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February 16, 2017

Amid backlash, ad agency removes North Philly-inspired font

A Philadelphia-area advertising agency is pulling back its North Philadelphia-inspired font after taking some heat on social media.

Cliff Ross, an Easton-based firm with an office in the Spring Garden section of the city, released a set of fonts on Tuesday with 10 Philadelphia neighborhoods in mind. The Center City font paid homage to skyscrapers, while Manayunk's tipped its hat to the Manayunk Bridge.

The company wrote short descriptions for each font on its website, where they're free to download for a limited time. Among the collection was a North Philly typeface, which depicts boards hammered together and is said to be inspired by "the rough and blighted neighborhoods located there."

Social media didn't take the description, nor the depiction, well.

While most of the fonts generated positive feedback, some called the North Philly font "offensive." Others called it "gross."

"...the North Philly font is disturbing," one reader wrote in an email to PhillyVoice. "If all he can see there (in a neighborhood that is predominantly African-American) is blight and a rough environment, that is his loss and a poor reflection of an unfortunately underserved area of our fine city."

The company deleted the font from the collection Wednesday evening after noting the font "made some people unhappy," designer Cliff Ross wrote in an email to PhillyVoice.

Reached by phone Thursday morning, Ross declined to comment further on the decision.

Ross told BillyPenn that the font wasn't meant to be negative.

“It’s not meant to characterize [any neighborhood] as a whole, but an aspect of it,” Ross told the news website. “You can’t get the whole neighborhood in an alphabet.”

The agency received many comments on its Facebook page, where the company encouraged ideas from others.

A second set of fonts – including Strawberry Mansion, Swampoodle and one inspired by Cecil B. Moore, according to Cliff Ross' Facebook page – is expected to be released next month.