Pràctica identity for Manhattan bookstore rescues an old family sign

The new brand takes its name and design from the former family business P&T Knitwear – a small shop selling sweaters and shirts in 1950s New York.

24 April 2023

When was the last time you saw a book advertised online via its spine? We tend to place a premium on the front and back cover of books. But in bookstores, it’s the backbone that helps us sort and quickly identify texts. So in its latest identity for P&T Knitwear – a new bookstore, podcast studio, event space and cafe in Manhattan's Lower East Side – design studio Pràctica is using the book spine as a communication tool, with old family signage serving as a jump-off point. Casey Steffens provides photography and Dani Avila works on motion design.

P&T Knitwear is named after the old family business established in the same neighbourhood 70 years earlier. It was run by partners Hymie Tusk and Mike Pudlo, who met in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany and emigrated to the US after surviving the Holocaust. When the store first opened, Pudlo and Tusk couldn’t afford enough merchandise to fill the store and stocked shelves with empty boxes to suggest a booming business. So while P&T Knitwear is now a new brand, “there was a strong emotional component to the history and legacy of the family business”, explains Javier Arizu, Pràctica co-founder. “For such reason, the brief demanded us to try and get close to their origins by means of their old sign.”

The logo and identity is based on the original 1950s signage for P&T Knitwear – although Javier refers to it as less a recreation, more of a “rescue”, due to the limited photographs they possessed showing the old design. The new typographic approach features a gothic condensed typeface, popular at the time, in this case Publish Gothic Condensed Bold by Playtype. The original sign also drives the colour palette in a vibrant red, yellow and black. But most importantly, it informs a new visual system that features blocks that stack on top of each other, a design similar to both the old P&T sign and book spines.

Signage, daily communications and merchandise are all guided by the strategy of book-spine browsing. Pràctica has combined blocks, colour and typography to suggest books stacked in a horizontal and vertical orientation. This approach allows for the old sign to adapt to the bookstore’s modern needs, including social media and event communications – “which in the bookstore industry relies heavily on author photography and book covers”, says Javier. “This idea came the moment we realised how natural it was for anyone to navigate and read a library through book spines and how it still worked – against what one may think initially – when these were set up vertically.”

Pràctica states that the sign-inspired identity tries to capture the essence and “vernacular” of the original P&T Knitwear store and the surrounding neighbourhood at the time.

GalleryPràctica: P&T Knitwear. Motion design by Dani Avila. Photography by Casey Steffens (Copyright © Pràctica, 2023)

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Pràctica: P&T Knitwear. Motion design by Dani Avila. Photography by Casey Steffens (Copyright © Pràctica, 2023)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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