Traditional Signwriting, Simon the signwriter
Tumbleweed Connection Enamel Sign
Being a traditional signwriter and interested in graphics of all kinds I enjoy looking at old signs, especially enamel advertising signs which you may find displayed at places like the Bluebell Railway (and these are also reproduced on the cover of the album by Eton John entitled Tumbleweed Connection). See www.flickr.com/photos/31514768@N05/4398255131/ for a particularly relevent example. I also own a projecting version of a similar double sided design for Blue Bell Tobacco. Good examples of enamel signs can also be seen at motor museums such as Beaulieu www.beaulieu.co.uk and the Cotswolds Motor Museum in Bourton-on-the-Water www.csmaclubretreats.co.uk/museum/index.php
Album covers involving hand lettering would also include the Mannfred Mann abum Semi-detached Suburban and of course the drum created for The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- Signwtritten drum for Sgt. Peppers by The Beatles
I understand that this was painted by a faiground artist called Joe Ephgrave. See http://www.jpgr.co.uk/pcs7027.html
Another signwriter Eddie Stokes had some years earlier painted the skin of Ringo Starr’s drum in 1963. www.beatlesbible.com/features/drop-t-logo/
Of course in most of these cases the artists remain largely anonymous and probably quite poorly paid. The drum shop were apparently paid £5 for the sketch which became the logo, I doubt that Eddie or Joe were paid more than their usual hourly rate at the time.
My cryptic title Upgade equals Backup
refers to the way that generally fonts which appear to be contemporary can often be revised or redrawn versions of previous designs or incorporating design elements from the past. Gotham
the font I mentioned in the previous blog which is now extemely popular with designers had its roots in lettering seen on buildings in New York. The Hoefler & Frere-Jones history page www.typography.com/fonts/font_history.php?historyItemID=1&productLineID=100008
shows some of the photographs that they took and used to base their designs upon. In fact Gotham
is not too dissimilar to our own Transport
face designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert between 1957 and 1963. Margaret Calvert also designed the pictograms that we see on most of our roadsign signs. Transport
is only readily available in a couple of weights however, medium and heavy; Gotham
has been created in a multitude of weights, italics, small caps etc. with all the elements required for Worldwide uses, an incredible investment in time. It is interesting that fonts which the Moviemakers have associated with Sci-Fi are often based on fonts taken from lettering on Public Buildings, such as City
and Bank Gothic
, the Jurassic Park fonts are based on letterforms which we would consider Greek in feeling, such as Informal
Fonts are always affected by use and the introduction of screens for viewing, particularly smaller screens such as games systems and mobile telephones and androids has had an impact on the fonts being used. the capital I with cross bars at the top and bottom has become common in sans serif fonts, where once they would only be seen in slab serif or footed Roman typefaces. Gotham could be considered as having European influences, look at the Citroen name block, whereas stores like Sainsbury have for some time been using fonts more influenced by America, particularly road traffic signs there e.g. Blue Highway or Expressway and the slant cut off the top of the ascenders also appears to have had an impact on the designs for John Lewis/Waitrose rebranded fonts.
If we go back to the start for our final influence and link to both railways, signwriting, records and global branding we should look at Ken White. Ken is known for his murals, but you can find a painting of his online called “Signwriters”, which is a recollection of his early life working on the Great Western Railway at Swindon and has recently been displayed at STEAM museum www.swindonweb.com/?m=2&s=625&ss=626&c=4523
. Ken started as a rivetter and later worked as a signwriter, his murals attracted the attention of Richard Branson and among other items he painted the Scarlet Lady
, presumably influenced by 1940’s American Calenders and the artworks that appeared particularly on US wartime bombers.
I was interested to note that Lady Penelope
has the registration ending FAB, something which I am sure every plane spotter in the world would know instantly.