Graphic Design in Signage – who would have thunk it?
When I studied for my Associates Degree in Graphic Design I did not give much thought to the reality of what I would do with it once I graduated. Of course, I had dreams and aspirations of wonderful and weird graphics designs that I would achieve but which forum they would appear in, I had no clue. The day came that I graduated and my foray into the labor market began. When I placed my resume on employment sites, proudly announcing my Graphic Design skills to the world, I had little idea of where the opportunity would come from and it was with a great deal of skepticism that I took a call from ASI Signage Innovations indicating an interest in me and my graphic design skills – signage? Seriously?
I knew nothing of signage at all or even thought there was an industry for it. Who takes notice of signs? Someone really makes them?? When I was in college we were taught about different industries or enterprises that would suit our Graphic Design skills, like print shops or magazine companies, but nothing about signage. However, coming out of school, it was impressed upon me that finding gainful employment was now my paramount preoccupation so I went to my very first interview at ASI Signage Innovations and was intrigued about the possibilities to firstly, fulfill the mission of securing gainful employment but secondly, it seemed to present an opportunity to practically engage all the graphic design skills I had academically secured.
I found that my first job out of college was not so different from the classroom, but add four cups of coffee every day. We have deadlines to fulfill with sign designs, much like turning in homework except my homework gets turned into a really cool sign that I actually created! This is all completely new to me, I’m still learning different techniques for designing, I’ve even got to the point of making an “idea board” from signs I’ve seen that I really like so I can have inspiration and ideas for future designs.
Initially, I was nervous about the sign design process because of all the “rules” or guidelines required to make certain signs, including a simple room sign. With designing a room sign there are size, font, color, and artwork guidelines to follow, but who knew about the ADA? In fact, I had no clue that braille was so important when designing a room sign or the fact that it was even required. My professors in college never mentioned braille at all in graphic design. As far as I was concerned braille was used in books for the blind. “Visually impaired” – never heard the term before.
“Sign families” – another new term for my vocabulary. There are so many different signs out there for different establishments and locations within the facilities. I was trained in college on typography and was taught that every font has a time and a place to be used, such as sans-serif font faces, mainly used for room signs so people can read the text easily. There can’t be too much text on a sign. I was taught in college that the human brain can only handle about 69 words on a line before a person gets lost in the text structure, and too small of text can be difficult to read from far distances.
When designing signs almost anything is possible, of course within the “rules”. You can print on a material that looks like concrete, real wood, or you can make a sign have a 3D effect. I enjoy designing signs because of the wide range of printing options that can be done to the sign to give it a 3D effect or a certain material or color. When I am designing signs for our sign samples I usually have free range of my designs, but not- too-crazy in detail. Each design I make is hand drawn in Adobe Illustrator and put onto a mock up design I made to give the printer a visual of what we would like to print. Designs cannot be too small with lots of detail because it won’t be seen properly. For smaller sign designs I use simplistic designs with little detail so they are able to be seen without having to look too closely at the sign. At the end of the day my designs require a lot of work and I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I see the end-result and see the final printed version of my sign.
So, it’s a new world for me, and hopefully a “sign” of many years to come in this wonderful industry.
Kathryn Dault 2016
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