Signs of the Times - September 2012 - (Page 120)
By Wade Swormstedt
“‘The case for creative signage’ offers an intelligent purpose: ‘intentional branding of an entire street or district, creating a unique sense of place, a destination.’”
The American Sign Museum is more than a pretty face.
I lovedand the Cosby Saturdaypracticed doing all Fat watching the morning cartoon, Albert Kids. I of
the characters’ voices: Fat Albert, Bill, Russell, Donald, Old Weird Harold. It was entertaining, but creator Bill Cosby inserted the tagline at the beginning, “. . . and if you’re not careful, you just might learn something.” The bigger picture for the American Sign Museum is similar. Anyone from 5 to 105 can walk though it and simply enjoy it. It can be pure nostalgia. But there’s a more important, underlying message. While the old signs evoke pleasant memories, contemporary signs can be equally pleasant in the benefits they bring to both communities and the businesses they identify. Northside is an older, artistic/bohemian Cincinnati neighborhood with a decisive, 25-mph, narrow, slightly winding, main road called Hamilton Ave. Businesses lining it have virtually no setback. It reminds you of the ’50s and ’60s. By Thanksgiving, it should be transformed by 10 new signs through a project called CoSign, which is described as “Business + Artist + Signmaker = CoSign” and “a partnership between the American Sign Museum, the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation and Cincinnati’s Northside Community to design and install a critical mass of new signage in the Northside business corridor on or within one block of Hamilton Ave. The signage will be created by a unique team of small business owners, visual artists and professional sign fabricators, all coordinated through the leadership and expertise of the American Sign Museum.” Approximately 50 merchants are eligible. Individual trios of business owners, artists and sign fabricators will prototype new signs, and the top 10 designs will be selected based on “originality, relative improvement and need.” In the project overview, a section called “The case for creative signage” offers an intelligent purpose: “intentional branding of an entire street or district, creating a unique sense of place, a destination.” The section uses the term “impulse buys,” and states, “Without the signs, the businesses are little more than books without covers.” The program recognizes proportion and has set aside two districts. One allows 1 sq. ft. of signage for every linear foot of frontage, and the other allows 1.5 sq. ft. Other details haven’t been determined yet, but the primary benefit is “they get it.” The only caveat that makes me a bit nervous is a hint of a one-size-fits-all mentality. In the section called “Measuring success,” it states, “Though every neighborhood has unique assets and challenges, CoSign will
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document its process, making it easily replicable in any community where both artists and small businesses are present. In other words, nearly any community.” But, at least it also recognizes the bottom line: “Increases . . . in actual sales will demonstrate that these districts are being impacted.” The program includes an additional educational angle: two educational workshops for the business owners. ST’s senior technology editor/analyst Darek Johnson made presentations. Darek spoke about design (he was a sign designer for Colorado’s Shaw Signs) and the economic value of signs. He covered visual acuity, and information from the United States Sign Council about the differences between perpendicular and parallel signs. Darek emphasized that a sign that can’t be immediately read and understood has no value. Meanwhile, approximately 20 miles north, lies the city of Hamilton (birthplace of Joe Nuxhall, the youngest person to appear in a major-league baseball game, and longtime player and beloved announcer for the Cincinnati Reds). A few days ago, I received an email from Antony Seppi, the city’s business development specialist. The city is about to announce its own “iconic signage district.” Essentially, its motivation mirrors Northside’s – revitalize its business district with new signage. Seppi invited me to offer commentary for a press release the city will be sending out. I first met Seppi because he originally contacted the American Sign Museum. Good things can happen in threes as well. I just wrote about how Cincinnati’s neighbor, Newport, KY, has established a separate sign code for its entertainment district (see ST, July 2012, page 77). All three embrace the notion that signs matter, and that particular signs work better for specific types of environments. I haven’t seen the specifics of the special Hamilton sign code, but I’m encouraged by its sentiments. In all three cases, the cities just might learn something. And that’s the real purpose of the American Sign Museum. n
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - September 2012
Signs of the Times - September 2012
Possible Future for Digital Printing
The Moving Message
Enter STs 2013 Intl. Sign Contest!
Neon: Green Again
Signs of the Times - September 2012