Vector8 Journals

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sign of the Times

I shall now discuss a profession I’ve never thought about before - sign writers. Look around you - at shop windows, buildings, vans, lorries, streets and you see evidence of sign writers’ handiwork. Sign writers give us meaning to life. Their work on business buildings let us know who runs the shop and what type of business it is.

I’m wondering though that business for sign writers must be up and down. You start off a business and you hire a sign writer to design your shop front and signs for your business vehicles. Then what? Do sign writers charge extra for insurance purposes in case a letter falls out or the light around the sign packs up? Do they have to pay periodic visits to check up on their signs or are they strictly one-off jobs?

As for street signs, once they are put up that’s it for hundreds of years, unless they build new estates or the local council decides to name a street in honour of someone. Even so, there can’t be much business going to produce street signs. Even traffic signs are strictly one-offs. Maybe sign writers work as graphic designers, who at least produce office stationery, posters and computer designs.

I reckon the boom time for sign writers must be around a recession when lots of companies go out of business. I wonder if sign writers work in conjunction with banks and estate agents. Banks obviously take over businesses and sell them off and estate agents help with the sale. And what happens after a new sale? A new business, which means work for sign writers. Lovely jubbly!

I wonder what motivates someone to become a sign writer? I can imagine a young boy, who loves art and drawing, pointing to a shop front and saying to his mother.

“Mum, one day I want to make shop signs.”
“But son, wouldn’t you prefer being a graphic designer? You could go to college.”
“No, I’m going to paint shops fronts when I grow up.”

His mother obviously knows what it means to be a sign writer, that there are going to be lean times ahead if her son takes that route. But the boy is adamant he wants to be a sign writer. What is a mother to do but support her son’s ideas and pray that when he grows up he becomes a graphic designer instead.

How do sign-writers experience the world, I wonder? I know, as a writer, I’m inspired by many things and my ears always prick at interesting dialogues. Maybe, some sign writers see the world in black and white and others visualise in colour. I wonder if they go around thinking, “Hmmm! She has an unusual K posture. I could use that in my next job.”

Perhaps, there are sign writers forum where I could lurk so I can get an insight into what makes sign writers tick.

We musn’t forget the wannabe sign writers who do their work on buildings and public property - people who paint graffiti. I don’t understand why they are so maligned by society. People need to express themselves anyway they can. If you draw figures and letters on buildings, streets and vehicles you’re called a sign writer; on a canvas, you are an artist; on a computer, you are a graphic designer or web designer. Why don’t we give graffiti artists a break instead of regarding them as anti-social? Some graffiti look brilliant. Granted, I might not like to see them in my neck of the woods, but graffiti sign writers should be given credit.

Any road, I guess it’s now time for me to sign off.

Love Enocia

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