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It's a sign

The story behind our new Pop Shop swing sign. Hand made in Dunoon by local illustrator Walter Newton

Enterprising Victorians did a great job of designing shop fronts and signage that left you in no doubt about the vendor’s trade. Shaped, hanging signs that had impact from the side as you looked along the street, depicted a range of oversized and bazar objects including large keys (locksmith), fish (fish monger), spectacles (optician), a pestle and mortar (pharmacist) and a cow (butcher). These were trade symbols that brought colour, creativity and communication design to our streetscapes and gave people an easy way of locating and describing shops to other people... “I’ll meet you under the glasses at 12 noon”.

Inspired by this heritage, we wanted to design a sign for the Pop Shop that was connected to our purpose. It was not an easy project as design doesn’t have an obvious symbol that sums up what you are selling. The Pop shop will also offer workspace to value led enterprises. So how do you communicate that?

We went through a few ideas and started to look at the tools of our trade which these days consist of frayed notebooks, chewed pens and slightly battered looking laptops.

Looking back at the evolution of digital design we came across the familiar icon of the pointy hand. The pointy hand was first used by Apple computers in the early 1980s and was adopted almost universally by designers working to improve the useability of computer interfaces. The arrow cursor changed to a ‘non-standard tool tip’ i.e the hand, when you hovered over a hyperlink. The hand symbolised a change and route to connection and further information.

The digital hand symbol seemed like a perfect metaphor for what the shop is trying to achieve in the real world; connection and improved access to information about design. Also, non-digital pointy hand symbols are more widely understood as direction markers. A Victorian version of the symbol appears on cast iron signs dotted around the Dunoon area.

But how do you make a 2D digital icon into a 3D colourful hanging sign?

Luckily, we know Walter Newton an illustrator who likes pixels and has an amazing ability to figure stuff out.

Over several weeks Walter fashioned a sign out of reclaimed wood carefully scaling up the hand and adding a flash of colour on the sleeve to ensure it stood out when you look down Hillfoot Street. There were many stages to the process, which Walter documented.

We held our first Dunoon Goes Pop taste test at the work-in-progress shop last Saturday and put the sign up outside to mark the ‘almost opening’ of the shop. There are still more things to do, but the pointy hand being up means we are on our way and now have a sign that adds something completely unique to the streetscape, but with a historic pedigree to Hillfoot Street.

Thanks Walter!


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