September 30, 2012 DPR

Billboard and Business Sign Design

The infamous Bates Motel Neon Sign Design

Sign Design Can Cajole, Offend, Amuse or Even Scare

Bates Motel Neon Sign

The infamous Bates Motel Neon Sign in Hitchcock’s Psycho

Sign Design Quote at NO OBLIGATION

For fans of  filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, the quintessential sign design is the flickering “VACANCY” neon on the BATES MOTEL sign at the beginning of Psycho. However, to me it screams “Retro”.  Thirty years later, I find myself critiquing any sort of signage, lettering or display. A quick review often includes whether the the designer spaced the characters properly (a.k.a kerning) or is the leading off… and, oh no why did they choose that font?  Of course, this “Siskel & Ebert” episode is all in my head and I regularly see sign designs that awe-inspiring. Sign design holds a special place in my heart. I was 19 when I was first introduced to professional sign and billboard lettering.

Scaffolding, Pattern and Sign Lettering Fitch In Hand

Sign design represented the beginning of my career in graphic design. I consider sign design one of the most primitive form of advertising. When I was the tender age of 19, I was lettering billboards along rural Tennessee Highways and winding Kentucky roads.  Leaving the bustle of Long Island, New York I left all my preconceptions of good and bad design behind.

Hand Lettered Signs Using Fine Squirrel Hair Quills

What I enjoyed the most was being able to learn the art of sign lettering. The study of typography and its virtually infinite font styles and variations always fascinates me. Using fine wired barrel-shaped Squirrel “quills”, I practiced endlessly to perfect the finger manipulation required of a master letterer.

Professional Sign Design Always Considers The Surrounding Environment

There are thousands of ways to design a sign, though only a few ways to achieve a great design.  When designing a sign, it’s necessary to look beyond the sign itself and consider how its surrounding environment will affect its presentation, e.g., Wind, Shadows, Predominant Colors of Adjacent Structures, Line-Of-Sight, and many other factors.

Award-Winning Sign Design

An effective sign design will attract your attention and impart an indelible image. A well designed sign can do so much more than give directions or warn you of dangers ahead. Created by an experienced designer, signs can be a canvas to effectively persuade and cajole. Not always two-dimensional and not always fastened to the ground,  these signs of capitalism can sometimes be obnoxious and reflective of bad taste. Or they can delight, amuse and educate. Though they always leave an impression.

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