Over the years I have had the good fortune to spend many summer days at various beach communities throughout North America. I’ve splashed in countless lakes across Canada; from Lake Muskoka, to Lake Winnipeg, to Sylvan Lake. I’ve lounged on beaches up and down the Pacific Coast; from San Diego, to Pacific City, to Tofino. I’ve strolled along the Coney Island Boardwalk, and Seaside’s Promenade. One thing that impressed me about all these waterside communities is their common graphic design aesthetic. Maybe it is with nostalgia that I look back on all those lazy summer days and ice-cream induced comas, but there is a very rich sense of innocents and honesty about the graphic language utilized within those neighbourhoods. The tone and style of the roadside visuals shift the further you move away from the city, and take on a different voice the closer you get to the water. The signage that designates the regions of these small communities is often imperfect and unpretentious (sometimes even dilapidated). However, that isn’t to say that effort and attention hasn’t been put into making the visual messages communicate. Honestly, if the pieces are too “good”, pristine, or refined, they wouldn’t work. The charm would be lost. It is almost as if the inhabitants of these communities are compelled to “brand” their summer properties and family run businesses, to let others know that they belong there. The typographic efforts are a joy to behold, and the variety of materials used to house these messages are a refreshing change from the vinyl and plastic found in common contemporary signage.
Unfortunately, it looks as if more and more of the imaginative signs that I appreciate in these communities are being replaced by the easier, uninspired plastic and vinyl that I’m not a big fan of. Not that plastic and vinyl letters don’t have their place, it just feels like much of the personality is lost when those elements are introduced to these character rich communities. Next time you are off the beaten path, and in a community near a large body of water, look around at the graphics on display… chances are you’ll get that “beach town” feeling before you even see the water.
Click on the "read more" link below to enjoy a few images from my collection of signs that display beach vernacular. Maybe they will help warm you up on this chilly winter day.