Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wheel Alignment Centre

January 22, 2012

Wheel Alignment Centre

I have a strong affection for hand-painted signs, probably because they’re a relief to the eye after so much time looking at digital type. Their small irregularities make them uniquely expressive, like human faces.

Here’s a sign on an auto body shop with letters carefully dispersed across garage door window panes. There’s something off though—check out the final syllable of “Alignment”. Suddenly the painting style becomes a little more, well, relaxed.

It reminds me of ambitious New Year’s resolutions made on January first that go somewhat awry by the end of the month.

What do you think the story is behind this misaligned “Alignment”?

Two tur-lte doves…

December 21, 2011

Two tur-lte doves...

Here’s a glimpse of Holt Renfrew’s current Christmas windows. As part of the extravaganza, you’ll find music and lyrics for The Twelve Days of Christmas.

There’s just one little problem. Somewhere along the way, a designer with a flair for creative spelling was involved. Or a lack of vigilance for typos.

Then again, perhaps it was intentional, an example of how you might sing the song when you’ve had one too many egg nogs.

Merry Christmas everyone!

You Look Great

December 12, 2011

You Look Great

Here’s a mailbox with a gift for flattery. I wonder if the person who lives here has a crush on the mailman. It’s certainly a more enjoyable message than “No Flyers Please.”

The letters have a metallic sheen, which is not quite evident in this photo. Even though they don’t offer a detailed reflection, they call to mind the act of looking in the mirror.

Maybe there’s something narcissistic going on here and the resident customized the mailbox to guarantee getting a daily compliment.

Cialengo Hair Design

November 6, 2011

Cialengo Hair Design

The collision of words and illustration gives this sign its graphic force. The partially rendered face is mysterious and the jagged diagonal mark along the right side makes it even more so, inviting you to imagine a large and complicated hairdo.

This sign has a retro flavour. It makes me think of sixties paperback covers and of movie posters designed by Saul Bass. I wonder if this salon has a flair for looks inspired by that era.

I like signs that reward attention and this one delivers. Check out the upper right hand corner—there’s a small Eiffel Tower that you may not have noticed. Perhaps the figure in the sign is daydreaming of Paris.


October 7, 2011


There’s something surreal about approaching a gigantic letter U. It’s a Sesame Street moment.

This letter stands near the sales centre for a new condo development called U Condominiums. The name seems to be a reference to the proximity to U of T, but it’s also a seductive call-out—”you”—to a potential buyer.

The reflective surface of this letter got me thinking about the self-regarding aspect of condo-buying, the desire to craft an ideal image of your life through your home. Stand in the right spot and you’ll see yourself mirrored, though with a bit of a funhouse effect.

Move to another spot and you’ll see the entrance to St. Basil’s Church reflected. So there’s a tension between two types of building, secular and sacred. A place that’s all about “U” and another, where you are asked to step beyond yourself.

L. Berson & Fils

September 24, 2011

L. Berson & Fils

One more sign from Montreal and then I’ll get back to focusing on Toronto. This is one you’ll see while walking along St. Laurent in the Plateau area.

It’s a business that makes gravestones—signs when you think about it, the most permanent kind.

The sign is in French and Hebrew and I’m assuming the Hebrew text also says “monuments”. The work “fils” seems to be patched on and I wonder if there’s a different word underneath. Maybe it’s just a repair.

I’m struck by the positioning. A gravestone pulls your gaze earthwards, but this sign lifts your gaze to the sky.

No Parking

July 13, 2011

No Parking

This is just a small excerpt from a huge mural in Kensington Market. What’s usually a stark prohibition is transformed into a B-movie extravaganza.

It makes all the other signs a driver faces in this city seem bereft of imagination, a wasteland of humdrum commands.

What if every sign in Toronto had this degree of graphic whimsy? Would we be more likely to obey instructions? Or would we be so busy grinning that we’d forget to take the orders seriously?


June 16, 2011


This sign takes the most primal question – why? – and pairs it with a drawing of a fallen ice cream cone. It evokes childhood loss – those small tragedies that at the time leave you heartbroken. The chalkboard only reinforces the sense of early lessons learned.

It may seem strange to advertise ice cream with an image of disappointment. But perhaps we’re also meant to recall the adult who stepped in and bought the replacement ice cream cone… and being the adult now, we’ll walk into the shop to regain that feeling of comfort and security.


March 15, 2011


This big red “Please…” just grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let you go. You’ll find it on an alleyway that runs alongside a church and at the far end you’ll see a basketball hoop with an unravelling net.

I love the way this sign throws in a Bible verse for support. This alleyway is all about the cleanliness-godliness connection and if you mess it up you’ll probably feel wicked afterwards.

The sign is working: the area was immaculate when I took the picture. No youth were taking advantage of the space though.



February 8, 2011


This sign has a slightly macabre edge, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like the way the name and the graphic are composed of the same casual strokes.

It hangs above a tequila bar on Ossington, and that skeletal bat must leave many wondering. As it turns out, there’s a connection: the long-nosed bat is responsible for pollinating agaves, whose juices are the source of tequila.

Reposado means “rested”, referring to the amount of time tequila is aged in oak casks. This bat looks like it’s resting for good—and at the same time it’s airborne, inviting us in.