Saturday, February 2, 2008


Hi, I have a strong affection for a particular sort of signage, and have had this affection for some time. Well, might as well start a blog about it, eh?

The signage that I am fond of employs the use of what some might call negative space.

I am particularly fond of signs at night that use the absence of light to convey information. These signs have the following properties:

A) A source of illumination
B) Some conveyance of information that is made visible by subtracting from that source of illumination

Now, I realize that backlit signs are usually translucent pieces of plastic, portions of which covered by colors which partially or completely block the light, and in doing so make images/text visible. The black letters on a movie marquee are visible because the bright white light of their background is obscured. These two kinds of signs are using negative space, but not in a way I find aesthetically pleasing.

I am interested in a particular kind of sign. Perhaps the concept in my head is a little slippery, but I'll try my best to outline it. My idea of a good negative space sign consists of a source of illumination, where the subtraction of the illumination is accomplished by a substantive physical object that is distinct from the illumination source.

So, backlit signs don't fall into this category -- the letters and pictures on the translucent plastic are too tightly coupled with the light source.

And marquee letters don't fall into this category, either -- the letters are not a physical object of any weight.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.


Click pics for larger images

The letters of the Brookfield Public Library are metal. It's the white light behind them that makes the sign visible at night. I would have gotten the word "Library" in the picture as well, but the lights behind the word were not working.

Note the icicles hanging on the "B" and the "L" in the closeup picture. If the letters look a little odd to you, there is snow on the top of some of them.


So, here's what I would like to do. I'd like to slowly collect images of signs of this type, and I would like you to help me.

Subsequent posts on this blog will contain the following:

1) Photograph of a negative space sign
2) Location and date where the photograph was taken
3) Photographer attribution

So, the above photos would be:

Brookfield Public Library
3609 Grand Boulevard
Brookfield, IL 60513
Photographed on 02/01/2008 by Splotchy

I would love to get pictures you have taken of these kinds of signs, but I don't want any images taken from the web -- please, just send me pictures you have taken yourself.

Thanks, and I hope to see some neat signage in the near future!

Stay Negative,



Diamond Dave Diggler said...

Don't give up!!

Oh wait... I'll see what I can do in this venture. You are a prolific blogger and I appreciate you blogging prowess.

See I even used the word BLOG!

I have to ask though... Do you think there are really that many of this type of sign? You've seen more urban landscapes than me, I'll take your word for it. Of course I have never specifically looked for this type either. Maybe it's always been there and today I will walk out and see a whole new world.


Splotchy said...

CTC, thanks for your encouragement :).

I honestly don't know how many of these kinds of signs there are out there. I have four photos ready to go, and they are all just businesses I see on the train ride home.

I'm hoping there are a lot more, but I really have no idea.