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Attention all newbies

Discussion in 'Newbie Forum' started by SignManiac, Nov 10, 2009.

  1. SignManiac

    SignManiac Major Contributor

    Mar 25, 2006
    Mars Florida
    Lately there have been many post proudly showing your work and then you get upset when the more experienced veterans here try to help you with suggestions. Instead, you get your feelings hurt because not everyone believes your work to be as good as you think it is. You come here seeking praise but when you hear the truth, you think we're all being mean on purpose.

    The fact is, the majority of people in the sign industry today have no proper education with regards to design and layout. You have not been trained or taught the art of graphic/sign design that is necessary if you are to be in the sign business. Just because you can execute and stick letters on a board does not make you a talented designer or artist. Even if you are not a natural artist, it is still possible to become a great sign designer if you take the necessary steps to learn the basics.

    If you are really here to learn then you need to start with the fundamentals and most important of all, learn to take constructive criticism without getting you panties all wadded up.

    Let me tell you a little story. Thirty years ago I was going on my sixth year in business being entirely self taught. Everything was hand lettered then because there was no such thing as a computer. Also there was no such thing back then like Signs 101 where information was offered among your competitors and peers. You have no idea how lucky you are that these professionals are taking time out of their busy day to offer the help they do. All the knowledge back when I started was a closely guarded secret. Hell most competitor shops would not allow you inside their buildings for fear that you might see what they were doing. It was damn near impossible to teach yourself but it could be done as I proved it myself.

    One day I was off to Riverhead N.Y. a town about fifty miles from where I lived and I thought I would stop and visit a local sign shop of I guy I had run into one day.

    His work was some of the best I had ever seen. He had a real sign shop with employees, tools, showroom, the real deal. I brought my portfolio along and wanted his opinion of my work. He was busy at the time but told me to show it to his young hot shot design guy in the next room.

    Well this self proclaimed design god proceeded to rip me a new *** and told me I might as well quit and find another job. He said that unless I worked for another sign company I could never learn how to properly design and make signs.

    My guts felt like they were ripped right out of me. My mouth hit the floor and I was flooded with emotions I'd never known before. I was devastated and crushed. I left his shop and got back in my car. My wife at the time took one look at me and said what's wrong? I told her what Jimmy Hotshot as said and that I was going to give up and enlist in the military.

    She was silent a moment and then said to me, if Jimmy Hotshot is so damn good, why is he working for somebody else? She said to me, for the past six years you have done really well in the sign business and provided for your family all of those years. Why would you want to give up something you love doing so much?

    Well after looking at it that way, I decided being the stubborn ***** that I can be, that I was going to prove that know it all wrong. From that moment on I became obsessed with being the best damn sign maker I could.

    I read and studied every article in every sign mag, tried every new technique I could learn and most important of all, I never, never could be satisfied with any of my finished signs. Even when they were done and gone I would critique and analyze every single one trying to find ways of improving my work.

    To this very day, thirty six years later after picking up that first brush, I'm still never satisfied that my work is good enough. Every once in a while I get a critique or suggestion from somebody and it may sting a little but, over the years I have developed elephant hide and take it as a way to continue improving.

    The one thing that disturbs me most is the planetary infliction of visual pollution that has ruined our communities. I'm all for laws that will punish the graphically challenged because it has gotten that bad.

    So if you aren't pissing and moaning by this post then I suggest you focus your education on design and layout. For those of you in the business ten years or more and never heard of Mike Stevens book "The art of eye appeal" I suggest you pony of a few bucks and invest in your future.

    Good design isn't just a tool, its the key to your financial success as well. When you can design with the best of them, you can command premium prices and who the hell here doesn't want to get top dollar for your talent and skill?

    Something to think about....
    • Like Like x 21
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. JR's

    JR's Very Active Member

    Sep 6, 2007
    swansea Ma 02777
    • Like Like x 2
  3. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    Bob, you write really well. Nice post.
  4. mark in tx

    mark in tx Very Active Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Harker Heights, Texas
  5. J Hill Designs

    J Hill Designs Major Contributor

    Sep 24, 2004
    :goodpost: although the book is "Mastering Layout: Mike Stevens on the art of eye appeal"

  6. SignManiac

    SignManiac Major Contributor

    Mar 25, 2006
    Mars Florida
    Good catch^^^^ Been twenty years since I read it.
  7. weaselboogie

    weaselboogie Very Active Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Great post!

    I think everyone has a similar humbling experience (at least they should have ). Mine was art school... the amount of talent that surrounded me was staggering and has taught me to be my harshest critic.
  8. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

    Apr 17, 2003
    Valle Vista
    Old ****.... :Big Laugh
  9. Arlo Kalon 2.0

    Arlo Kalon 2.0 Very Active Member

    Oct 21, 2004
    Reno, TX
    I too started out in the days of handlettering before computers. I was fortunate enough in my persistence and hero worship of sign painters to get to be trained by three of the best. Back then, sweeping the floor was considered an integral part of your training. Often, the most time spent with a brush in hand was filling in on larger letters the master painter cut in the lines for you on. I'll never forget when the day finally came that I git handed my first work order to entirely do on my own, I was standing and beaming beside my creation, ready for the praise of the master. His comment was "that looks like fifty cents worth of dog ****". That is what I often want to tell newbies who post their work on here. Unfortunately, we all know where that would lead. But it's a truth - one that surely hurts as it did when I heard it froma guy I deeply admired. But it didn't stop me. I took it when he made me clean the layout off and start over from his layout. I learned why his worked and mine didn't. I took it to heart he only wanted me to produce the best going out of his shop. It's an attitude far too lacking in any of the current crop of wannabes to this profession. I share your observation about the visual pollution many of them are producing. If only they'd be more willing to actually learn.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. B Snyder

