In case you didn’t know, signwriting is one of the oldest professions. Ever since shops, bars and restaurants started to fill our towns and cities, the need for clear, distinctive signage has been important.

It has taken a hit in recent years because of our obsession with all things digital. The good news is that the art of signwriting is starting to make a big comeback.

A Quick History of Signwriting

You may be surprised that signwriting stretches as far back as Roman times. Pompeii is a case in point where archaeological evidence shows that sign painters often filled walls with advertisements for upcoming gladiatorial games and even elections.

In England, up until the 18th century, signs tended to be more visual. Lettering didn’t become prominent until the working class started to get literate during the Victorian era. By the mid-19th century, William Sutherland was producing tutorials on signwriting and there was a great demand for apprentices across the country. Signs went up everywhere from the sides of boats and building walls to hoardings and, of course, over the tops of shops.

As it became a clearly defined profession, it essentially became a specialist part of the building trade. Organisations such as the Worshipful Company of Painters in London began to put on courses and offer apprenticeships for people to learn the skills required to be a sign writer.

Up until the late 1990s, there was still plenty of work for skilled artisans but then the digital revolution quickly began to change things. It was easier and cheaper to produce designs and signs on computers than find a creative sign writer. The profession became endangered and, for a moment, was in peril of disappearing altogether.

The Resurgence of Signwriting

Signage is designed to set you apart from your competition. Given all the problems that high street shops are facing at the moment trying to compete with online stores, branding has become increasingly important. Pubs, bars and restaurants also have to work a lot harder to draw customers in.

Over the last couple of years, hand painted signs have started to make a resurgence. Companies that want to add something different to their brands are looking for individuality rather than the conformity you often get with digital designs. In other words, businesses are keen to say they have something different on offer.

We’re also a lot more interested in craft and the effort it takes to produce signage like this. In a world that can be overrun by neon signs and bold block lettering, there’s something elegant about a handwritten sign, whether it’s on a wall or decorating a window.

A lot of this may have something to do with our increasing consciousness of how mass production is damaging our planet – we’re all looking to recycle, cut our carbon emissions and embrace older, traditional ways of doing things rather than being overrun by technology.

For businesses that understand signage is vital to creating a solid, engageable brand, finding ways to stand out from the crowd has never been so important. Whether the resurgence in professional signwriting will continue or not remains to be seen. But, for the moment, it’s certainly something your business should be considering if you want to add value to your current brand message.

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