In the eternal balancing between taste and technology, the recent book Signs, Streets and Storefronts provides a valuable historical perspective on local placemaking. In “Signs..” architect Martin Treu convincingly presents a reminder that every decade has its new style and “modernization” for business development purposes.  E.g. with the invention of electricity, main street “white ways” demonstrated the economic progress of towns.

But the most provocative aspect of M. Treu’s book is his views toward historic preservation.  He argues that more recent regulatory controls have suppressed originality and stripped away years of accumulated history — based on current, passing fashion. As my friend’s neon sign picture above illustrates, what seems outdated can still provide local character.

All this reminds me that new digital/LED signs are just the latest example of technology which will need to be addressed in a creative and effective way for years to come.