4 Oct 2017

‘London Sign by Sign’ by Marco Bazelmans

Back in May, Marco Bazelmans contacted me about a project he was working on as part of his communication design studies in Aachen, Germany. The brief was to create a guide of some sort, and he had selected signwriting as his theme. In particular, he had honed in on the idea of portraying signwriting, both old and new, in London.

Spread from guide showing Pater & Co. ghost sign in the City of London

The first thing he had to decide was what format the guide would take.

I decided to go with a book and a little folding magazine that would come out every three months with interviews, new signs around London – marked on a big map inside – and news on upcoming workshops and events like the next Letterheads.

Victorian glass work in what is now Dirty Bones on Bethnal Green Road

Next was a design phase.

The design decisions included what the layout would look and feel like, how content would be presented, and so on… This evolved and was refined every week until it was ready and set. During that time I visited London and took lots of pictures along the three routes I had planned beforehand.

G. Bailey & Sons, Barbon Close, London WC1

He then took things further than necessary with contextual research about the featured signs.

In the end I had about 950 photos of roughly 95 different signs, of which 41 made it into the book. I could have filled most of the book with blind text or even blank pages as it only needed to be a concept, but I decided to develop it into an actual book and researched all of the selected signs to write an accompanying text.

Interview with London signwriter Jack Hollands

The book took things further and included interviews with London signwriters, which supported the featuring on contemporary as well as historic signage in the content and on the routes.

The final book has six main sections: Tour 1 around the midwest of the city (see below), Tour 2 in the centre of town, Tour 3 in the Eastern part, Interviews with a handful of Londoner Signwrtiters, “Resources” (a collection of signwriting knowledge), and a section called “Essays” with writing about English Signwriting and London history.

One of the planned routes, predominantly through Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia, Marylebone and Bloomsbury
Essays section in London Sign by Sign
Work by Ged Palmer for Isambard’s Cycles in Shoreditch

I have ordered myself a copy of the final concept publication which I look forward to reading. As it stands the book isn’t available generally, but I’ll post here or in the comments below if this changes. Thank you Marco for involving me.

London Sign by Sign by Marco Bazelmans

Subscribe to my newsletter for news, events and projects from the world of ghost signs. I curate the newsletter roughly monthly and welcome submissions.