Scotland - Father and son team at Robertson Signs

Sign at Redwood Guest House saying No Vancancies. Brian Robertson served his apprenticeship as a coachpainter and signwriter in the 60's and 70's with a haulage company in Dundee. After working mainly in the transport industry and a further 18 years employed with Dundee Corporation Transport, he decided to start his own business and concentrate full time, upon what he had always done alongside his employment with companies. That was in 1988.

Due to Brian's broad range of skills and continual enquiries from varied businesses in different sectors, signs and vehicle lettering made the majority of his work. This is still a large part of the business, but hardly any are hand-lettered nowadays.

In 1998, Brian's son Barry joined the business after leaving school and now runs the daily operations of a commercial sign shop. Barry had always been interested in the trade and regularly helped his dad at weekends and school holidays, enabling him to understand the basics and begin an early apprenticeship. Studying graphic design at college instilled an important virtue which contributes to the successful portfolio of projects, from boats to aeroplanes, pin-striping to digitally printed graphics.

Their premises for nearly 20 years are within an old farmstead on the outskirts of the city and ideal for the current size and production abilities of the business.

Logo design and corporate identity are also a sought after service provided by Robertson Signs and what they enjoy and are best at. Creating logos and full stationery designs, along with complete sign systems incorporating the graphics into shops and / or vehicles is a concurrent practise which provides fulfilment in their profession.

Being established for over 20 years and still working for some of their original customers has helped in keeping the business steady, even in the current economical situation. Diversification and a genuine interest and passion for the trade, is paramount in Robertson Signs' philosophy.

"We have advertised in various mediums over the years, but we believe that due to our work being visual communication, the best advert for this business is within the work we produce. It's this factor that encourages repeat custom and referrals, that no advertisement can compare," says Barry.

"We have the best of worlds, incorporating traditional skills into ever-increasingly, modern products and services. Our only regular hand-lettering jobs are for a boat building company in Arbroath, but we still use timber and paint for some bespoke projects and refurbishments. Although sometimes daunting, there has to be progression and further education in any trade, to stay focused, to learn about new materials and meet new contractors and to ultimately enjoy the job".

Another part of the business, handled mainly by Brian, is the installation of all the bus posters on Stagecoach's fleet in the north of Scotland. Contracting work for approximately 15 years from large advertising agencies has always been a regular source of income and an area Brian is no stranger to.

"The application of mega-rears (full back ends of buses covered in digital graphics) takes us all over Scotland, from the Orkney Isles to Edinburgh and although working unsociable hours and the paperwork involved, it has been a very important part of succeeding in this profession. After years of painting text and illustrations on all-over buses (completely covering sides and rears of vehicles), mainly double deckers in Aberdeen, the advent of digital technology meant that we had to teach ourselves the correct application of these new methods," explains Brian.

Both Brian and Barry treat their careers as signwriters, more than just a job. It's a huge part of their lives and the future looks promising for the pair with confirmed contractual work and the re-launch of their website last year.

They intend to continually add photos of projects and logo design examples, as well as building their case studies page, to explain a concise realisation of various projects that they have covered.

"We'll never be millionaires nor have any aspiration to become one, but to produce the best we can whilst enjoying meeting new people, building stronger relations with customers and being satisfied in our work overall," summarises Barry.

A tanker with 'Harry Lawson' written on the side.
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