Ad Buzz
lettering quill
Gemini Studio
Lettering brush, called a quill by sign professionals.
Signs of the Times  by Deborah Tirico
Sign painting is a dying art with only a few die-hard sign painters willing to work with a quill and compete with “quick-sign” franchises owned by people with less sensibility for the art of making a sign.  
Historically, apprenticeships were the means of learning the art of sign painting, although many, in the earlier history of the craft, were self taught. An apprenticeship could last for years, depending on the skill of the apprentice and the knowledge of the "master". Learning to manipulate a lettering brush, often referred to as a quill, was the core of the learning process. This skill alone could take years to master. There were a number of associated skills and techniques also taught, such as: gold leafing (surface and glass), carving (in various mediums), stenciling and silk-screening. I remember reading the paper signs in the produce section of the grocery store … so beautifully hand painted “2 for .99 cents.” My husband, a veteran sign-painter had a grocery store account back in the day and painted 10-15 paper signs a week for the store windows. I remember watching his hands masterfully manipulating a quill to create the wide
The Busted Knuckle Garage sign

• 1794 – Lithography was invented, making real posters possible.
• 1835 – Jared Bell was making 9x6 posters for the circus in the U.S.
• 1867 – Earliest known billboard rentals (source: OAAA).
• 1872 – International Bill Posters Association of North America was established (now known as the Outdoor Advertising Association of America) as a billboard lobbying group.
• 1889 – The world's first 24 sheet billboard was displayed at the Paris Exposition and later at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The format was quickly adopted for various types of advertising, especially for circuses, traveling shows, and movies.
• 1908 – The Model T automobile is introduced in the U.S., increasing the number of people using highways and therefore the reach of roadside billboards.
• 1925 – Burma-Shave makes its
This vintage hand painted sign for The Busted Knuckle Garage is a perfect example of the creativity of the sign painter. Pine Island Farm is a recent example of fine hand lettering still available.
Pine Island Farm truck lettering

Historically these applications were painted by hand and took two men many hours to complete. Now they are easily generated on desktop computers with oversized full color vinyl
A Phelps Inn vintage sign from early New England
output or oversized lettering that will be adhered to a surface. Today the installation has become the actual “labor” side of the sign job.

There is a lot of revenue in outdoor advertising. Outdoor companies spend over 1 billion dollars annually for payroll, property tax, permits, utilities, property leases and vendor purchases. Approximately 180 million is
billboards line the highways.
• 1931 – The Wall Drug billboards start to go up nationwide.
• 1965 – the Highway Beautification Act is passed after much campaigning by Lady Bird Johnson.
• 1971 – The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act bans cigarette ads in television and radio, moving that business into billboards.
• 1981 – The Supreme Court overturns a San Diego billboard ban, but leaves room open for other cities to ban commercial billboards.
• 1997 – Tobacco advertising is no longer allowed on outdoor billboards in America.
• 2007 – Industry adopts one sheet plastic poster replacement for paper poster billboards and begins phase-out of PVC flexible vinyl, replacing it with eco-plastics such as polyethylene.

Although it may appear that billboard advertising is for large companies, small and local businesses account for most billboard advertising ... and for good reason.  Billboards can be purchased by location allowing an advertiser to target only their specific market area. Billboards speak to the driving public which accounts for most of the residents in any location ... a great value!
This vintage sign for the A Phelps Inn is beautifully painted and signed by the artist. This is an excellent example  of popular signs in early New England.
Red Bull tractor trailer
and narrow lines of each letter … it was amazing to experience.
Signmakers often embellished signs with inventive devices, including wood carvings and decorative ironwork, gilded lettering and painted surfaces made dazzling by the addition of "smalt," or ground glass.

Today we try to save and restore old signs because they are actually a piece of history. Although abundant in their era, inn and tavern signs are today among the most elusive works of early American artists. Signs were either lost or painted over as businesses changed hands and new images were needed. Lacking the sentimental attachments of ancestral portraiture, many sign paintings were lost long before nostalgia made them appealing to early 20th-century antiquarians and collectors.

In addition to signs for retail establishments, there are a great many outdoor advertising opportunities including billboards, bus wraps, truck lettering, bus shelters, subways, airports, malls, kiosks, taxis, panel trucks, barns and buildings, bridges, mobile billboards and any other visible surface that can house an advertisement. Most municipalities require a permit to install any type of sign whether it be permanent or temporary.
As a racing sponsor, Red Bull features their famous logo prominently displayed on the race car carrying trailer ... nice!
spent on public service advertising.

There were approximately 450,000 billboards on United States highways as of 1991. Somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 are erected each year.

Early billboards were basically large posters on the sides of buildings, with limited but still appreciable commercial value. As roads and highways multiplied, the billboard business thrived. Here is an historic review of the growth and regulation of billboard advertising:
Pinup Girl
D and D Bus
George Dickel Tennessee Whisky, a Diageo brand, sponsored the platinum selling country artist Darryl Worley's RoadTour ... nice bus wrap guys!
As early as the 40’s, Doublemint gum was using the twin visuals - I remember them on television in the 60’s. Are they still using them today?
See Spot See board by Gemini Studio
Check out archive editions of the Ad Buzz
Forward to a friend!
At Gemini we love to create outdoor advertising. This bulletin for the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey is a particular favorite.
A collection of songs
that deal with the positive
aspects of “the Kiss” from
across the decades - 1940’s up
to the present, most of these
songs will be familiar!
To receive your free copy, simply
email us your snail mail address.
Wrigleys Doublemint Gum