Tuesday, 10:00am
17 April 2012

Type Tuesday: Set in stone

More boulder alphabets and love notes from Utah’s Great Basin desert

As mountain snows melt with the coming of spring, the desert begins to swallow the ephemeral roadside messages left by travellers on Utah's Interstate 80, writes Eric Gillett.


Driving through the vast Great Basin desert, travellers and casino day trippers are prone to stop along the highway and leave messages made from rock, bottles and roadside debris.


Above: images of a single letterform, A, show the changing landscape, diverse forms and variety of materials used in construction.

Above: a single message, shown in detail, spreads across the desert floor and reveals the intricate construction technique and effort required to create twenty foot tall letterforms of boulder, asphalt and discarded snow fencing.

Above: When love blooms in the desert, roadside poets express their undying affection for each other in a wide variety of ways. Some rely on hearts of stone or mathematical equations, while others find the nerve to propose.


Above: a message left by a patriotic Korean slips below the mud and begins to disappear. As thieving travellers and constantly shifting tides wear on the rocks, messages begin to fade.

Messages are scattered along the edge of the freeway between Utah and the California border. They often appear alongside eerie remnants of mining and other abandoned industrial operations.

Eric Gillett is an associate professor in Graphic Design at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. See also: ‘Joe Rocks’, the first part of his desert photo series.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. Eye 82 is out now – you can browse a visual sampler at Eye before you buy on Issuu.