sign language: how bold design bolsters neighborhoods.

Bruce Farkas is wearing a big smile. The owner of Signature Sign just mounted a giant grilled cheese sandwich — complete with gooey cheese, massive slabs of bread, and cartoon-like crossbones — above the new Melt Bar & Grilled restaurant in Cleveland Heights.

“This was a fun one to make,” Farkas admits. “It has a big impact from the street.”

The brash new sign does more than make a person crave a grilled cheese sandwich; it boldly conveys Melt’s distinctive brand while announcing that something big is happening inside.

“We wanted our sign to breathe new life into that corner — to establish it as an up-and-coming district,” says Melt owner Matt Fish. “The location was a gamble. The building had been run-down and empty for years. We wanted to get noticed.”

As long as there have been peddlers there have been commercial signs. Ancient Egyptians used signs and symbols to advertise wares that couldn’t be seen from the street. British shopkeepers marketed their goods to the illiterate masses using hand-painted pictures.

In the early 20th century, as the U.S. entered the era of mass marketing, sign makers began to design more artistic creations. As residents relocated to the suburbs, the sign makers followed, increasingly focusing their attentions on shopping malls. These days, however, as current trends shift back downtown, a new era of creative sign making is adding visual appeal to the urban landscape.

“Today’s business owners are more interested in pushing the envelope than they were 10 years ago, especially in cities,” says Farkas, who began his career as a sign painter. His company, Signature Sign, is one of five companies in the Cleveland area that fabricates large-scale signs. Farkas launched his business almost 25 years ago and today employs 15 people.

Dramatic signage not only perks up a neighborhood visually, it makes cities more competitive by helping independent retailers stand out against national chains.

Read the complete article, published in Fresh Water Cleveland, by clicking here.

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