April 10, 2014

We are all familiar with the climate in Canada, but if you aren’t – from our lowest temperatures in January to our highest in July the temperature varies 32 degrees celcius on average. (in Farenheit, that’s from the 90’s to 20 below zero). Huge swings.

We don’t leave things we like outdoors for very long – punishing weather extremes will drastically affect anything not designed to withstand them.

One of the first conversations I have with new clients is indoors or out? If you want an outdoor sign, our palette of available materials is short. Stainless steel, Aluminum, Brass, Wood, Glass, Plastic and of course – Paint. There are some others materials, but they are either laminates (thin sandwiches) of the above or are very expensive raw materials or expensive to work with, and so are used sparingly.

Virtually every sign you see outdoor is made of that short list of six materials. The interesting thing about a limited palette is that it encourages creativity rather than stifles it. Too many choices leave you with a blank page and nothing to fill it but everything. A deadline, a beat, a topic, a material – these are fuel for creative fire. Think Iron Chef – given an ingredient – it’s a contest between your creativity and skill set and those of another chef.

How to get the most “bang for buck”? An expression I loathe but that epitomizes succinctly what I strive for. the simple answer is Contrast and clarity. Yellow on black in a sans serif font is going to deliver more eyeballs than anything else. Everything else is a dilution – less than what the human eye is optimized to read. This is not to say other colour combos are less – just that something else will have to come into play – psychology, perceived value, circumstance or just plain contrariness. The other method I employ to attract attention – in fact it is a hallmark of my signage – is dynamism. Signage is rarely viewed from a static position – you walk past it / drive past it / ride past it – the best signs exploit that movement to engage your brain. A sign that looks different in different light, at different times of day, from day to night is a sign that works.

The sign that exploits it’s materials /colour /background /font /three dimensions / reflectivity or any other aspect is a good sign.

I’m more than a little obsessed with signs, others – mine.



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