The Null Device
A fascinating history of London's vice cards
; the small printed cards used by the local prostitutes and dominatrices to advertise their services in phone booths, once whimsical and suggestive, but these days glossy, and about as subtle as internet porn banner ads: (via bOING bOING)
Although produced in the 1980s, the early cards were distinctly Fifties both in tone and design. Many still used foundry display types such as ATF's Brush, or Stephenson Blake's Chisel and Open Titling. Alternatively, they used Baskerville or Garamond, two of the most pervasive text typefaces of the 1950s; as a result they retained an old-world charm. The techniques behind their production were rudimentary: illustrations were hand-drawn, traced, or photocopied. Type was seldom set: it was either rubbed-down, cut out from magazines, or sometimes hand produced. Images and type were pasted together and handed to the printer.
Teachers and parents at one London school complained that pupils as young as five had invented their own version of the Pokémon card using prostitute cards that they collected, then swapped. There has been more than one model that has been alarmed to find her photograph used without permission on the cards.
Vice cards have become fascinating cultural icons. For some, the cards are interesting because they are trackers of technology: they show when specialised production equipment became available, quite literally, at street level. To others the cards are artistic or typographic curios with a unique linguistic and visual vocabulary. The cards are also sociological and cultural records of the late twentieth century, mirroring the changing sexual attitudes and practices of the past 20 years.
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