It is a commonly understood rule of typography: Don’t stack type. “Stacking” type is the practice of aligning letters vertically one on top of the other, as with the “Homemade Donuts” sign found on the Ocean City, New Jersey, boardwalk seen at right here. Letters are meant to be read side by side, and stacking them severely inhibits legibility. (It does not, in fairness, make boardwalk donuts any less delicious.)
As with any rule, there are exceptions, and we came across one at the Navy Pier in Chicago tonight. The photograph above shows a work of typographic public art found on the pier. We searched for a deeper meaning, but ultimately realized that the sculpture spells out the call letters of local radio station 91.5 WBEZ FM (perhaps not quite the same level of social commentary as Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” statue in Philadelphia, but at least it’s a public station). Obviously, this is not “stacking” type in the traditional sense, but it gives us the opportunity to think about reasons to break the typographic rules that guide our compositions.
We wrote yesterday about the elegant type in the ticket line for the Sears (Willis) Tower observation deck. The photo here from that site shows the solution for those tempted to stack type. You can still set it vertically, but you’ll be happier with your composition if you turn the type on its side so that the letters are next to each other instead of on top of one another.