Summer 2022

Fading into significance

Ghost Signs: A London Story

By Sam Roberts and Roy Reed, designed by Eve Izaak. Isola Press, £25.
Ghost Signs: A London Story

Faded advertising signs are more widespread than we think. Ghost Signs: A London Story explores the boroughs and postcodes of the capital, and documents the myriad painted advertisements – dating from the late nineteenth century up until the outbreak of the Second World War – still in existence. The authors define ghost signs as: ‘old painted signs that are gradually fading on walls’, as distinct from other forms of signage such as graffito; incised signs; moulded lettering; neon and illuminated signs, all of which can also provide an insight into historical forms of advertising, but are not considered within this focused study.

The publication design navigates the reader through the streets of London via an intuitive structure and key, with the sequential images easily referenced within the text. Introduction and background sections provide greater context on the biography, economics, locations, production, protection and preservation of the signs …

Cover of Ghost Signs: A London Story. Top. 1940s advertising for veneer dealer Stamford Trading Co. on Kingsland Road, visible from Overground trains between Hoxton and Haggerston stations.

Ghost Signs: A London Story

Justin Burns Head of Art & Design, Leeds School of Arts at Leeds Beckett University, Yorkshire

Read the full article in Eye no. 103 vol. 26, 2022

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.