CoSign Project Finishes on a High Note

5 December
Participating business owners unveiled their new signs on Black Friday - Northside's Shop Local Day

A year ago, Eric Avner of Cincinnati’s Haile Foundation challenged American Sign Museum founder and curator, Tod Swormstedt, to design a project that would (1) help local businesses, (2) enhance the built environment within Cincinnati, and (3) increase local visibility of the soon-to-open-in-its-new-home American Sign Museum.

Tod was ready: “I have this bias that artists who design signs may do beautiful work, and business owners may understand the importance of a good sign, but neither necessarily understand what makes for a good sign. Unless they factor in the engineering, purpose, and visual considerations necessary for installing and maintaining a sign and for informing and enticing potential customers, the most beautiful sign in the world won’t get the job done. My goal was to create a project that would educate business owners and artists and produce tangible results in the form of new signage for local business districts. It’s not only my personal passion, but the mission of the American Sign Museum. Imagine my delight when Eric agreed with the idea!”

That idea was submitted to ArtPlace in the hopes of receiving grant money for three Cincinnati neighborhoods. When the response came back to “try again next year,” Avner and the Haile Foundation stepped up and funded a pilot project for one neighborhood: Northside.  The plan:

  • invite local businesses, artists and fabricators to participate in ‘Good Signage 101’ workshops
  • have the artists submit designs
  • select 10 businesses who would choose their winning design
  • have fabricators install the signs
  • unveil the signs on Black Friday as part of a shop local event

Simple, right? All that was needed was a marketing and communications plan, support of the Northside business community, support of the Cincinnati zoning commission, specifications that would allow for fast tracking permits, content for the workshops, caterers etc. for the collaborative meetings, and more. Oh, and simultaneously manage similar details for the grand opening and beyond of the American Sign Museum’s new home!

Teams of business owners, artists, and fabricators finalize designs for submission to the review panel


CoSign signs on display at the museum before being installed at their forever homes.

Long story short – it worked! At 0-dark-thirty the morning of Black Friday, the unveiling of not ten, but eleven, new signs now gracing the Northside business district began, bringing onlookers, street performers – and customers! – to the community for a celebration of local talent and cooperation.

Thanks to everyone who made it possible. We are proud to have been part of such a valuable and well-executed project. We look forward to many more such collaborations in the community.  In the meantime, enjoy some images of CoSign 2012.  Click on VisuaLinqual’s post to see each sign and the artist and fabrictor who created it.

Each business owner had the honor of unveiling his/her sign from on high.
Photo courtesy Adam Nelson

Cosign Unveiling captured by

The CoSign Project captured by

What’s next?  Well, we’re ‘trying again next year’ and hopefully this pilot project will soon roll out to other Cincinnati communities and beyond.

0 Responses to "CoSign Project Finishes on a High Note"

  1. […] to get involved. [Note: read about CoSign and the American Sign Museum's involvement here.  Plans for Cosign II are in the works. Stay […]

  2. […] We launched CoSign, a pilot project bringing together local businesses, artists, and fabricators to bring new signage to one Cincinnati community. […]

  3. CoSign II! says:

    […] Last year, some very motivated community leaders, business owners, artists, fabricators, and financial backers came together to enhance a Cincinnati neighborhood’s business district with new signage. In the process, museum staff– most notably founder Tod Swormstedt– played a major role in educating these folks on the value of good signage, design, and the process of permitting, fabricating, installing, and celebrating signs. The project,  called CoSign, culminated with an unveiling and celebration of eleven new signs in the neighborhood of Northside, Cincinnati on Black Friday. See the signs and read about it here. […]

  4. […] CoSign designed and installed a critical mass of new business signage in a district experiencing significant redevelopment and reinvestment – Northside – a Greater Cincinnati neighborhood business district.  The campaign was coordinated through the leadership and expertise of the American Sign Museum. The new new business signage was unveiled in a public ceremony on Black Friday in 2012, kicking off an historic shopping season on November 23rd. The result of the CoSign project in its debut year enhanced economic activity by pairing artists, small businesses, and professional sign fabricators to design and install unique handcrafted signage for local retailers; and in the process, create an infrastructure to train the next generation of local signmakers. Story:  CoSign Project Big Finish […]

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