Gears turn, machines come alive and ink splatters over metal, making the same sign over and over again — do not park here, street sweeping, please clean after your dog… all entirely uniform and wonderful in its own way, but still lacking something. What is it lacking? You don’t really get a good feel for it until you find yourself walking down the street and see a wooden sign nailed to a street pole with a simply painted dog, a hand behind it with a broom pan and three words — “Please clean up!” The grammarian in you aches to find the creator of the sign to point out the obvious prepositional phrase issue but you are warmed by the very sight of the sign.
At least I certainly find myself feeling this way every time I walk down the road and find myself looking at a handmade sign warning me not to allow dogs to relieve themselves on local trees. The thing lacking from the machine reproduced signs is the soul of the creation of the sign. When a person puts up a piece of wood on a stand and skillfully paints a sign onto it, some of that person is invested into the art through every stroke of the brush. Every deliberate movement, one by one, adds up to make a beautiful sign.
What’s really interesting about these hand made signs is that they are nearly all anonymously done and posted. The artists who make the sign just want to get the message out and don’t care a whit for recognition — the message being conveyed is important above all else.
I suppose the same could be said in a way for the person who puts in the time and devotion to design a sign that is ultimately printed by machine but to me there is always just a little more energy that comes out of a hand made sign, so much more so than you will ever see out of a printed sign. I can’t imagine that anyone has ever taken an exit off a freeway and then remarked at how beautiful the sign was that indicated the upcoming exit.
The next time you take a stroll down the street, see if you can spot any beautiful hand made signs — and let us know!