Before the invention of the vinyl plotter in the 1980s, the vast majority of signs, from shopfronts to billboards and even street signs, were painted or created by hand. Imagine the richness and variety of our high streets back in the day! Sadly, with its cheaper and faster production, the vinyl plotter turned the sign painting industry on its head. Artists were usurped by machinery and unskilled workers, and the craft was all but lost.
Now I know the merits of beautiful, hand-rendered type is not exactly a new discussion topic. There is clearly a growing respect for the painted word, which is reflected in design trends around the world. Perhaps this is a backlash against the banality of our homogenised high streets, or an escape from our digital bubbles. Whatever the reason, the trend is bringing about something of a renaissance in the sign-painting trade. Filmmakers, Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, have documented over two dozen old-school practitioners in their new film/book project, Sign Painters.
The book explores the trade’s time-honoured methods and profiles the work and words of America’s sign painting veterans, as well as the industry’s new blood. This is a proper visual feast for type-nuts!
Featured artists, New Bohemia Signs are the longest established sign shop in San Francisco, dealing exclusively in hand painted signs.
Colossal Media live up to their name with enormous hand painted murals and ad campaigns. The impact of their work cuts through the sensory overload of New Yorks busiest streets.
The Sign Painters movie is set for release some time this year. Stay tuned!