Signs should communicate quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Traffic signs are standardized, eliminating all guesswork, allowing motorists to glean the required information in as little time as possible, so they can focus on the road. Images further this concept and, when executed properly, relay more information in a fraction of the time. For example, it takes longer to describe “four oily gents in loincloths and leather with chains hanging in an otherwise drab environment” than it does to simply show you a photo. Mind, it would take less time still, to have just said it was a picture of Manowar, but indulge us, folks.
There still seems to be a lack of understanding on behalf of art directors between the point of print ads and outdoor ads. Print ads are generally what you’d find in a magazine. Outdoor ads are what you’d see on a billboard or tram shelter. In the case of subway posters fixed to the girders between platforms, there is often so much type, at such a small size, that its inclusion is pointless because it can’t be read. Advertisers should be aware of where the art is going to be placed and have a version for publications and another stripped version for applications where viewers will necessarily be reading from a distance. The current Globe and Mail campaign is one of the worst offenders. With billboards set up for motorists, the ads are so heavy on copy, they’re useless, as no particular aspect stands out, and collectively, it’s too much to read when driving.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand. A short walk up Roncesvalles brings you to Piast Travel & Forwarding. Piast sports some interesting custom type, and while it’s perhaps not the most elegant sign on the strip, it’s at least legible. The Piast wordmark is, in fact, so distinct, you won’t find a comparable example anywhere.
…That is, until you walk two blocks north to Krak Restaurant. The two examples might not be the Chang and Eng of typedom, but their inherent similarities are obvious.
And then there’s this. For years, Torontoist has been trying to decode this mysterious nugget, at the same time, not wanting to labour over it too long, for it seems knowing what it says would spoil the surprise. If you know where you’re going and you’re looking for some Polish pop, you’ll end up here, regardless. But imagine you’re looking for an album for a friend and you don’t have the address to this place. Or if English wasn’t your first language. Or Polish. Or whatever language this sign is written in (the capricious language of music, apparently). The Novum Moul…t…… sign is one of those curiosities we hope never goes away. We’re just thankful it’s not a road sign.
Photographs by Jake Bauming