Creative Connection

How to recognise Ghost Signs and create amazing murals

Each year, letterheads from all over Europe gather in a typographic feast somewhere in Europe. Not afraid to wander around with their typographic soulmates across various workshops, keynotes and spot-on lettering, while creating magical work. The 2016 edition in Amsterdam marked a record of 160 attendees originating from 23 different countries. These attendees combined numerous sign painting techniques, stunned other artist while creating wall pieces (murals) and taking a stroll across numerous ghost signs. It’s time to get to know this particular group of creatives. And how to better do that than going to see for yourself? Here’s the best way to do that:

Take a Tour: Ghost Signs all over the place
Once upon a time, – lacking modern techniques – the walls in the streets of Amsterdam had some brilliant advertisement texts all over their distinctive walls. Every empty spot was covered with the nicest typographic advertisements and sometimes a magical painting along with it. Local book stores, cinema’s, drug stores and many groceries across the city, showed why you’ve to buy your products or visit their shops via tremendous signs, shapes and colorful paintings.

Sadly, this graphic display ended around the 1950’s when the ruling ladies and gentleman of the city of Amsterdam decided to raise taxes for outdoor advertising. Luckily there are people like Edd Simons wandering the streets exploring some hidden gems on the advertising front. Do you feel you missed something in your favorite city? Edd gives us 3 useful tips to recognize or find these so called Ghost Signs.

  1. Browse shop windows or shop window frames for newly placed wooden materials or lightboxes. If that’s the case, you found yourself a hidden advertising gem. Do search the web for images of the street you located one of these, just to find out more about your recent discovery;
  2. Look for big walls painted in a grey or other strong color, there’s a big chance there was a wonderful wall advertisement on it;
  3. Go to the library or city archive to search for advertising images or names and then give Google a spin. Another great idea is to browse local markets for old postcards. Back in the day sending postcards containing photographs of your street was the perfect way to keep it personal, luckily we can use them for our ghost sign recognizing quest.

Ghost Sings


Go Explore: Amazing Mural Project at the Heineken Experience
Together with Amstel Brewery, good old Heineken Brewery had two signpainters covering the bars in the greater hemisphere. The two gentlemen (Wim Visser and Leo Beukeboom) painted the famous curl letters at most Heineken bars.

In the brief Heineken gave as an assignment to the Letterheads, there were a couple of wishes: summarize our historical achievements, expansion to the world, commercials and recognizable images in one big entrée piece. The Letterheads worked on this wall piece during 16 days (from 10 AM to 10 PM) with two or sometimes even eight people at a time. With a piece this big and with a lot of different artists working on it, the most important thing is to create a consistent design in advance. Each typographic element has its own light. Think Rembrandt on a large scale; each element has to be coherent. With projects like these, one of the most important lessons is to think about your planning, which part will go first? Next to that, you always have to think about using consistent color layers. Once you have that in place, you can go ahead with the details. Letterheads learned to always be critical during the process. For them, it was really a ‘kill your darlings’ kind of process. And the final lesson is to be adaptable throughout the day. In a touristic venue with a lot of noise around you and your workspace, it’s easy to get distracted. Concentrating on your piece of (sign) art is key. With this lessons in mind you can now start your own wall piece.

Oh, and did we mention we have a special give-away competition? You get the chance of becoming the owner of a freshly Amsterdam sign painted art piece. Please do tell us in the comments of this Facebook post why you want to have A great artwork in your living-/study-/workroom?

Creative Business, Inspiration, Typography

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