Six ways to use the background to energize a layout

By signcraft

Posted on Monday, January 22nd, 2024

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When a sign is seen from a distance or is on a vehicle in motion, there’s not much you can do with the background without interfering with legibility. But when the viewing distance is closer, and the viewer has a little more time, the background becomes a great way to draw them in.

On the busy tourist island of Koh Tao, Thailand, where Rob Cooper lives and works, there’s plenty of foot traffic and slow-moving motorbikes and bicycles. It’s an ideal opportunity to use the background to catch the viewer’s eye, and Rob takes advantage of that at every opportunity.

This sampling of his recent work shows a few of the ways he does that. Sometimes it’s a panel shape in the background or a silhouette graphic or a stippled effect. Other times it is lines or a gradient or the look of marble or stone—or maybe even a collage of words.

In almost every case, the effect is quite subtle so that the sign’s message remains the focal point. The lettering is still the main course—the background is just spicing things up. Couple that interesting background with an effective layout and you have a sign that grabs the reader’s eye and delivers the message.

And yes, these are all hand painted!

You can see more examples of how Rob puts the background to work in “What’s going on in the background?”.