It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is Graphic Signage.
Graphic signage, as a form of store to customer communication, has existed for as long as there have been shops. There are examples of signs in shops and trading houses preserved in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum – some in paint ed form casually painted onto shutters and panelling and obviously tempo rary, ot hers permanently carved into the shop stone work. These signs suggest that Roman shopkeepers seldom used their names to identify their shop – a butcher, for example, might identify his trade by painting a sheep. This form of identity was a widespread practice in Europe until the 17th century when shopkeepers began to put their names on the shop fascia – thus began the process of brand identity and reputation. Today store communications fall into three categories: Information (way finding, price, weight, provenance, product content and so forth); Promotion (sale, special offer, and more) and Emotional and Positional. The graphics in this latter category may not be product specific, but might be images of contented cows inferring ethical farming, or others conveying images of traditional craftsmanship. But in all cases, graphics serve to promote a brand’s position and reputation. “Brand is but Trust spelt differently” and in the modern shopping context, whether it is digital on the shop screen, or in the physical shopping space, store communications in whatever form, are increasing. But they are also subject to scrutiny for accuracy and truthfulness and as such, play a critical role in demonstrating the brand’s integrity.
Contribution to Retail History
Graphic signage in stores helps to create the tonal atmosphere that reflects the store’s positioning. Used to inform or promote, their distinctive designs brought new rewards for the retailers.
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