Look hard… Can you tell what’s in the building in the photo to the left? What it’s used for? Well, if you’re a regular reader to this blog, you actually probably do know, in fact, that it houses Louie Fuller, one of the most popular new restaurants to open in the city in years. But you know that, like you know about this blog, because you’re in the know… You follow trends, you know what’s what, you’re following chatter on the web and in outlets such as the Providence Phoenix… You don’t really need something as blunt as, oh, a sign on a building, let alone any kind of outward indication of a business’ function, to know what’s going on… You’re in the know!
Such is what I consider to be one of the more pompous and annoying urban retail trends to mark our recently departed economic bubble, and I’m very hopeful that the recession will start to convince business owners of the importance of people actually knowing they exist. As long as its done with some restraint, our streetscapes can only benefit.
What’s your candidate for “Business Most in Need of a Good Sign?” Do you think this trend of minimal signage will wane in the recession?
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Now, I’m not a marketing or graphics design professional. In fact, I know very little about either, and I have no idea if this “minimal signage” trend had a formal name. But I was enormously frustrated to watch our urban cores be reborn and thrive only to have their very own retail occupants purposely play down the fact they were there… Who could have imagined that the Phoenix-like rise of Westminster Street would go for more than half a decade with almost no signage visible from most sidewalks? Who could imagine that Wayland Square, at some points in the last few years fully occupied with thriving businesses, would have creaking and leaking awnings that dated, both materially and in style, from the mid-1970’s? Who could have imagined new world class restaurants in all of our city’s neighborhoods that almost required GPS’s to find given the subtlety of their signage?
One thing economic downturns do is focus the mind and the pocketbook, and hopefully business owners will relearn the thousands-of-years-old lesson that that attractive signage can pull in paying customers. Providence needs to help neighborhoods (especially downtown) do this by somehow streamlining the process of advertising while simultaneously clarifying what is and is not acceptable (and why).
Some good examples of good signage are already popping up around the city… We at GC:PVD will try to track some of the better efforts in future posts.