A ghost sign is an old hand-painted advertising sign that has been preserved on a building for a long period of time. They symbolise echoes of the past, a tangible piece of history that adds to the character of a building and a place. Implemented before global brands emerged, ghost signs provide an insight into local communities – its history and its people – while continuing to resonate with the current urban landscape.
These now anachronistic adverts were the work of skilled sign writers who would scale walls on ladders, trestles and other precarious devices. They speak of an era that valued craftsmanship, art and a burgeoning public memory… as well as a complete disregard for health and safety regulations!
The current mood of ‘looking up’ has sparked an increasing interest in ghost signs. People are ever more inclined to observe what’s around them in order to develop a stronger connection to a specific place. Ghost signs are elusive and indistinct; they spark a nostalgia for a time gone by juxtaposed alongside the ever changing modern world.
We held an in-house competition between our London and Midlands studio to see who could source the best ghost sign from the varied locations our designers and developers live in.
They did not disappoint and we’ve selected our favourites . Although there was a clear winner – our Office Manager took her homework to Cuba and snapped this amazing sign!
Perhaps it is ironic that there are now websites and Instagram pages dedicated to ghost signs – perhaps this defeats their point. Instead, next time you’re meandering the streets of your city remember to look up, keep your eye out for them – they tell stories without speaking, you just need to look to listen.