Inside and out, signs are everywhere. Signs can be found in buildings, on buildings and on the street. People have been using signs for a long time. The Greeks and Romans Carved signs named stone buildings. Cast signs made of terracotta, a mixture of hay, water and powder, and materials from the earth were mounted in the wall of the front façade. Banners and flags with symbols, insignias, heralds, and coat of arms shared names of families, leaders, and groups. Signs in different times and different cultures come in all shapes and sizes, colors and expressions. They communicate marketing and branding, advertisements, sales, and events. Signs warn, announce, direct, and help us to navigate. They lure, surprise, entice us to enter restaurants or see a movie. They are mounted, hung, erected, even projected. Today signs continue to communicate information, directions, place identification and provide rules, safety precautions, and warnings. They contribute to the image of a place and the quality of the area. They can be seen while walking, biking, and driving a car. Most are created to be visible at night as well as during the day.
Why do you think Signs are important?
Activity 1 – universal signs
Universal signs convey messages to cultures around the world. Their information must be immediately clear regardless of differences in languages. Universal signs communicate safety, dangers, and other things to alarm people with the use of colors and symbols. Universal signs communicate activities shared by most people. Universal Green signs with white lettering organize highways and roads, report train crossings, bridges, airports, restrooms, gas stations, hotels, and restaurants. Historical signs are often brown and carry an iconic image of significant sites.
Research and make a poster of universal signs and upload it to the gallery.
Activity 2 – directional signs
Directional signs are the signs we see in buildings, plaes, and on the streets. They communicate instructions to pedestrians, bikers, drivers of taxis, cars, trucks, and buses. Directional signs are often combined with texts and symbols to deliver relevant information without confusion. Common colors used for directional signs are yellow, green, and blue. What directional signs do you pass every day? Which signs do you find most useful? Look around your neighborhood and document in drawings or photos the shape, color and information on directional signs.
Activity 3 – design a store sign
Commercial signs deliver branding of companies. Graphics include the mark, label, logo, or image that builds the company’s identity for people to recognize. Some of the commercial signs, such as McDonald’s or Coca Cola, are globally known to people and are marked as the most popular commercial signs. What commercial signs do you see everyday? What colors are they? Make a poster of different commercial signs you like. Locate a store that has a sign that could be improved and design a new sign for it. Share it with the store owner! Upload it to the gallery.
Activity 4 – neon signs
Neon signs glow! They are illuminated by the neon gas inside the bent glass tubes charged with electricity. Neon lights were trendy in the United States from 1920 to around 1960. First displayed at the Paris auto show, neon signs still exist around most cities. They often advertise when an establishment is open or closed. The popularity of neon signs decreased in the past several decades, but there use is trending again. Be a neon sign sleuth! Look around and find a few neon signs! What do they say? Are they texts? Are they illustrations? Make a poster of neon signs in your community.
Activity 5 – temporary signs
Temporary signs are for short-term use and are usually light-weight. These signs are often used during sales or grand-opening of stores or special events or elections. They often use bold texts and bright colors to catch people’s eyes and attention. They may be placed in the window or outside the store on a triangular sandwich board. Sometimes they are printed on lightweight cardboard and mounted on a u-shaped wire and put in people’s yards during elections. Do you remember any of the sale signs that caught your attention when you went shopping? Do these signs actually encourage you to go into stores and buy things or to attend a show or to vote for someone?
Design a Temporary sign for a performance or show at your school.
Activity 6 – Be a Sign Critic
Now that you are looking at signs let’s look a little closer. Which ones are you drawn to and why? Are they old and historical? Are they new fresh and new? Find examples of what you consider “good signs” in your town and signs that could be better. Take photos of these and explain why you evaluated them as positive or negative examples. Are they large enough to read? Are they too large? Do they clutter a view or add to the character of a place. Are they well lit? Are they finely crafted or crudely and hurriedly made? Make a poster of well-designed signs and poorly designed signs.
Be a sign critic!
Activity 7 – Design A Billboard
Billboards are mega-signs. They are the largest signs created to be visible at vast distances while traveling on highways. Billboards average 14 feet high and 48 feet wide. How many square feet of advertisement does a billboard offer? Hint: 14 x 48 =?). Billboards advertise companies and welcome people into cities. They can be painted on barns and buildings and sides of mountains to be seen from even greater distances. Today billboards can be animated and illuminated to change their image or text or message every few seconds. Make a scaled drawing on an 81/2 “ x 11” paper introducing your community to visitors. Upload it to the gallery to share what is great about where you live!