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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 26th October 2008
Scale and good lettering are important considerations when it comes to designing a good shop front. David Winpenny of RIPON CIVIC SOCIETY considers two examples of how, in a narrow street, a business might best advertise itself.

There was a time, not too long ago, when newsagents’ shop signs were mostly sponsored by cigarette companies. Legislation and social attitudes have done away with this – but the style is often continued by new companies. In Westgate, Cowie’s shop has its sign sponsored by the Yorkshire Post. That would be no problem, except that the sign that ‘Yorkshire’s National Newspaper’ has provided for the shop absolutely dominates the façade. In bright yellow, with black lettering, it is big enough to be seen from several hundred yards away. Yet Westgate is a very narrow street. Why does the sign need to be so big and so brash? It also covers the top of the older window framework and bears little relation to it. Maybe there are original features lurking beneath. The lettering of the words ‘Yorkshire Post’ is, of course in the paper’s own masthead style. The other lettering, though, is in a rather boring, and slightly squashed sans serif font. And the black square on which it sits is not related to the window frame immediately beneath. Perhaps the designers at the paper could have a rethink about the signs they offer their newsagents.

Kirkgate is also a narrow street, but on the whole the shops there have not seen the need to make such bold statements of their presence. One of the most attractive is the food shop Langton’s. The traditional shop front has been painted an attractive green colour, with a few mouldings picked out in off-white. Above the window is a narrow band where, traditionally, the name of the owner would have been placed. To many modern shop owners it would have seemed too narrow a space, and their immediate reaction would have been to superimpose a larger board either above it or, more likely, across it. Langton’s has chosen a different and more ingenious route. They have left the narrow strip for the address and the telephone number, which are carefully lettered in a serifed type-face that matches the style of the façade. The shop name itself, in an elegant font, is applied to the two green blinds than hang immediately inside the window. This is a clever and very successful idea, and could well be copied in other shops – especially in the narrower streets of Ripon.

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