Design Signs Burlington Vermont

A brief history of Design Signs / January 21, 2014

It’s time to start blogging! So why not begin with a very condensed story of how Design Signs came to be?

You could say it started when I was 9 or 10 years old. My dad helped me build small wood projects including a very, um, “rustic” bedside table for my mom. The legs were all different lengths, and never did sit level!

Flash forward 12 years and I’m out of college, putting my BA in English to good use as a retail store manager. I did not particularly enjoy the job, except for when I made window displays and point-of-purchase merchandising signs. After I told a friend I could make a wooden sign for his bar, it was not long before I was asked by other businesses to make signs for them as well. I left retail in the rear-view and have been making signs ever since, almost 40 years now!

Burlington, Vermont carved sign

My first sign in Burlington, circa 1976

One of my early signs was for R. W. Hunt’s Mill and Mining Company in Burlington, known by most folks simply as Hunt’s; a great venue for live music.

The first couple of years I built nothing but carved wood signs; it was all I knew!  Since I was totally self-taught in sign design and techniques, I struggled. So when I had a chance to move to Colorado and work for a real sign company, I jumped at it!

I started at Adcon Signs  in Fort Collins in May, 1978, their fifth employee. I learned everything I could about signs, especially from Jimmy Saffer, a master sign maker. This was in the “B.C.” era, before computers. Every design was created with a pencil on paper; every letter and graphic painted by hand. It was an invaluable education in sign design, letter spacing, and proper use of graphics. After four years there, the staff had grown to over 20.

With this experience under my belt, I moved again, this time to Burlington, VT. I worked a few years in a local sign shop, but itched to have the independence I so enjoyed when I first started out. I became self-employed again, this time actually knowing how signs should be made!

Design Signs started down by the tracks off Home Avenue in Burlington. I did everything by myself the first few years, then eventfully started hiring help. First summers only, then part time and eventually my first full-time employee. Some of you know Jim Narsh, still working with me today. A few years later, after moving to a larger shop in Williston, I hired Phil Seeley (also still with me). Then another move brought us to our current shop in Essex VT, a wonderful space in which to make signs. Stop in for a tour; we love to show folks around!