On a sunny bank holiday weekend, myself and design director Vini, adventured to London Fields to take part in a sign painting workshop. The workshop was run by Better Letters with Mike Meyer and Ghost Signs Tour founder Sam Roberts.
As designers we spend so much time creating typography on Macs that we forget the importance of crafting letterforms on paper. Sign painting was once the visual art of its time, essential in the world of advertising and branding. Mike Meyer grew up in Mazeppa, Minnesota learning this trade, practicing lettering on toy cars trying to replicate the cars he would see at car races and since then has become a master of the trade. He has also seen it slowly die out with the introduction of digital and vinyl printing creating a more affordable, quicker turn-around, but often soulless alternative.
There is now only one school in America teaching sign painting and there are currently none in the UK. If someone wants to learn this trade now, they have to teach themselves. Luckily, Mike is so passionate to share his knowledge and teach everything he knows to the next generation. He travels the world with Better Letters hosting workshops teaching the next wave of sign painters. As one of the best sign painters in the world, it was a real privilege to be introduced to this wonderful craft by him.
We started the workshop by learning to draw out Gothic letterforms with good ol’ fashioned pencil and paper. Something that seems simple at first, but actually quite tricky is to kern by eye when you’re plotting out words letter by letter. Once we had mastered our letterforms, it was onto the fun part – painting. We were taught all about the tools to use and how to palette up your brushes properly. Mike taught us a range of ways to draw our strokes – either using a mahl stick or resting your arm or finger along the surface.
We then slowly started to create some (wonky!) words. On day 2, we were introduced to casual and script letterforms. Mike makes it look so effortless as he shows you what to do. He was so attentive with all the students and would come to your board and create a masterpiece of your name. However, this was the best way to learn – to just watch and appreciate how he does it.
If you’re a designer, I throughly recommend taking part in one of his workshops as the knowledge you will come out with is priceless.
Blog written by Beth.