Image credit: http://www.subtraction.com/2014/11/06/when-typography-is-suspenseful/
In 1980, when I graduated from high school, the sign business was a lot different than it is today.
Signs were mainly hand-painted, or air-brushed. Sho-card brushes, daggers for pin-striping, Sign Painter’s One-Shot, lacquer thinner, turpentine, silk-screens … those were the tools of the trade. (That’s not me in the picture, but I used to do that sort of lettering all the time – after four moves and three decades I don’t believe there are any pictures of me doing any hand lettering still around.)
If you’d told me in 1980 that one day almost all signs would be printed on a computer or cut out of vinyl that came in 50 yard rolls, I wouldn’t have believed it. But – that’s exactly what has happened.
There are still hold-outs and those who do things “the old way”. There is still a thriving group of “Letterheads” who hold annual meet-ups and celebrate the way things were. I have met some of them, and most of them are amazing artists.
I joined the “computer age” in 1989, when the price of the new-fangled plotters came down to around $10,000 and I could finally justify the investment. (When they first came out, plotters ran around $100,000 and only cut about 12″ tall lettering … and they were S-L-O-W-W. Nothing like the huge, fast machines they have today. And, the idea of a machine that could print a billboard-sized banner, or vinyl wide enough to wrap a city bus? It seemed like science fiction.
Where will the sign business go in the next 30 years? Holographic and 3-D signs are already on the horizon. I can’t begin to imagine.