Every year, City Beat magazine conducts a ‘Best of Cincinnati’ survey of all things Cincinnati, ‘Celebrating the best people, places and businesses and cool stuff from the past year.’ This year, signs were recognized in three different staff picks, reflecting their influence on art, history, and commerce:
1. BEST PLACE TO LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF GOOGIE SIGNS
American Sign Museum, a self-proclaimed “Main Street Wonderland” and a longstanding vision of its creator Tod Swormstedt, has been trying for years to get out of its limited space inside Walnut Hills’ Essex Street Studios and into a place better able to show off its amazing collection of commercial signage (especially neon). Last summer, the American Sign Museum moved to a much bigger location in Camp Washington to display their bygone era signage, including a few from the Googie period (one example is the world-renowned “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign). Googie architecture was rampant in SoCal in the ’40s-’60s and was heavily influenced by the Space Age; in order to appreciate Googie’s grandeur, visit the museum to see their giant, rotating Satellite Shopland orb that they had shipped from a demolished shopping center in Anaheim, Calif.
2. BEST WAY TO CATCH A GLIMPSE OF MERCHANTS PAST
“Ghost signs” are the barely visible advertisements, hand-painted on the side of buildings, that are slowly being worn away by the sands of time — and they have their own cult following. Of the vanishing historical images still lingering in Cincinnati, everybody seems to have a favorite: the Liberty Tire sign at the corner of Spring Grove Avenue; the Little Kings advertisement on Central Parkway; the Dennison Hotel marquee on Main Street. Ghost sign sleuths can visit blogs of local enthusiasts like Bill Rinehart, the eyes and ears behind The Writing on the Walls at fadedadart.blogspot.com, and co-owner of design studio VisuaLingual, Maya Drozdz, who documents ghost signs nationwide on her blog visualingual.wordpress.com, to find their favorites and get a little dose of history.
3. BEST (CO)SIGNS OF THE TIMES
All these new trendy boutiques and foodie-dens need signs — cool signs. You know, signs that are interesting shapes and have impeccably designed contours and sacred frickin’ geometry. This past year, CoSign initiated a competition of sorts, calling artists and businesses in Northside to submit proposals for new signage. The revitalizing effort called on the expertise of fabricators and experts at a Rapid Prototyping Blitz, which resulted in many of the new signs you see today. Where should they go next? That’s up to you, people. Like them on Facebook or go to cosigncincy.com to get involved.[Note: read about CoSign and the American Sign Museum’s involvement here. Plans for Cosign II are in the works. Stay tuned.]
We are thrilled by the ever-growing interest in signs and their role in culture and commerce. Thanks, City Beat, for sharing our passion!