Over Summer – Working at Blackwell’s

During summer I got a job working at Blackwell’s bookshop. As well as selling books and stacking shelves, one of the things they asked me to do was draw a hand-lettered directional sign and a decorative sign to go up in store.

The manager, Jude, gave me a list of what needed to be included on the sign so I could design them accurately.

I didn’t spend a long time choosing typefaces for either sign and there wasn’t much process to the design, I went with my initial thoughts of what was good and that’s what I sent to Jude.



I sent these two initial designs to Jude and she approved them so the next week I went into the shop to draw them up.

There were a few amendments that needed to be made to the signs that Jude didn’t mention when she approved the designs so I just had to work out the maths and fit them in.



Working out the maths and the lettering part was annoying and frustrating because the type didn’t completely fit into the sign without careful measurement so I had a lot of working out to do for each sign.


Initially I thought the sign would only take me a few hours but that turned out to be a few days because of underestimating the amount of time I would need and being needed for other things in the store.

For the directional sign, I made a few changes to my original design. I came up against issues of spacing because of how much content needed to be fit into a space that wasn’t that big and the letters all had to be individually legible.

Because of these issues with spacing, I decided that a single line between the sections would save space but still divide them well.

I had originally drawn up the whole sign in white with no embellishments or colour at all but decided it looked quite confusing and boring so I added the colour and the embellishments next to important information.

Although for the most part I am happy with the sign, because I wanted it to have a hand-drawn feel to it, there are a lot of mistakes in it. The leading and kerning are very narrown and inconsistent at points. There is no uniform cap height across all the words nor a uniform x-height.

The sign looks good and fulfils the purpose, however from a typographic perspective it is riddled with errors.



For the other sign, I decided to use purely colour with some slight white accents. Because this sign is more decorative, I felt like a more colourful look would make it stand out more.

With this one, I pretty much kept exactly to my original design other than adding colour and highlights. It was very different doing this one as opposed to doing the directional sign because, despite there being less content, I had to spread it differently and work out where it should go on the board.

I started with the words and put the ampersand in last so that I could make sure the words fit in well before adding the connector. For the most part this worked in my favour, however on reflection the tracking between the words and the ampersand is quite off and quite tight.

I am more pleased with how this sign looks than the directional sign but it has brought to light that I need to work more on fitting a lot of text into a small area rather than a small amount of text in a large area because that it the area I am less skilled in.


A few weeks after finishing the signs, Jude asked me to come in to do some edits on the directional sign. Despite using a spellchecker, I didn’t proof read my text which lead to me writing ‘Stationary’ on the original sign rather than the correct word ‘Stationery’ so I needed to alter that.

I had also forgotten to write ‘Business Centre’ underneath ‘Mapping’ so that also needed to be added. Initially I was worried about needing this addition but now it’s done, it’s filled the space at the bottom quite nicely so the sign looks more complete as a whole.

Currently Blackwell’s don’t need anymore signs drawing but they said if they do, they will come to me because they are very pleased with the results I produced with these two signs.



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