Some people say classics shouldn’t be messed with, but I see no harm in having a little fun with iconic fixtures of pop culture. And few are more iconic than the footage of Bob Dylan discarding cue cards to the lyrics of Subterranean Homesick Blues. Regarded widely as being the first “commercial” music video, in reality it is not a stand-alone clip but the opening segment to Dont Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary on Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England. Over the decades both the song and the music video have spawned countless covers, tributes, spoofs and rip-offs.
Last month Leandro Senna, a graphic designer and art director from São Paulo, Brazil, posted Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues – A Hand Lettering Experience on his Vimeo channel. As he explains himself, the project originated from his desire to get away from the computer for a little while and create something hand-made; getting back to basics. Inspired by the Subterranean Homesick Blues video, Leandro decided to recreate the famous cue cards with hand-made type. Instead of limiting himself to the key words like Dylan did, he ended up doing the integral lyrics. 66 cards were hand-lettered in the span of one month, all done during his spare time using only pencil, black tint pens and brushes. As he didn’t want to use the computer and no retouching was allowed, getting a single letter wrong meant starting that page all over. This is the end result.
On top of the fun he had doing the project, it helped Leandro researching and practising hand-lettering, and delving deeper into typography. Besides trying to use as many different lettering styles as possible, he also made an effort to keep the intentional misspellings and puns in the original video by incorporating them in his own cards in a certain way. Regardless of the quality of the hand-lettering the sheer scope and eclecticism of the project is impressive. One could argue that not every single lettering style is as successful, but generally speaking the cards are beautiful and fun to look at. It pays to examine the individual designs to search for influences and discover cute details and specific genres. The video shows how practice and simply doing something like this helps you gain insight in the mechanics and logic of lettering and typography. Above all it is a great achievement for a designer who graduated a mere six years ago. You can see stills of every single cue card on his website.
For reference, here is the original video.
And just for fun, Senna’s lovely logo.