I remember growing up, there was a guy in town who painted signs. He worked out of his garage, and everything he did was hand lettered. He was the only signmaker in town, and if you wanted a sign, you went to his house, told him what you wanted; he would do a quick hand drawing for a proof, collect a deposit, then in a couple of weeks, maybe a month or so, you would get your sign. It all depended on how busy he was. This was all good for him, but for his customers, not so much. He was the only game in town, and you were at the mercy of his schedule and his skill level. Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice guy, and very talented, but it just seemed like the town was under served when it came to signage.
I was in middle school art class back in the 70’s when our teacher showed the class the “line-space” method of hand lettering. For those of us who were interested, he later offered an advanced class on hand lettering. WOW! what an awesome skill! I was hooked at the age of 13, and it’s been my privilege to work in the sign trade ever since.
Over the years, I’ve watched the sign industry change a great deal. Naturally, technology (more specifically, computers) have played a huge role in how signage is created and applied these days, and the small sign maker has gone through a lot of changes. Hand lettering has gone the way of the dodo, and sign painting has been relegated to the “specialty” category, but for the most part, no one is lamenting that fact too loudly.
The 80’s saw the marriage of VINYL graphics with AUTO CAD technology, and the vinyl sign cutter was born. All of the sudden, NON hand letter artists were getting into the sign trade, and it was a whole different ballgame. A person no longer had to be a hand letter artist to make signs. This led to the first FRANCHISE sign companies, who brought a lot of (needed) business acumen to the sign trade, but sadly, not a lot of design talent or skill. They could crank out signs and meet deadlines, but the resulting signs were just, well UGLY. The small sign maker (more of an artist) also faced a formidable challenge; adapt and integrate the modern technology, or find another way to make a living.
Sign technology advances continued into the 90’s with digital printing. Now, photographic images can be combined with graphics and reproduced on just about any surface. Once again, the bar has been raised. More than ever, the successful sign maker is the one who has been able to integrate these technologies into his pallet and find a way to serve the community, AND HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS, even the smallest sign-maker with a computer and an appetite to serve, has the ability to create and deliver the most AMAZING sign products to individuals and businesses in the history of man. We’ve come a long way from the guy painting signs out of his garage. The benefit is all YOURS. ENJOY.