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Recap of Paul Shaw’s San Francisco Lettering Walk


Paul Shaw at the entrance to 956 Post St. (Deanna Alcorn)

For anyone interested in the history of printing and lettering and San Francisco, noted lettering artist and educator Paul Shaw’s August 14 tour of the Tenderloin District’s architecture and signage was a wonderful excursion to some of  the city’s graphic delights.

684 Ellis St., 1233 Polk St. and, 816 Larkin St. (Maria Ayala)

Sponsored by APHA’s Northern California Chapter, Paul Shaw (an APHA New York Chapter member) led 21 of us on a three-hour walk starting at the Quetzal Internet Café on Polk Street (across from McTeague’s Saloon). We strolled by quaint old hotels, the area’s infamous “SROs” (single room occupancy dwellings), down alleyways, past all manner of storefronts, mosaic-tiled entryways, and even an urban “national forest.”

825 Geary St. Building designed in 1927 by Bernard Maybeck. (Deanna Alcorn)

At each stop, Paul vividly described our sightings of lettering, plaques, neon, shop windows, and street graffiti. Seemingly none of the many letterforms and scripts, in all of the variety of languages spoken by Tenderloin residents, could stump him. He referenced Latin, Portuguese, Italian, French, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and graffiti tags to enthrall us with what on most days we would simply pass by without notice.

(Maria Ayala)

905 Larkin St. (Maria Ayala)

Another interesting aspect of the tour were the varied professions of the registrants, including librarians, educators, data analysts,  graphic designers, printing professionals, a software development manager, and a public transit employee—all sharing a fascination with printing history.

1355 Market St. (Maria Ayala)

1355 Market St. (Maria Ayala)

The group concluded the tour over lunch and drink at The Market, on Market Street, to discuss what they had observed and exchange contact information to expand the network of printing history.


  1. Maria Ayala you are the luckiest person who visited with Paul Shaw on different roads and learn about lettering and interesting aspect of other professional by Paul’s point of view. 3 Hours are much time to spend with a mentor to discuss what he looks, thinks and critics.

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