Friday Design: Typography Inspiration from Signs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well and you have a wonderful weekend planned. Can you believe we will be into August next week? How fast the time does fly! But that still leaves us at least a month of summertime to fill our inspiration tanks with so we can stay creative throughout the year. Today I want to share some inspiration for typography from store signs. One of the few things I like about smartphones (other than maps so I don’t get lost and Pokemon GO because it’s fun) is the camera. This isn’t because it in anyway replaces my DSLR for photography, but because it is great for quick shots of things that I might want to use later for design inspiration, as I’m sharing today.

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which was fantastic, and one of the great things about traveling for me is seeing what the signs look like. (Yes, I am that kind of design geek.) I’m always interested and often inspired by what I see. Dublin is one of the great places to find signs that may inspire, especially in terms of typography. Below are some of the signs I saw that I thought were interesting and may inspire some new designs in my work.

photograph of beshoff sign

I was quite taken with this sign from Beshoff, which is a fish and chips restaurant. This is a good example of integrating text with graphics in a way that works. It is simple with just the right amount of quirky without taken away anything from the readability. It’s easy to reproduce in only two colors, a plus for any branding, and would look good at many different sizes. Plus, I’m a sucker when it comes to flourishes and the old-time look when done well. What might I use this inspiration for? Maybe a header for an exhibit on campus history or community history in the library, or maybe as a juxtaposition between old and new in terms of library resources and services.

Of course, Dublin is also full of awesome signs for pubs as seen below for Brannigan’s

photograph of Brannigan's sign

While I’d hate to read an entire paragraph in the same lettering style as Brannigan’s uses for its sign, as a pub sign it looks great. It’s different than what you might expect from a pub sign and the elongated letterforms gives it a bit of elegance. Mixing typography up so it isn’t the same cliched sans serif for everything, makes people stop and notice. Also, remember, with large display fonts, you can have some fun and use forms that would never work at smaller sizes or in larger bodies of text.

photograph of Il Fornaio sign

Il Fornaio’s sign is completely different from Brannigan’s. Instead of angular forms, here we have sweeping, rounded forms that invite people in, a good thing for an Italian restaurant. The use of a script-type font here brings a bit of romance to the sign while maintaining readability. It is a great contrast to many of the other more angular fonts used on modern signs. While I’m not as much of a fan of the smaller font used for the rest of the sign (I’d have gone with a simple sans serif for readability and contrast with the restaurant name), it still works and hopefully invites people to come in and enjoy a meal.

The Dublin Trading Co. sign

This sign simply screams Dublin. Nothing subtle here. From the name of the store to the inclusion of the iconic arches and lamps from the Ha’Penny Bridge to the emerald green, this sign lets you know you are in Dublin. And, I’m happy about that. Too much of the same type of design everywhere is boring. Context is important. Plus, the letterforms of this sign work well with the curved lines of the graphics. Nothing is too angular, even with the slab serifs. It’s easy to read, fun, and invites us to see what The Dublin Trading Co. has to offer. That’s a successful sign in my book.

So next time you’re walking around, remember to look up and see what inspiration you can draw from signage in your area. You never know what might influence and inspire your next library design or help you solve a design problem that looked intractable. Inspiration really is all around us, if we remember to look.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of delight, relaxation, and things (and people) that make you happy. I’ll be back with more soon. Allons-y!