Saturday, March 27. 2010
This is not scientific, but I wonder if I'm seeing something here. I call myself a sign artist, because this trade can be practiced at an advanced level, and economic survival depends on a more extensive array of abilities. I get called on to render existing designs, and come up with my own. I've been operating under the idea that I should give my client the very best image I can. This doesn't necessarily involve a large budget, but rather, careful and unbiased decisions. For instance, if you had your daughter's best friend's cousin who draws horses pretty well design your logo, you need to replace it.
Actually, I always need to create the best image possible, but my thinking was that a business that looks loud and unsophisticated would deter upscale clients, whereas an upscale looking business wouldn't deter anyone. Now I'm having doubts. I know of a gift shop in the tourist area. His building was old and simple looking. Along the ridge of the pointed roof was a continuum of plywood signs, of varying age. I'll skip the rest of the visual description, but during the season, the place was wall to wall packed with customers. Maybe they thought this is the place for more genuine souvenirs, maybe the place for bargains, maybe both. The store burned to the ground, and was replaced by the ultimate gift store. Escalators, wrought iron handrails, the works. After opening, I didn't see near the traffic as before. Of course, there's no way to be objective just yet, I'm hoping the traffic increases in proportion to the upgrade.
Then there's a gal at a popular sign forum. I don't doubt her testimony in the least. We all knew she was having a tough time a few years back, in fact, she had to take a job at a local hardware store. Then she started getting calls again. There was a discussion regarding the value of a website. She said making her simple little website was "the best thing I've ever done". It's nice, but not sophisticated. It has a picture of her, and...in a separate picture...her DOG. Not what I consider effective, but hey, what do I know? I have one that I tried to make slick looking, nice photos and what, but it serves as a portfolio, and doesn't drive much traffic my way (yet). Another guy on that forum said if your site says you can solve a customer's problem, you'll get clients, but if it says we're better, you won't.
Then there's a carpet store in downtown Knoxville. It's in a 100+ year old building, and before the recent renovation, it looked like it. The carpet store signs weren't that old, but they weren't new either. They were stark white, with loud red lettering. Just this side of professional, but far from sophisticated. After the renovation, the area where the signs were is gone, replaced with windows. There are signs a little above the windows, but they're not as big as the old ones. Because of the wide frames around the windows, the big window lettering that was there before isn't possible now. The owner wanted all the new signs to be in loud colors, which seemed to me to be so incompatible with the nice new look of the renovation, which is mostly funded by the city.
But I'm wondering...the guy's been in business since 1972, I think. Wouldn't he be the one to know what works? I was talking this over with him, trying to explain all the above to him, and he said: "If it looks too pricey, it's going to drive some people off." Succinct. BTW, his name is Mike Denton, his business is Carpet Headquarters, corner of Broadway and North Central. He has a beautiful new warehouse right next to the older building. It's got a slick, clean concrete floor, full of big carpet rolls. I just like being in there and smelling all the new carpet.
Just yesterday, I'm telling this stuff to Jim B. in Pigeon Forge, and he said his father would counsel business owners to leave the nice new car at home. Drive a clunker in. People don't want to help someone rise above themselves. I'm not sure that's people's motive, but am I seeing a pattern here?
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