Traditional Sign Writing
Advances in technology often enable us to do things in a better or more sustainable way. A good example in sign making is the use of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) which have pretty much replaced the traditional use of neon and fluorescent tubes for illuminating signs. LEDs require considerably less maintenance, are more flexible, a lot easier to transport and offer significant savings on running costs. Sometimes however the traditional methods can’t be beaten and for me good quality traditional sign writing falls into this bracket.
For the production of the sign at Knop Law Primary School (photo above), full size templates were cut from our digital artwork and placed in position on site. Each letter was then outlined in chalk and then hand painted to the RAL colour specified using 2 coats of paint. Applied externally, this process is weather dependent and so visits to site had to be fitted around our lovely British summer, which threw up its usual challenges !
We have recently been surveying a well established College, with a view to developing a new external sign scheme for them. During site visits I kept stumbling across hand painted signs, all made differently and seemingly drawn by different hands. It turns out they used to run a sign writing course (sadly now defunct) and our journey around the site revealed some great examples of the craft — the skills of the sign writer and the construction of the signs, all be it they are now a little worn. It’s also interesting to see how they’ve chosen to word the messages — I have to just chill over the use of “By Order” and words set in capitals and appreciate the craftmanship !
Don’t assume all who call themselves sign writers are any good. I remember being involved in the signing of a major new court building in Yorkshire about 15 years ago. All the signs in the cell areas had to be hand painted for prisoner safety. A local sign writer was commissioned to do the work (it was a quite a large part of the package) which was specified by letter size and typeface. Unfortunately they reeled off all the signs without preparing any templates and the end result was shocking, mis-matched letterforms not in any recognisable typeface or weight. Following some careful research a second company was employed to re-do all the signs which had to be painted over the top of what had already been done. Problem solved and lesson leant…good sign writers are worth their weight in gold !