    B Snyder Very Active Member

    Jan 25, 2004
    Can I nominate this post become a "sticky?"
  11. Flame

    Flame Major Contributor

    Apr 26, 2006
    Damn, I don't always agree with you and your mentality but that was an excellent post. :notworthy:
  12. fisheye48

    fisheye48 Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    as a new guy i welcome all feedback both good and bad...the bad only makes me wanna work harder and do better...i learn something everyday from this site and very thankful for it
  13. gnemmas

    gnemmas Active Member

    Nov 7, 2006
    I too was self taught, by reading and imitating the works of others. My wife would be shopping, I would be studying all the signs in the mall, be it store front lit signs, window posters, ceiling hangers, rack top signs, etc.

    I would never call myself a designer. Just a layout person or a sign mechanic. I strive on basic regulatory, promotional signage. No talent required there. I promise my clients that their massage will be conveyed loud and clear to their target audience. And have many loyal followers for 23 years. I am running sign business now, still not an designer.

    Points being, there are different area of sign field that not all need to be top notch designers. There are plenty of room for newbies to hone your skills, learning by doing. When looked at pictures of works I did years ago with Gerber 4b, does feel like wow, I got paid for that? Still, it must worked for them, otherwise they wouldn't come back.

    Keep on signing!
  14. Graphics2u

    Graphics2u Very Active Member

    Jan 31, 2007
    I don't want anyone to see my massage! :omg: :Big Laugh

    Good point though!
  15. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

    Jun 24, 2003
    I would like to point out that.

    Signmaniac's router table room is bigger than most shops.
    He buys 10 mil coro by the semi truck load.
    His printer room and lam and lay out room is bigger than most shops.
    His paint work is glass smooth.

    And, he has his own private seat at the local food shop that features some of the hottest and sweetest babes in the area that all love him for his kindness and generosity. And he has a fine menagerie of really cool snakes.
  16. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

    Apr 17, 2003
    Valle Vista
    Gnemmas offers massage and Signmaniac hangs out with hot babes, I have read "Mastering Layout" and it never mentioned any of this. I must be doing something wrong or got the wrong edition!... :omg:
  17. DOGraphics

    DOGraphics Very Active Member

    Aug 9, 2007
    I wish you all would quit picking on me.
    j/k .......................................................... Good Points.

  18. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

    Sep 11, 2003
    Olympia, WA
    I had a full time business that went slow every summer. In the summer of 1971 I purchased a business opportunity deal to make vacuum formed magnetic signs. My experience amounted to a semester of print shop in junior high school and laying out my own brochures with an IBM Selectric typewriter and rub on ChartPak letters.

    In ten weeks I sold $20K worth of magnetic signs and was hooked on both the profits and the smiling, happy customers. But the ex-wifey demanded that I "stay with what I knew", so the equipment was liquidated that fall. 12 years later, minus the full time business and minus the ex-wifey, I launched my current business with the acquisition of a Gerber Signmaker III and never looked back.

    After 26 years, I have not failed to earn a profit in this business. Never learned to design ... just learned the programs and the fabrication. Every so often, I overreached in taking on work I should not have but mostly have done very well with what I can do well.

    While I was developing though, I would read all the trade magazines from cover to cover and I would bore my friends by constantly studying existing signs ... What do I like about this one? What do I not like about that one? How was that one made and how was it installed?

    I do not believe that you need to be an artist to be successful in sign making, although I have an immense respect for those possessing that skill set and aptitude. I do believe you need to have a healthy respect for good layout and design when you see it and do everything you can to emulate it in your work.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. lbumbaca

    lbumbaca Member

    Jun 12, 2006
    As a newbie well 3yr old one THANK YOU very nice and something for all newbies to think about GREAT
  20. Jillbeans

    Jillbeans Major Contributor

    Dec 24, 2003
    Butler, PA
    I didn't realize how bad my sign layouts sucked until I was in the biz about 9 years, I thought I was the shizzit.
    It took going to a Letterhead meet to see what I was doing wrong.
    I am always open to advice, and while I am not a designer by any means, I consider myself to be an OK sign maker.
    I always remember the sting of criticism far better than any praise I get.
    And I learn more from what I did wrong, and try to not repeat my errors.
    I try to offer advice to Newbies without being a total tw@t, but sometimes I get so frustrated.
    It's similar to teling someone they have broccoli in their teeth and them replying "but I like it like this!"
    Especially really basic stuff like stretching text, all-caps on a display alphabet etc.
    You'd think that everyone would like their work to get better with every job, but some people really do think it's just typing words into a machine and letting their printer puke them out.
    They don't "get it".
    Luckily, I think there are more Newbies who want to learn, if anything, just to shut up us old-timers. And that's good. So I will keep on pushing the Mike Stevens book, even if some people do not find it to be the be-all-end-all. It's really the only basic layout book I know which is readily available.

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