Evolution of Signwriting and Sign Painting

Even though we don’t get much spare time we will often spend it ensuring that we are up to date with the latest trends in signwriting and sign making. Sign making is a trade that has probably changed and evolved faster than many other trades in this era. It is a trade that has largely made only small leaps forward over the decades. All that changed in the 1980s when computers and computer cut lettering was introduced into sign making. I remember vividly the day we all went to see the new computer and the hot tip vinyl cutter. I remember all the tradesmen were in awe of this machine. My grandfather was astounded that a job that would have taken him hours was cut out in minutes. Computers and computer based technology have improved the industry but have also ensured that it was the death knell for many facets of the industry. I remember my father having a dedicated office just for layouts, where he would have pens, paint, rulers and tracing paper at the ready for this purpose. Layouts would take days and clients would come in to see them. Layouts can now be computer generated and with the art of digital photography we can have a virtual image of the actual sign, and all of this can be emailed to our desks in a matter of hours. I do sometimes have a feeling of melancholy that the same things that my sister and I took for granted in our childhood growing up in and around a sign shop, will not be the same as it will be for our children. We must keep moving forward, but I sometimes wonder what we have left in our wake of this technology revolution. Is sign writing or sign painting a dying art, the simple answer is yes. Are our sign tradesmen as talented as those of previous generations? They are probably not the same quality of artist, but they have a new skill set not held by their sign writing elders.
With this in mind I stumbled upon a great documentary on sign painters that is only just screening now in various locations in the US and soon worldwide. I am contacting the film makers to see about a screening in Brisbane. If you are interested though the movie is simple called Sign Painters the movie.
It is not all doom and gloom though for the industry, technology has made a new breed of signs possible. Where would be today without digital images and digital printing and LED lighting has made a huge change to the sign landscape as well. It is always interesting to look at a industry and were it came from and where it is going to. I don’t think signwriting will go the way of many guilds in the industrial revolution. What is certain though is that the signwriting we have today may still not be the signwriting of the future, so watch this space.

Hand painted guitar.
Hand painted guitar.

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By Claire Cox

June 24, 2013

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