My journey

“Life in Saigon has taken me on a journey full of unexpected events, encounters, sights and insights. At first, I observed the hustle and bustle as an outsider, but three years later, I sat with Mr. Phuong – a 67 year old sign painter – in his studio, one meter from a busy street and honking motorcycles, drinking Vietnamese coffee, and celebrating the genuine beauty of life.” Steffi W. Neukirchen

Signs of Saigon is documenting and investigating on urban typography in Saigon and beyond. When working at RMIT Vietnam, Saigon South Campus, I had the chance to turn my passion into an academic research project, focussing on the „visual identity of the city“.

Hand painted signs are an important part in the development of our visual culture, but almost extinct in European city centres. They are on the list of endangered species in many countries around the world, replaced by digitally manufactured and often globally standardised signboards. This also applies to Vietnam and even more to it’s economic power center Ho Chi Minh City – former Saigon.

I want to take you on a journey to your own history and Saigons’ in particular. I have identified a unique cultural treasure and have documented local handwriting and hand painted signboards on the streets of Vietnam, Saigon – but also in local markets outside the beaten track of tourism or romantic Indochine pictures. With my careful approach of these everyday signs, I want to reveal their artistic power and beauty.

Within my research project I investigated on their style, identifying the Graphic DNA that unites them. And my academic approach takes you even further. I am honouring these pieces of art and cultural heritage by paying a visit to the unknown artists in their late years. My discussions and findings preserve a part of the beauty of Vietnam that is vanishing on a daily basis.