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Signs of the Times: from paint to pizza

Article by Marc Levy

The difference between good and superb: the importance of the finishing touch in creating signage

On my journey home from work, I pass a sign advertising an Italian restaurant. Unsurprisingly, it is painted in the colours of the Italian flag. However, the blatant lack of originality is not what bothers me. Each to his own. It is the phrase above the restaurant, painted in gaudy, clumsy, red letters, that reads “Pasta and Pizza’s available.”

I struggle to fathom how not a single individual involved in the advertising process of this business bothered to investigate the fairly obvious grammatical rule that an apostrophe indicates possession, not plural. Despite myself, I cannot help but wonder with genuine concern about the quality of the pizzas on offer. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to turn down an invitation to the place, if it was up to me, I’d steer well clear.

I wholeheartedly admit that this might be a very dramatic reaction to a seemingly benign oversight. But really, it’s inexcusable. As far as I am concerned, prior to the point of my entry into this dubious establishment, the sign outside is the establishment. And the first impression made by the sign is the only one that counts. The lesson here is a vital one:

A lack of attention to the detail of a sign could mean the demise of the thing that sign represents.Good signs versus great signs

The sheer abundance of signs tends to soften and weaken their impact on us. Thus it is the finishing touches that separate a mere sign from an innovative communication and signification tool. It is often the simplest of signs that demand the most complex detail, that ‘unnoticeably noticeable’ something extra. To achieve this, and at the risk of delving into the mundane, it is necessary to deconstruct a great sign into its key elements.Minimal wording, maximum impact

Unlike the aforementioned repellent pizzeria, subtle detail is as important as obvious detail. Recently, a paint company built a large sign that consisted of a simple, white steel frame, bolted onto the edge of a brown brick building and jutting out into the sky. The steel frame was divided into five sections, demarcating the various shades of the blue sky which it frames. The detail in the sign is the very atmosphere that creates it. And the ever-changing hues of the sky are transformed into a paint colour palette.

The rewards of this sign is that to each individual onlooker, depending on which direction one looks at it and the weather on that day, the sign offers new and varying shade options and nuances. It is almost as if the sign updates and reinvents itself. This is the attention to detail that makes a sign (or in this case, the ‘skeleton’ of a sign) a remarkable signage innovation.

What should truly exceptional signage communicate? Whether for a local pub, an anti-woman abuse campaign, or an advert for a new range of stationery, a sign is lost if bereft of an effectively communicated message. Rather than a heavily wordy slogan, the message of the paint company’s sign is effective and unmistakable, because an advert for paint can very possibly be, if you’ll pardon the cliché, as entertaining and alluring as watching the stuff dry.

Finally, the detail of a sign is its essence and its purpose. There are protective coatings for signs, there are UV-resistant screens, there is spelling and grammar, location and durability, colour and structure. In short, there is quality and there is the lack of it.

Should you require any glass signage assistance, please don’t hesitate to give the staff at iSpace and Signs360 a call on 1800 729 133, or alternatively you can email us. See our website and

About the Author

Marc Levy is a signage expert being in the signage industry of 14 years now.

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