Sign & Digital Graphics

December '19

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22 • December 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S B Y M A T T C H A R B O N E A U Designing Award-Winning Signs Making the Most of Lettering Opportunities Be the expert your sign client needs W hat is a sign, and what is lettering? Is a sign the collec- tion of different letterings? Can letters alone be called a sign? When does a lettering job become a sign project? Are we in the sign business or lettering business? In 1985 I started Charboneau Sign & Lettering Company, which I later shortened to Charboneau Signs, only after hand- lettering those 15 extra wasted letters on numerous truck doors and sign panels. One thing that sign painting taught me was to design simplistically—because I then had to hand letter that design onto the truck doors, stroke by stroke, outline by out- line; and on the back, too. If the customer wanted something fancy, I had to prepare them for some serious sticker shock before I got started. Usually they hoped to have something that looks like Dom Perignon, but were only hoping to pay for something like Korbel; a natural expectation by a customer who doesn't understand the hand-lettering process. So, for me the term "lettering" was part of what I offered back then. Customers would call my shop and ask, "Do you do truck lettering or walls or windows…" but it always involved the word lettering when asking or talking about the sign on their store or on their door. Today the words "graphic" and "digital" have been stirred into so many areas of the sign industry that the term "lettering" is almost lost in translation. The term "lettering" was used by sign painters like me, and pretty much the entire sign industry. Even the company who made the paint we typically used; 1-Shot Lettering Enamel, had no problems calling it what it was… it wasn't paint for signs, it was for lettering. When vinyl cutters were in their infancy and required " X-Y" coordinate values and font style names had to be entered in on a DOS ticker-tape looking display, I knew that we were not in Kansas anymore and things were changing for the hand-letter- Since 1985, Matt Charboneau has owned and operated Charboneau Design and Consulting in Davenport, Iowa. He is a con- sultant and designer for monument, channel letter and pylon sign projects. His book, "The Pre-Sale Sign Survey Field Guide -- The how- to guide on sign surveys for the professional sign salesperson" can be ordered on his website: or by emailing him at ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL

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