Help me figure out how old this sign is?
September 13, 2013 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Approximately how old is this sign, and what font is it? The stucco facade could date from as early as the 1920s, but the lettering on the signs looks to my untrained eye to be from the 70s or later.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe to Media & Arts (19 answers total)
Looks about thirties forties to me. Deco/Streamline style.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:00 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also thought 40's, at the latest.
posted by jbenben at 6:18 PM on September 13, 2013

In 2007 the store had been around for "more than 20 years" according to the above-quoted story. My knee-jerk was 80s-90s.
posted by kmennie at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Interesting. I wouldn't have associated that style of sign (banner, scroll, colourful), or the lettering with the 1940s. The stucco, yes.

This says the building (behind the facade) is from 1912 (it's in the 1910 city limts, though 1932 seems equally plausible because the city tends to annex first and build later), and the violin maker moved in in 1986.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:28 PM on September 13, 2013

Is that a sign with a shadow, or a painted-on shadow?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:39 PM on September 13, 2013

Best answer: and the violin maker moved in in 1986.

That's when I'd date the signs, more or less. Signwriting is really hard to date, because it depends a lot on the signwriter. (The first answer to this previously talks a bit about how you can't really say 'what's the font?' for hand-painted signage: what you're dealing with is the work of an individual taught in a distinct trade that is not the same as typesetting.)
posted by holgate at 6:50 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Panoramio lets you zoom in pretty close. It looks like the upper sign is a bunch of flat pieces that are an inch or more out from the wall, and casting a shadow on it.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:51 PM on September 13, 2013

I agree with holgate. The facade is one age (my guess is actually the 20s, kind of a peak of faux-Mediterraneanism), the painted part of the sign another (and I bet pretty late, agreeing with 70s or 80s), and the center bits a third. I suspect the center bit is older than the words on the right and left which look added on at a later date.
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on September 13, 2013

Does this help at all?
Since opening his shop in the mid-1980s, Gough has sold instruments to clients in Malta, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Europe and all over North America.
It really does look faux old-timey instead of real old-timey, which is very consistent with the 80s stylistically.
posted by Miko at 8:10 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The font is called Poppl Laudatio and dates from 1982.
posted by zadcat at 8:20 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

nice spot, zadcat.

Although signwriting isn't typesetting, it definitely reflects contemporary fashions when not working in constrained environments like road signs, so I think kmennie also deserves credit for that knee-jerk: it reminds me of some of the signwriting I saw in the mid-80s, and I wouldn't be surprised if Poppl-Laudatio was floating around at the time.

If you zoom in with Panoramio, you can see varying degrees of dimensional shading on the lettering; also, note how tight the kerning is on the PA in REPAIRS. That's where the signwriting bit shows itself.
posted by holgate at 8:47 PM on September 13, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, zadcat.

I was wondering, where have I seen that font? And after looking at samples of Poppl Laudatio I realize I was probably thinking of the Black Flag logo (the font is Friz Quadrata), or the old 80s Safeway logo, and signs throughout the store.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:34 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Heh, or like a heavier-weight Law & Order.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:42 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Font is similar to a super bold Optima (80s Safeway logo)
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 1:50 AM on September 14, 2013

This style of tapered or wedged sans became very popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. It's a category that includes Optima, Poppl Laudatio, Friz Quadrata and Albertus (noted as the font that turns up repeatedly in The Prisoner).

Not all were designed in those years – Albertus dates from 1932 – but their popularity peaked around that time.

These fonts have never completely gone out of fashion, especially with sign painters, because they're legible and agreeable to the eye.

Nonetheless, this is not Optima.
posted by zadcat at 11:28 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The 80s Safeway logo I was talking about looks like this and this. I don't think it's Optima, but I could be wrong.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:40 PM on September 14, 2013

That's absolutely not Optima. It's probably a custom logotype but it's based on something like ITC Elan, another 1980s font. Notice the half-sunk triangular quasi-serifs.
posted by zadcat at 2:49 PM on September 14, 2013

Pruitt, you're right - I was mis-remembering the Safeway logo - not optima at all. Zad's got you covered.
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 4:49 PM on September 14, 2013

Belated addition: a short film about Dublin's signwriters.
posted by holgate at 6:54 PM on May 15, 2014

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