Can You Promote Your Art with Some Retro Business Signage?

artworkWe’ve talked before about using simple printed materials to give yourself a boost in marketing power. Now it’s time to take things to the next level. We’re talking about creating your own artistic designs with a standout retro feel, then creating a full-scale business signage marketing campaign. Have a skilled help you create banner signs, vehicle wraps, large format posters, displays, and more so that you can blanket your city in promotional material and make sure everyone has seen your name and your art. If you need some hints on where to start, we’ve got a few examples of stylish retro signs that you can use as a jumping off point in crafting your own artsy sign campaign.

Approach #1: Steal A Retro Concept and Go Text Heavy

This is a tricky one to pull off, but can be done right if you take heed of some of the lessons learned from famous typographers throughout the ages. Take some of the radical designs done by Nils Leonard, acclaimed art director for Grey London. Notice anything about them? It’s all text! You would think that signs advertising art would feature the art in question, but this works. Perhaps even better than just showing the pieces of art! How? The secret in this one lies in the use of white space to force your eyes directly to the type. Normally a block of text would be uninteresting and difficult to read, but by skewing the text to one side and subtly bolding certain phrases, Leonard has created interest in the words which may otherwise be lost on another sign. We can’t help but read the interesting story planted within each paragraph, and by not revealing the actual artwork we are then motivated to see it for ourselves.

Here’s another example. The design that base did the Belgian National Theatre is amazing, but contains no pictorial elements at all, just text! Again, the appeal is created in how the text is used. They’ve combined a number of 19th Century typefaces, used different sizes and altered the boldness of each so that some recede and others jump forward. The contrast between the fonts, coupled with the fact that they are stacked “just so”, urges us to scan each one looking for the differences between them, and eventually analyzing the whole of the posters and banner signs. A trendy use of retro styling to generate interest.

Approach #2: Incorporate Simplified Retro Graphics

Sometimes adding a bit of art can help promote the message. Take the work of Milton Glaser for example. What do you notice? A subtle combination of textual elements, shapes, and clever artwork melded to create a 60s/art deco fusion. It appeals to two past periods and accentuates each in different ways, challenging the mind’s expectation of what elements should be in the poster and demanding that we take a closer look. Something more contemporary might get lost in the shuffle with all the other “modern” designs, but these jump out precisely because they don’t fit in 100% with what you would expect to see in today’s climate.

Approach #3: Go All In With Retro Flair

This approach relies on wowing viewers with everything you got. For example, this poster from Morla Design borrows heavily from the “photomontage” style of the past and hits you with bright colors, radiating lines, and a huge centrally located graphic that gets straight to the point. It’s optimism encapsulated in artistic form. It’s perfectly suited for any poster or vertical banner, and with some tweaking could be worked into other promotional material as well. If you prefer being bold and direct, this is the way to go.

Next Steps

If you’re an artist looking to promote themselves, sometimes it helps to look to the past and combine that with the contemporary in order to achieve the best results. Creating business signs is hardly a new practice, but combining them with retro appeal to differentiate them from the past is another thing entirely. You can keep it subtle with all text, combine the text and graphics in a reserved way, or go wild and try to be as bold as possible. No matter what approach you choose, your decision to blend different eras together will help garner interest, and if done properly will earn you plenty of new fans once your retro signage campaign hits the streets.


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