Signs are everywhere. Whether directing travelers or advertising new products, urban signage has become a fact of modern life. We were thus intrigued when we found a recent book taking up the study of such things.
Unfortunately, Signs: Lettering in the Environment, while attempting some semblance of a scholarly study, only sufficiently covers two main areas of signage: directive road signs and signs that identify buildings. And while there are a preponderance of signs within both categories, we had hoped for much broader coverage of things like outdoor advertising, more non-institutional signage, perhaps neon signs and all the other signs in the environment that are firmly ensconced all around the world.
Taking them at their premise, which is well defined in their introductory notes, Baines and Dixon (who have written on similar subjects before) approach their subject with a somewhat clinical view, describing and illustrating both road and architectural signs through the ages. Distinctions are clarified between type (that which allows typographic automation) and lettering (done on command for customized situations) as well as how things like font selection, cap and lower case decisions, readability studies and type accoutrements (arrows, blank space, layout and placement) effect the over all decision making when it comes to formatting signage.
The book is divided roughly into the two aforementioned parts (road signs and buildings - with a few additional field study examples thrown in at the end) and each is presented with a historical view including the identification of signs which no longer exist. More like a term paper than an art book, `Signs' does quite a good job given it's self-imposed parameters. We had just hoped for more categories of signs given their omnipresent state in the modern world. Perhaps next time.