What's Your Sign? Retail Architecture and the History of Signage

 The Legacies for Iowa Collections-Sharing Project at the University of Iowa Museum of Art seeks proposals for papers considering the history of retail architecture signage.

For as long as goods have been bought and sold, shopkeepers and traders have visually communicated their wares through signs. This breakfast symposium explores the evolution of signage from the shutter paintings of ancient Pompeii to the wooden trade signs hanging along Medieval English streets to the neon of twentieth-century American roadside signs. How have symbols of selling shifted over the centuries? How do retail signs reflect or reject broader visual cultures? What technological shifts have precipitated the most dramatic design departures? Papers may examine the iconography, typography, and materiality of retail signs as well as the cultural, financial, and geo-political forces that shaped storefront signs in the past. Papers may also contend with the future of retail sinage in an increasingly digital and global economy. This public event will be livestreamed and occurs in conjunction with the City of Iowa City Downtown District’s CoSign project, which partners local artists and craftspeople with small business to create exciting and distinctive new signs.


James Wines, founder of New York City-based architecture and environmental arts studio SITE, will deliver the keynote address for the What’s Your Sign? Symposium. A professor of advanced design studies at Pennsylvania State College of Arts and Architecture as well as a practicing architect, Wines' work focuses on aesthetic, sociological, and environmental concerns in the building arts. Author the seminal text Green Architecture, Wines is the winner of twenty-five art and architecture awards including the 2013 National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. His projects for SITE have been honored by retrospective exhibitions in the USA, Europe, and Japan, while his drawings can be found in the collections of more than thirty-five museums worldwide.



Proposals from architectural historians, architects, designers, and related specializations welcome. Abstracts (up to 300 words) for 20 minute papers should be submitted with a CV by July 8, 2017. Please submit all materials electronically to Vero Rose Smith (veronica-smith@uiowa.edu).



July 8, 2017: Submissions due - THE CALL FOR PAPERS IS NOW CLOSED. 

July 15, 2017: Participants notified

August 25, 2017: Registration deadline

September 8 &  9, 2017: Symposium