Computers are lovely but they have taken over some of the traditional crafts that took time to create to perfection. One such industry is the sign painting industry. Beautiful and decorative signs made by hand are rare to see nowadays. There those of us however who are trying to keep the skill alive.
Mike Meyer is a sign writer who still used the old school methods that were long forgotten by the digital world. Born 1989, the man has been in the letterhead painting business for over thirty years. All that experience under his belt can be seen by how he commands his work.
The Minnesota native is a professional typographer. He is well versed in the how typefaces work and for which function. They understand how to pair the right size of letters together with the right font. That is why you will find different emotions are evoked depending on how the words are written.
Like many great artists, a parent’s influenced is often the case for igniting life passions. Mike Meyer’s father was a barber who dabbled in drawings between attending to his customers. The young Mike wanting to ape his father picked up on the habit.
The obsession with letterheads exploded when he visited the stock car races and marvelled at the details on the cars. From there he went home trying to replicate everything he had seen down to the last detail. He got a part-time job in high school at a sign shop and that was when he realized that, that is what he wanted to do.
He followed his passion and went to sign school for nine months. When these nine months passed and he got certification, he went back to the shop he worked in while in high school. The shop got a new owner and things started to change rapidly.
With people losing their jobs right, left and center, it was finally his turn to be let go. It was a hard blow but still continued making signs. He had never thought of going into business on his own. So with few options left, he joined the army.
His journey has not been smooth as nothing good in life comes easy. Starting his trade took a bit of work. He started from a garage as his first sign shop. He had no customer base when he started his business, he had to go around to other workshops to look for favours.
Since he had nothing else of value to exchange for offers, he traded in his handmade signs. By the time his business was established he had a good customer base. When the vinyl cut out letters emerged in the 70’s, typographers had a problem on their hands.
The cheaper and easily accessible vinyl signs completely disregarded the time and workmanship the old method of sign writing offered. Mike Meyer persevered and until today he is still in the craft.
With the years of experience teaching oneself, Mike Meyer now goes around the world teaching guys how to do sign lettering the old way. The man who started his business in a garage now constantly busy with work.
He says that the art of typography is not dead. He sees a growth in interest especially with the curious millennials in Europe. It seems that countries like Amsterdam still have an appreciation for the art. He doesn’t do it for the money, he teaches in these workshop in order to spread the skill to more people.
His advice for those who want to dabble in the field is to observe their surroundings and decide what makes them happy. He doesn’t in mind blocks when it comes to creativity. He says you can even find inspiration in the grocery market since there are thousands of products with different letterheads and styles.
He encourages students to be open-minded as the field is still expanding with new fonts coming to view. His journey is not over either, he still meets people who teach him a thing or two.
A bigger than life personality and a steady hand, we don’t think that he will stop working or teach anytime soon. The world will always appreciate beautiful things, we thank the lucky stars that we have people like Mike Meyer who understand what it takes to make something beautiful by hand.