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Sign Fonts

(January 2017) posted on Tue Jan 10, 2017

What if you don’t like the customer’s choice?

By Darek Johnson

click an image below to view slideshow

In December, we asked six sign designers to comment about their decision processes when selecting fonts for signs (see ST, Dec. 2016, p. 60). In that feature, designers responded to a comment from Mike Stevens’ 1984 book, “Mastering Layout,” that discussed the varied use of fonts within a sign. We received excellent comments and recommend you revisit that issue if you missed the story.

However, you may remember that I have a graphic/industrial design background that led me into sign design some years back. At that time, several of my designs were chosen to appear in Signs of the Times magazine and in books. I am presenting two here because they directly relate to one aspect of font selection that our interviewed designers did not address: the customer who chooses a font or presents a logo the designer doesn’t like.

This was the case with the Stone Ridge Village sign shown here. Every aspect was drawn and the final design was almost approved when the sign buyer walked through the shop door with a new font in mind. Fortunately, it was a serif font and similar to the original font, a broadened Times New Roman. I say broadened because electric signmakers often modify channel-letter strokes and serifs to fit the designated lighting system, whether LED or neon. For example, the slab-type serifs shown here were not broad on the original font, but we modified them to allow the back-lighting to illuminate the smaller sections equally. I completed both designs shown here while working as a designer for John Shaw, then-owner of Shaw Sign Co. (Ft. Collins, CO) and now owner of DaVinci Signs (Windsor, CO). The sign buyer said he needed a monument sign near a pond he was excavating at his upscale development entrance. I asked if we could put the sign in the pond instead of alongside it and he liked the idea.

Fortunately, John is good at engineering atypical sign work.


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