Adirondack Hand-painted Signage, Pt I

Here Melissa details her curiosity about the many custom, sometimes funny, often dilapidated, retail signs and façades seen during a recent vacation in New York's beautiful Adirondack Park.

It's nearly impossible for most of us to turn off our work brains when we go on vacation. And I wouldn't really want to, since I love what I do. Because design is a factor, consciously or not, in all things created by humans, it pervades every culture – and regional subculture – with much for us to glean through observation.

Architects can't ignore a new building. I'm sure stylists must notice and critique the hair of everyone they lay eyes on. (Though I try not to think about that.) And I have a dog-trainer friend who is vigilantly concerned about the behavior and welfare of most animals she comes into contact with in casual settings. It's ingrained in her, and it's what makes her good at her job.

Me? I notice your logo. And your color scheme. And your marketing materials. And your fonts and ads and websites. And … signs! 

Moose Caboose, Inlet, NY

Moose Caboose, Inlet, NY

Found in the Mountains

So, on a recent 3-day trip in the Adirondacks, I decided to just go with it and pay closer attention to branding & design in the region. (Shout out to my husband who was so patient about my frequent, sudden requests to pull over and capture my findings while we were in the midst of our first official romantic excursion since our 9-year-old was born.)

Looks yummy, doesn't it? I think I feel some grease on my chin.

Looks yummy, doesn't it? I think I feel some grease on my chin.

TJ's BBQ in Lowville, NY

TJ's BBQ in Lowville, NY

At times, truth be told, taking in branding and signage in any rural area presents a particular challenge for us seasoned creatives. Things can get – How do I finesse this? – rustic. And not well-thought-out. And, well, not really created with any intention or resources whatsoever. Ok, it's painful sometimes, but I get how/why it happens, and so far I have managed never to heed any violent urges to walk into a remote establishment and offer my services for free if they would just get rid of the uneven, unreadable yellow lettering on the diner sandwich board that's stuck on with scotch tape please for the love of all things decent. 

Yeah, fortunately, I've never gone there. It helps not to drink.

And then! There is all the awesome stuff. These are the signs and brands you would never see anywhere else, that capture the flavor of the region through a sense of truly unique character that can often be sorely missing from any metro locale.

Another gorgeous wooden sign at BarkEater Craft Brewery in Lowville, NY

Another gorgeous wooden sign at BarkEater Craft Brewery in Lowville, NY

Hand-painted signs are few and far between in most places. Not in the Adirondacks. Yes, some of them are old and faded, and some of them don't necessarily fit into a broader design scheme, but in many cases you can tell they are made with great care, and often with a sense of humor. You can look at them and see the proprietor's vision represented in each stroke. 

I happen to love that in a brand. 

Enjoy a few more examples below, and remember to take a minute to appreciate the rich variety of regional aesthetics next time you are traveling through the US!

Is this place closed for good? I can never tell.

Is this place closed for good? I can never tell.

Hiking beaver sign