Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Calgary Road Signs in the Making

Road signs are everywhere. But have you given much thought to how they’re made? Or the people who make them?

The Roads Sign Shop at the Spring Gardens Maintenance Garage, designs and manufacturers the great majority of The City’s signage. From stop signs and speed control signs to the massive information signs that direct traffic on the city’s major roadways, the sign shop has a hand in just about everything that’s out there.

“We do traffic control and speed signs, some decals and wraps for specialty vehicles including Police and Fire, 3D router-cut lettering for Parks or Recreation buildings and more,” says Sign Shop Supervisor Steve O’Connor. “It’s hard to pinpoint an exact figure but on average we probably produce over 100,000 signs per year.”

From design consultation to manufacturing, the Sign Shop takes care of every step in a sign’s production lifecycle.

“A basic traffic sign, for example, starts with a piece of raw aluminium,” says Lead Hand John Stevenson. “We cut it to size, radius the corners as needed, immerse it in a hot tank dip to remove any mineral oils and then cover it in substrate to give it a reflective effect. After that, the sign goes into the screen printing process where its message is applied.”

Crafting signs that are effective in the field – where drivers may have mere seconds to take in a sign’s content and messaging – is an art in itself.

“A lot of people in the shop have an arts background,” says Sign Manufacturer II Deb Miall. “For a sign to be effective, the designer has to consider font type and size, legibility, and layout. There’s no point producing a sign no one can read!”

On your next commute, keep an eye out for the vast variety of signage on the City’s streets, and spare a thought or two for the artisans who created them.

Written by: James Bailey

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