Archive for the ‘Contrasts’ Category

Fluffy Tails

February 6, 2014

Fluffy Tails

This sign bets it all on going bold… and succeeds.

If the poodle silhouette were simplified it would become a pictogram, but as it stands it has too much detail to be one.

There’s a pleasing contrast here between refined script and forceful image. Overall this is a very effective sign.


FLEA Merch

August 18, 2012

FLEA Merch

I recently attended the Junction Flea for the first time. I discovered that it’s not only a great place for vintage finds, it’s also a smorgasbord of original signs.

Here’s one celebrating the event. The word “FLEA” takes slab serifs to an almost comical extreme and the curling script of “Merch” is an irresistible contrast.

The poster (available for $20) has a retro feel that’s in perfect keeping with the spirit of the event.

Amid the merchandise for sale I spotted wooden printing blocks and other letters retired from duty, all begging for new uses.

The next Junction Flea is on September 9.

Skyline Restaurant

June 16, 2012

Skyline Restaurant

This Parkdale diner’s sign has a lot going for it: neon, primary colours, an evocative name, contrast between casual script and bold caps…

And that arrow: it gives you a friendly nudge if you’re feeling hungry and not sure where to eat.

If it’s ancient (and it likely is), it’s no doubt been refurbished. It has a teenager’s zip and the vintage style of someone who’s been around for decades.

In short, this sign captivates me. I want to buy it a burger and a Coke and listen to its stories.

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Furniture Emporium

April 19, 2012

Furniture Emporium

I noticed this truck while sitting in a cafe and dashed outside to take pictures. The design is so exuberant and over-the-top that I almost want to order furniture from this store, just so the truck will show up.

I like the way the business name doesn’t take centre stage but leaves most of the space to those wild, gyrating forms. The contrast is powerful: well-behaved lettering in black, white and grey next to colour-saturated mayhem.

Furniture Emporium Detail

Those letters stand at the edge of a crowded dance floor and may be on the verge of joining in.

Furniture Emporium Detail

What do you imagine this store’s furniture looks like?


March 28, 2012


I noticed this poster in the window of Type Books recently, the shop I wrote about in January because of its sensational viral video. The multi-coloured mismatched type is attention-grabbing and the flags promising music and merriment add to the festive tone.

The poster trumpets an event to raise money for writer Derek McCormack, who will be undergoing treatment for cancer. There will also be a fundraising art sale beginning April 1 at 12:00 noon ET, which you can learn about at

It’s great to feel a blast of graphic energy with such good intentions behind it. By the way, the poster is available as a printable pdf.


February 7, 2012


This sign appeals to me for two reasons. One is the contrast between sleek letters and rough wood. It’s a striking juxtaposition that makes me curious about the world inside this restaurant.

The other reason is a detail, the unusual shape inside the “o”. You could read it as a cross section of a piece of macaroni. Or a piece of bread presented on a large white plate. What do you see?

It’s amazing how effective a variation can be in making a sign memorable.

Go-Go Gas Bar

June 7, 2011

Go-Go Gas Bar

This is one of those signs that can get caught in your brain like a pop song. Maybe it’s the contrast between the manic energy of “Go-Go” and the angular seriousness of “Gas Bar.” Or is it the network of cracks, adding an anxious undertone to the sign’s graphic punch?

This sign reminds me of the curious images in David Lynch movies: it offers an innocuous first impression, combined with something foreboding.


May 6, 2011


Usually I photograph outdoor signs, but here’s an indoor one that caught my eye. You may have noticed I have a strange affection for signs with mismatched letters, and this one is particularly endearing. Even though it’s composed of an assortment of typefaces it has an orderliness to it.

Or maybe not. That orange “M” is a bit of an attention hog. I get the sense that the “C’ is secretly annoyed by its ostentatiousness but is pretending not to care, attempting a stoic indifference. It has its place at the front of the word, so why worry?

Happy Bridal Boutique Inc.

April 3, 2011

Happy Bridal Boutique Inc

Encountering a bilingual sign is hardly surprising in a diverse city like Toronto. For someone who only speaks one of the languages, however, it can be like watching a subtitled movie. One can be left with the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps the translation isn’t entirely accurate.

I have to admit that here I’m less interested in the sign’s words than in the illustration of the happy bride. I love the hasty brushwork, the sense that this was dashed off in seconds. Her smile verges on a self-satisfied smirk. And check out those blushing cheeks!

Happy Bridal Boutique Inc 2

Aquila Live Music

March 24, 2011

Aquila Live Music

I spotted this sign in The Junction recently. The multicoloured letters have a pulsating energy that you can almost hear. I’m reminded of the classic album covers of Blue Note Records, their graphic visualizing of jazz.

There are so many things to enjoy here: the way the “I” in “BOHEMIAN” is the brightest letter of all, the fact that the “U” in “THUR” is actually an “O” with the top chunk blacked out, and of course the mysterious blank that follows “SAT”…

How would you interpret that?