In 1965, Dundee, Brian Robertson at age fifteen was beginning his long career at Allison’s Transport.
As an apprentice coach painter at the haulier’s Clepintgon Road depot, his duties involved sanding panels, washing brushes and mixing paint. He was paid two shillings and sixpence (twelve and a half pence) per week.
With a natural artistic flair, he was interested in the letterforms on the lorries and how these were created. Thus, began a passionate and lifelong involvement with commercial vehicles and hand lettering.
In 1972, Brian joined Dundee Corporation Transport as a coach painter and signwriter where he would hand letter on the buses, learning the power of effective advertising.
With an established reputation and eagerness, the decision was made in 1988 to leave Tayside Buses and start his own business. Helping Dad out at weekends and school holidays, I gradually learned the tricks of the trade and strangely enough, sanded panels.
Almost all of Brian’s output in the late eighties and early nineties was hand lettering on commercial vehicles, shop fascias and painted plywood signs. Working from home until 1990, he then relocated to workshop premises in an old farm building on Drumsturdy Road, on the edge of the city.
The industry was changing as well. Computer aided signmaking was taking over production and hand lettering was considered dated. The competition was increasing, and customers expected quicker turnaround for cheaper.
We purchased our first computer and sign software imported from the Netherlands, in 1996. Interested in art and drawing since a young age, I was still helping Dad out part time, until officially joining the business in 1998.
Over the following years, my experience and skills in computer aided signmaking broadened, yet still rooted with fundamental sign design principles. Layout, colour, typefaces – all relevant to the work that I produce on every single project.
Studying graphic design at Dundee College ignited a new passion. Whereby learning about advertising, branding, print production and continually following advancing technologies within the sign industry.
By introducing a considered design approach to customers’ projects, ensuring a return on your investment is achievable. Creating logos, helping to form branding for small to medium businesses, understanding your market and working within budget.
There has been a resurgence in traditional hand lettering in recent years and many of our customers understand the craft and appeal that a painted sign has. It is however, not always economically viable nor appropriate and that is why I can provide alternative signage and vehicle graphics. Built-up and flat-cut lettering, vinyl lettering, engraving and digitally printed graphics on a variety of substrates for a wide range of applications.
I also enjoy working collaboratively with other creatives for art spaces and exhibitions. Technical knowledge and an awareness of the right materials available, is often sought after. I can advise on how to achieve expectations.
In 2018, I decided to change the name from Robertson Signs. This was to portray a more concise understanding for what I do, not only as a career, but as a way of life. I’m Barry Robertson – I make signs – Robertsign. Genius.
Today, Brian is retired but still helps me. He volunteers at Dundee Museum of Transport; painting, hand lettering and restoring vintage vehicles. He also teaches signwriting at Dundee Contemporary Arts.