Thursday, August 27, 2009

Inspiration | Guatemalan Signage

Each time I travel to a foreign land, I find myself fascinated by the ways in which other societies visually communicate information. I just spent a week in Guatemala and upon arriving, I immediately noticed that a huge majority of the signage, advertising, even traffic signs, are hand-painted. Almost every tienda is "sponsored" by one of the 3 large mobile phone companies, the entirety of their facades washed in bright blue, neon green, or white with red accents, the mobile company's logos and advertising messages emblazoned across the bright ground in enormous and near-perfect hand-brushed lettering. In a society where literacy is relatively low, many shops embellish their storefronts with hand-painted renderings of their popular offerings; in Monjas, a small town, the local hardware store has a large image of a wheelbarrow, concrete blocks and bags of cement—the building materials used to construct, by hand, nearly every home and shop. Real estate agents' and car dealers' storefronts feature carefully painted versions of the logos of world-class airlines and auto brands. Upon close inspection, one can see the rough pencil lines that were first transcribed onto the rough concrete surfaces, the imperfections in the letters where a painter has run out of room and squeezed the letters just a bit, simplified a detailed logo just a touch, or missed a letter or two. One can be sure that the painters are unlikely to have visited the places or spoken the languages whose words and icons they so dutifully reproduce again and again. These small flaws, the texture, the artists' hands, and the weathering, chipping and fading of the surface, make each sign or storefront one-of-a-kind, a permanent and unique piece of the visual landscape of the place, and so much richer than our vinyl banners and rotating billboards and light-up signs, changed each week to highlight the newest sale or the latest company rebrand.

For more images, see here.

For more images, see here.

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