Signage Analysis

I’m going to start with the sign I really liked:


My enjoyment of the design of this sign isn’t necessarily the aesthetics, but rather the layers I see between the lines. In addition to an image at the top, the sign limits barriers to understanding by including the text in multiple languages. I really like how tuned into the local community this sign seems to be. Without knowing anything about the process that went into the sign, I assume that the designer(s) narrowed down the number of languages somehow. This meant delving into the demographics of the community and anticipating the neighborhood’s needs, creating a sign that is much more human than most.

I had a hard time finding examples of truly terrible signs, though minor examples seemed to be everywhere.


This one, from the Penn Station Long Island Railroad (LIRR) kiosks, is one that I found unnecessarily confusing when I first arrived in the city. I initially stayed with a friend on Long Island and commuted in to conduct my apartment search. The LIRR services a large number of stations, but the trains don’t run in a linear fashion from station to station. Instead, seemingly without pattern (other than a 24 hour cycle), different trains stop at a different combination of stations along their routes while skipping most of them. All the board above shows is when the next train or two is departing from Penn traveling to that station (possibly requiring a transfer at a different station). The whole thing is very confusing and the sign doesn’t help in limiting the overwhelming feeling an inexperienced rider inevitably gets.


I was confused by this sign. It seems to indicate that there is a school nearby. I was unable to find a school, though I admit to not knowing the area terribly well. I also could not find similar lettering on the road on any nearby blocks. It could be old, or I might have missed something. Either way, the three letters without any additional instruction or context are confusing in and of themselves.


I found this storefront to be a terrible use of their space. The front is entirely empty, and the name of the space is squished onto the side of the awning. More unfortunately, BOW, POE, and TRY spell out recognizable words on their own. Despite the easy-to-read typeface, this makes it very difficult to put together the name BOWERY POETRY. Additionally, the name alone doesn’t give much of an indication of what exactly they do. Slam poetry bar? Workshop space? Something entirely unrelated to poetry? I decided to redesign this sign.

My first step was to research what exactly this was. When I used Google Maps to find more information about the store, it popped up with “Bowery Arts+Science,” with a website that redirected to¬† The identity crisis evident here might help to explain the lack of information on the sign. This is what appears on their website:

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It’s certainly easier to read without the words broken up, and contains a tag line that indicates that it is indeed literally interested in poetry as a literary form and the development of those who write it. Keeping it simple, I want to translate something like this to the front of the facade in an easier-to-read format. I used the Rockwell typeface to mimic the typography on the existing signage, playing with the character spacing and height until I settled on something that I thought looked good. I used the eyedropper tool in photoshop to match the colors on “PLACE,” “FOR,” and “POETS,” and made the entire tagline lowercase to remove some of the formality. I used the roughen tool in illustrator to give the typography a similar hand-drawn look to the text on the website. The result seems very simple to me, but I think it does the job well, certainly much better than before.


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