Career as a Signwriter / signmaker

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Peter Hayes makes signs and lettering for shops, pubs and vehicles. It is a job that involves finding out what the customer wants and then producing a design on computer before transferring onto various materials such as metal, glass and wood.

Who do you do?

We make acrylic and vinyl lettering, poster signs and illuminated signs for shops, restaurants, offices and other buildings. We also make the lettering and graphics for vehicles such as delivery vans. Currently, I am designing signs for a fish and chip shop and an accountant. The range of jobs is huge – you are working on something different every day.

How do you produce the signs?

Once a customer calls with the idea we often have to go out to the premises and measure the available space.We advise the customer on different options and prices.

I'll then use the computer to design how the letters, logos or other artwork will look in the colours the customer has chosen. When the design has been approved, we might cut out the lettering ourselves, or we might send it off by e-mail or post to be cut by a specialist laser-cutting company.

Do you do all your designing on computer?

Yes. Some specialist signwriters still hand paint signs, but all the work we do is computerised. The design programs let you choose the style of lettering, colours, sizes and things like pictures or scrolls.

What is your workplace like?

It is a warehouse unit with offices and computer rooms. There is a vehicle bay where we apply the lettering and graphics to cars and vans. I work normal office hours.

What is the hardest part of your work?

The rain. Although I am usually working on the computer, I sometimes go out to put the lettering or sign in place. Even with modern technology you can't apply vinyl to a wet surface!

What skills do you need to be a Signwriter?

Computer ability. Even when you have learnt how to use a design program, you need experience to use it well. It is also important to be creative, especially when you are advising customers.

Peter's route to becoming a Signwriter

  • Modern Apprenticeship.
  • City & Guilds course in litho printing.

Peter's signmaker tips

  • Try to get work experience first.
  • You need to be creative as well as able to use a computer.

Signwriter / signmaker related jobs

  • Display designer/visual merchandiser
  • Graphic designer
  • Painter and decorator
  • Reprographics assistant

Signwriter / signmaker salary information

  • Starting salaries will be around £10,000, rising to £16,000 with experience.
  • Specialist signwriters will earn more.
  • If you are self-employed, your income depends on the sort of work you do and how many days you work.

Becoming a Signwriter / signmaker

  • Many signwriters and makers train on-the-job and study part time at college.
  • Courses related to graphic design or printing can be useful.
  • The British Sign and Graphic Association (BSGA) have a network of approved colleges offering NVQ Level 2 and 3 in signmaking.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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