Manifesto for “spirit of place”: the expressive value of signage on Belfast’s arterial routes in representing wider environmental and societal themes

Ian Montgomery - Ruth Brolly

KEYWORDS : belfast, expressive values, signage, built environment, societal theme, spirit of place

Abstract : Commercial signage has a greater presence than any other type of sign in the built environment of cities, conveying a rich tapestry of semiotic codes. While designers are concerned with good practice, invoking semiotic principles, independent retailers with no formal training often create vibrant local signage. Interpreters of signs decode visual information according to their abilities, experiences and needs, but are likely to recognise familiar cultural codes. Signage located within communities, in order to be productive, must speculate the probability of adequately communicating with those who will purchase goods or services, most likely people living nearby. Consequently, commercial signage is often representative of informal community relations, with the spoken language of place gaining physical form through letterforms and cultural connotations expressed through colour and other associated codes. This paper examines signage in the built environment of Belfast’s arterial routes. Photographs demonstrate how local signs, when devoid of civic intervention, can provide a rich resource for interpreting socio-economic, cultural and, in a divided city like Belfast, political underpinnings of place, communicating the true “spirit of place”.

To read the abstract of the article in French, click on the link below :
Manifesto for “spirit of place”: the expressive value of signage on Belfast’s arterial routes in representing wider environmental and societal themes

Ian Montgomery - Ruth Brolly

Ulster University
School of Art, Design and the Built Environment
jai.montgomery[at]ulster.ac.uk
Ulster University
School of Art, Design and the Built Environment
brolly-m2[at]email.ulster.ac.uk

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