Vintage typography & lettering, part III - hand painted signs

In last part of our blog series about vintage typography and lettering you could read about neons. Now it's time for hand painted signs which are older that more advanced printing techniques, neon signs, motion pictures - and that's their power - their age.

Painter Chauncey Curtis works on a silent film advertisement for a theater in Mankato, Minnesota, in the 1930s. Courtesy Faythe Levine and Sam Macon.

Today many of the old hand painted signs are recognizable as "ghost signs", often destroyed and faded for example on buildings. However, even in these times of digital ads and new technologies, you can still find traditional sign painters who make signs the good old fashioned way. Their work often have this specific vintage character. For example, hand painting is still quite popular in Spain:

Contemporary hand painted signs in Andalusia

In the U.S. you can also find a new generation of sign painters. Faythe Levine & Sam Macon even directed a movie about their job and their stories:


And HandpaintedType is a project dedicated to preserving the practice of typography of street painters in India, where hand painted signs are still very popular and painters have their specific, rich and multicolored style. Fonts from hand painted signs are recreated and digitalized - neon letters and hand painted signs from city streets are often a great inspiration for typographers, who make digital fonts - and that's a very good example of this process. On Handpainted Type's website, next to the digitalized fonts, you can see the movie about the situation of Indian painters and check the gallery of their works on the streets.

Indian sign from Handpainted Type gallery

In era of signs and adverts, which are created digitally, printed or machine cut, the hand painted letters often stand out from the rest of the mass-produced media as unique creations with a soul.

Articles about signs and sign painters:

99% Invisible - Hand Painted Signs

Web Urbanist - The incredible Lost and Found Art of Hand-Painted Signage 

Photo sources: Collectors Weekly (1st picture) Magic Suitcase Blog (Spanish contemporary  signs), HandpaintedType

Posted: May 12, 2015 | Tagged: graphic design, lettering, painting, typography, vintage

comments powered by Disqus

Recent Articles


View Posts Tagged: