I painted many roadside bill boards in my youth. I found this photo on the Internet recently. The THING? hasn't changed its graphic design in the past 40 years. I value my apprenticeship very much and have had several apprentices myself.
Most fonts are designed to appear a half inch tall in a paragraph or page of lettering. Take these same letters and make a sign with just two or three large words, and the effect can be awkward and imbalanced. Signs I see today are more precise in their details yet less sophisticated in their typography, layout and design.
I was a pin-striper for a few years at the Southwest Wagon and Wheel Works in Patagonia, Arizona. I put lines on many horse drawn vehicles. There were standards and rules about wagon striping that I learned. Early automobile striping resembled carriage decoration of the 1800s. The lines point out hardware and features of the vehicle.
This black and red vehicle is a Hansom cab. This was used as a one-horse taxi in an east coast city around 1900.
The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio has 19,000 square feet of exhibit space, with another 20,000 waiting for development.
There are 28-foot ceilings, able to accommodate large signs, and even a working neon shop where you can watch craftspeople create neon signs. The Sign Museum also holds archives of books, photos, and documents reflecting the art, craft, and history of sign making. It's a fun place that will bring back memories.
The Museum's mission is to celebrate the rich history of American signage through preservation and education. The American Sign Museum is the premier institution for preserving historic signs and promoting the contributions the sign industry makes to commerce, culture, and the American landscape.
“Signs and sign making are a fascinating reflection of America through the years. If your experience at the American Sign Museum causes you to be more aware of signs in your travels and of their value to businesses and communities, we’ve done our job.”
~Tod Swormstedt, Founder
Another old sign heads to the Museum.
My panel for the American Sign Museum is designed as a monogram on the side of a wagon seat ca. 1850, a hundred years before I was born. The colors and stripes are from that era. The panel is varnished and there is asphaltum shading on the gold.