Pittsburgh Signs Project: appreciation of the glorious signage of Pittsburgh


16 Responses to “Pittsburgh Signs Project: appreciation of the glorious signage of Pittsburgh”

  1. Abe Lincoln says:

    Many thanks for posting this.  I haven’t been back to Pittsburgh in years. 

  2. Mike Greco says:

    Does Pittsburgh really have more cool signage than any other town?

    • Beta_Orionis says:

      Well, there are ~160 legally recognized Historic Districts within the city limits and that helps preserve signs that exist on building facades. We also are fortunate to have a wealth of old and independently owned businesses, which means more hand-painted, hand-made, and custom-designed signs! Many of the signs featured in the Flickr pool are things you’d likely see in other cities though.

      Also, Mr. Doctorow, a polite correction: Pittsburghese is the slang/language/dialect of the region; Pittsburghers are the folks. :)

  3. ericM says:

    Ummm — so why is this $29.95 book appearing for $123+ on Amazon right now???? Here we go with another $1M+ book on flies ;-) Tho I think this is a wonderful project and would love to have a copy. Note there are some other ways to order it mentioned on the project’s web site.

  4. Elizabeth Perry says:

    Thanks for the kind words. If you are interested in getting a copy, the book is still in stock at the list price at Carnegie Mellon’s bookstore:

  5. Pittsburgh is such a great city with a shabby cool vibe.  It definitely has a character all its own.  I love it very much.

  6. There’s an amazing sign not shown here on South Avenue in Wilkinsburg near the Busway.  It belongs to an old lithography/typesetting shop that lists its phone number in the old style: FRemont 1-1854.  And yes, if you re-translate it and add the 412 area code, it’s still valid.


  7. GlenBlank says:

    Some of us love Craftsman houses because they embody a set of aesthetic principles that we find appealing – how rare or how common they might be is irrelevant.  (Indeed, it would make us happy if they were far more common.)

    I confess I’ve long been puzzled at the idea that some old, rusty piece of commercial kitsch is ‘glorious’ just because it’s old and rusty and uncommon.  I dunno, maybe if you were raised in the sensory-deprivation chamber of a modern master-planned suburb where nothing’s more than 30 years old…

    There are quite a few signs in that set that are a long, long way from ‘glorious.’  Indeed, there are several there that could be used as examples of “How to Make Dull, Boring Commercial Signage” in a design class.  And seriously – An Arby’s hat? The Spaghetti Warehouse?  A faded CLOSED sign made of cheap stick-on block letters?  A Heinz Ketchup bottle?  A sloppily hand-painted 7-Up gimme sign from the ’70s?  The glorious, uniquely Pittsburghian STOP signs in glorious black and white?

  8. hryc says:

    That Arby’s neon hat is one of the last of its kind in America, and that Heinz Ketchup bottle is definitely a Pittsburgh icon. 

    I’d say the “glory” here would come from a combination of things.  Style and design of the sign definitely plays a part, but so does the style of the photographer, and the design of the end product.  Couple this with the nostalgia, history, and meaning that these signs have to Pittsburghers (or anyone who comes from a similar place), and I think you definitely have something special.

  9. GlenBlank says:

    Though if you like vintage commercial signage, I highly recommend Flickr user Lord Jim’s work, tagged “signs”.  He’s an LA-based photographer, and most of his sign photos are from LA or Las Vegas.  He’s got a real eye for this sort of thing.  (He also has some great sets of street art.)

    Just kick on the slideshow full-screen and let it rip. :-)

  10. SedanChair says:

    Old letterpress guys must be confused as hell that they’re suddenly cool…

  11. jaworskirob says:

    This is pretty cool. I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing here in San Jose, California.  We have lots of old signs hanging around, one of which is still standing over the new parking lot advertising a Pork Sausage shop that used to be there.  And over the weekend I just drove past the old Stage Stop on Monterey Road between SJ and Morgan Hill, haven’t seen it in years, surprised it’s still there.  And the Hart’s Department Store sign that’s painted on the side of a brick building.  And the deli downtown that isn’t there anymore.  And there are tons more.  Holy crap, I need to start snapping them before they go away, like the Hart’s sign, which is partially covered by graffiti covering paint.  Oh, and don’t forget the old Andy’s Pet Shop sign which was being preserved… Not sure where that is now.  Yep, there are lots around here!

  12. southhillsmotel69 says:

    Thank you for the fantastic post, Cory! If anyone would like to see high-res images of the book, including its cover and contents, designed by Brett Yasko (http://brettyasko.com/), I have attached some here. Please note that the slide show features images from a Pittsburgh Signs Project night blitz event & from our online gallery, NOT from our book. Thank you all for noticing, looking & discussing! (Jennifer Baron, Pittsburgh Signs Project)

  13. This is fantastic – thanks for sharing! I had to buy the book, it made me homesick.

  14. southhillsmotel69 says:

    Here is the correct link for Pittsburgh-based designer Brett Yasko, who designed our book,
    Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania:


  15. Shawn Green says:

    With anti-sign gov. being an issue for installing new signage, we may be looking at the past.  Most local sign ordinances make it a challenge to have a nice legible unique sign.

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