First Impressions was a short learning programme focusing on historic shopfronts in Falkirk. The project was funded through Falkirk Townscape Heritage Initiative, and was aimed at Upper Primary Pupils. Four schools took part, Victoria, Comely Park, Laurieston and St Andrews Primary Schools. The project explored two main areas, the architecture and the signage of historic shopfronts.
All shops contain architectural details, whether these are historic or modern. These details will exist either as decoration or as an architectural or engineering necessity. The nature of the shop and its products will also have a direct impact on the design. Many shops in Falkirk are in historic buildings. Some of these are purpose built retail units and others have adapted the historic building.
Shop signage has come a long way in recent years. Retailers now consider visual elements such as shape, colour, logo and typeface. Retailers know these elements are affective in attracting customers into their shops. They can also have symbolic meanings that echo the signage of early shops.
Pupils took part in a field trip to Falkirk High Street to explore historic shop architecture. They then took part in a programme of three workshops with me. The pupils learned that shop owners often named their businesses after their family. Pupils created their own shop names and designed signs for the shops. Each school then went on to create their own art installation for this exhibition.
Victoria School looked at typography and signage of historic shopfronts. They have created these shop signs reminiscent of the old facia boards seen in Falkirk and other historic high streets. After naming their shop and designing the lettering the children started by sanding down their piece of wood. They then painted the signs with a little help from me.
Signs and Symbols
When high street shops first started hanging signs many people couldn’t read. Instead of words shops used pictures or symbols to let shoppers know their trade. Some of these are still used today, like the pestle and mortar. Lauriston School simplified their shop sign designs to convey a clear message about their shops trade. They created these light box signs with card, coloured tissue and LED lights.
A Model High Street
St Andrews School have shown great attention to detail when creating their shop models. Once they had named their shops and designed their shop signs they looked at the architectural details of shops from different time periods. They decided which details would be most appropriate for their shops and created the models from paper and card.
The High Street at night
These mini shops were created by pupils at Comley Park. Once the children had named their shop and designed their signs they created a net for their shop. They added tracing paper and coloured cellophane inserts as windows. Finally, they added architectural details and then folded and glued the net into a 3D shop shape.
Hear from the pupils themselves about their experience of the project!
At the end of each workshop session the pupils completed their shop diaries. This was a record of the activities and the children’s thoughts. They looked at shopfronts of different styles and time periods and copied these onto the fronts of the diaries to turn them into mini shops.