The Nashville chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) held an event this week titled “Culture + Typography.” The cool graphic the AIGA created to promote the event featured a photo collage of vintage signs from around the Nashville area. It really got me thinking about the great city I’ve called home for the past 25 years. It also prompted a deeper look at these signs – some vintage-beautiful, some tacky-beautiful – that have for so long dotted our urban landscape. Gathered together on the page, they bring back a flood of memories and myriad references.
In our role as designers, we work to provide clients with branding solutions that bring clarity to their message and speak eloquently to their target customers. The resulting design might be understated and elegant, funny and irreverent, or something completely off the wall and unexpected. The important thing is that the design helps to create a truly authentic, enduring relationship with the customer. In their day, those vintage signs did just that.
Nashville is currently moving through a period of unprecedented growth, with construction cranes crisscrossing the downtown skyline, traffic jammed up Atlanta-style, and ’50s ranch houses giving way to over-inflated McMansions. The most frequently asked question among longtime residents is “Who are all these people?”
Progress can be good, but this kind of growth comes with a bit of nostalgia for Nashville’s pre-boom years as we see some of our favorite local businesses and institutions fade away. But even as our vintage signage gets obscured by encroaching development, the signs still speak to us as consumers (and as designers). If you missed this week’s AIGA event, no problem. Just remember to take notice of whatever iconic signs still populate your personal landscape. They still have a lot to say.