatre to create a new sign inspired by the old neon sign that has adorned the building for many years. Tilson also created two typefaces for the project.

The project won the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in 2014.

The Everyman Theatre brief was to design a new illuminated sign for the facade of the totally rebuilt theatre. In early discussions with Haworth Tompkins Architects we agreed that the old neon sign should be the basis for the new sign. In one sense the client ended up being the building itself, ingrained with all it's history. To aid this work I created an entire typeface - Merseyside Neon. Designing a typeface from just a few characters is something I first did back in 2003 in the book 3 Found Fonts. The process is like a piece of forensic anthropology, reconstructing a full typeface from a few bones. In Liverpool I had a,e,m,n,r,v and y. I photographed each neon character from every conceivable angle under different lighting conditions, made drawings, scanned them and researched similar typefaces. It became apparent the design of the neon characters wasn't an existing typeface but came from the hand of a neon sign maker. So when I transposed the thin neon tubes into a typeface I kept the short line lengths and what looked like serifs - glass-cased electrodes. The original brief had been to produce a basic lowercase a-z font with numerals for use on the facade sign. To make the typeface more useful to the Everyman I extended it to include foreign accents and also made a second bolder version for them to use wherever they wanted.  .

Name: Merseyside Neon
Date: 2003
Foundry: Atlas
Weight: roman
Tags: neon, Liverpool, Merseyside, Everyman, Haworth Tompkins, concrete

The character set for this font includes: lowercase, numerals and accented variants for most Latin script languagesin 2 weights.


Everyman theatre facade, Liverpool. Signage: channel, perspex, LEDs

Everyman Theatre, back view,
hand painted on brick

Internal signage
Below: Sketch book pages

Project walking map of Liverpool