Archive for the ‘Fun with Signs’ Category

The Timeless Appeal of Vintage and Retro Signs

Sunday, December 15th, 2013
This rare vintage sign is double sided and flanged and measures 18″ x 13.75″. It is believed to have been made in the 1950s.

This rare vintage sign is double sided and flanged and measures 18″ x 13.75″. It is believed to have been made in the 1950s.

They don’t make things like they used to, so they say.  There was a heyday, of sorts, from 1890 to 1950, in sign making.  During this period, the majority of outdoor signs made in the U.S. were constructed in a fashion that has become their unmistakable trademark: heavy rolled iron, die-cut into a shape, coated with multiple layers of powdered glass, and finished by kiln firing.  The icons of Route 66 and many other highways and byways – a la 7up!, Dairy Queen, and Doggy Diner – were usually made this way, because the process made them highly durable and water resistant.   These signs were often called porcelain enamel signs or just plain “enamel signs”.  (Source:

Originally a German invention, enamel signs began showing up in the U.S. and rapidly became the outdoor advertising sign maker’s standard.  At the turn of the 20th century, designers began to expand the pallet, bringing in bold colors and striking graphic elements.   From Chevrolet’s latest sedan, to Cadbury’s Chocolates, to Chesterfield Cigarettes (“They Satisfy”), vivid enamel signs spanned the continent.   Stenciled designs of earlier enamel signs were replaced by silkscreens and steel bases instead of iron ones.  Eventually, around the time of WWII, when porcelain enamel became too pricey, tin bases were substituted for steel.  Decades later, porcelain enamel signs in top condition are a coveted rarity among vintage sign collectors, a sign of not only their novelty, but also a testament to the appeal of their excellent workmanship and enduring aesthetic appeal.  The rarity of well-maintained antique porcelain signs makes them highly valued, in the commercial sense.  Collectors are willing to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars to obtain such an example.

It is this kind of durability of craft and timelessness of design that informs the work of Blue Pond Signs.  Blue Pond Signs works to create one-of-a-kind signs that take the logo or aesthetic vision of each client and craft into a sign that will, likewise, last far into the future, carrying with it the mark of quality and trustworthiness that a well-made and designed can do.

Strangest Sign Ordinances from Around the United States

Friday, September 27th, 2013

strange saw laws from aroun the USOur clients have offices all over the continental United States and as incredible as it may seem, there can be wide variations in the laws that govern the proper display and appearance of signs from state to state.  For example, in Georgia all signs must be written in English (and it’s illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket on Sundays).  Businesses in Des Plaines, Illinois, are a little bit more peculiar, prohibiting displaying a “for sale” sign upon any wheelchair if it’s chained to a tree.

If you think that’s bizarre, how about the ordinance in Akron, Ohio that makes it illegal to post signs at swimming pools (does that include signs about safety precautions?) or the ordinance that prohibits displaying colored chickens for sale.  And in Florida, perhaps as a backlash against the 80’s show “Miami Vice”, neon signs are prohibited.  If you’re wondering if this is strictly a southern phenomenon, we can assure you it isn’t.  Take the case of Clovis, CA, where a law exists that states, “The display of promotional banners is allowed three times per year. These displays are limited to a fourteen-day display period, and may not exceed in size the total allowable sign area for the lease space. Businesses wishing to hang a promotional banner must visit the city’s planning department prior to hanging a sign at their place of business.”

As you can see from this small sampling, there are some delightfully eccentric ordinances for signs throughout North America.   But, at Blue Pond Signs, no state’s sign laws are too peculiar for us to handle!  To create great signs for great clients, Blue Pond Signs takes the vision of the client, the specifics of the sign’s placement, and creates something distinctive and expressive – while respecting local sign ordinances.

Iconic Signage of the Bay Area

Friday, August 30th, 2013

With another Holiday Weekend upon us (Happy Labor Day all!), we thought we’d have a little fun this Friday and take a look at some of the most iconic signs from around the San Francisco Bay Area, home of our Blue Pond Signs offices in San Rafael. The Bay Area is home to dozens of famous and historically significant pieces of architecture. Wonders like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica building, and Mission San Francisco have graced dozens of travel guides and served as tourist attractions for years. Often overlooked but equally important, there are many iconic signs that have contributed to the great skylines the Bay Area is home to:

The Yahoo Billboard – San Francisco

Although the sign was unfortunately taken down in 2011, the Yahoo billboard stood alongside Interstate 80 in the heart of downtown San Francisco for over a decade. Erected in 1999 at the height of the first dot-com boom, the retro styled sign inspired sister signs in both New York and Los Angeles. San Francisco and Bay Area residents saw the iconic billboard as a monument to the cities role in the development of the tech industry.

Grand Lake Theater Sign – Oakland
A landmark since the theater opened in 1926, the sign atop the Grand Lake Theater in the Lake Merritt neighborhood of Oakland brings us back to a time when the theater was the entertainment hub of cities. Designed by Theodore Wetteland, the iconic sign atop the theater is 52 feet high by 72 feet wide, and uses 2,800 colored light bulbs. It is still the largest rotary contact sign west of the Mississippi River. The theater still houses multiple active movie screens today.

Doggy Diner – San Francisco

Kids on a trip to the SF Zoo might be confused at the seemingly random statue of a dog in a chef outfit nearby, but their parents might know the significance. The Doggie Diner was a popular Bay Area fast food chain that operated from 1949 to 1986. After the chain closed, many of the doggie heads were taken down, vandalized or stolen. The sign on Sloat Blvd is currently the last one standing after receiving a much needed renovation in 2001. In 2008, the sign officially became a San Francisco Landmark.