Watch ghostsigns come alive in London this week

Sam Roberts of the Ghostsigns project has teamed up with experiential designer Craig Winslow to bring some of London’s historic street lettering and advertising signs back life via projection mapping.

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Projection mapped ‘Take Courage’ sign near Borough Market, London. Photo by Mike Marchlewski

Launched at the weekend, Light Capsules has seen Roberts and Winslow illuminate a faded ‘Take Courage’ sign near Borough Market and a ‘Barlow & Roberts’ example by the railway bridge on Southwark Street as part of the London Design Festival.

The projections, which form part of Winslow’s role as the current Adobe Creative Resident, work to highlight multiple layers of ‘palimpsest’, say the pair, while sharpening the fading colours and letterforms used in the signs.

And there’s still a chance to see some of the projections in the capital. This evening, the pair are screening a ‘worldwide’ installation at The Distillery on Great Suffolk Street, before moving on to sites in Bermondsey, Stoke Newington and Borough Market (dates listed at the bottom of this post).

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Projection mapped ‘Cakebread Robey’ sign at the junction of Tyssen Road and Stoke Newington High Street, London. Photo by Mike Marchlewski

The projections take place from 8-10pm and are free to view (there’s also a dedicated event page on Facebook).

Winslow told CR a bit more about the process. “Using photo references from Sam’s collection, I flatten them out in Photoshop and stitch them together and begin to analyse the letters,” he explains.

“Historical photos are super useful for decrypting very worn signs, but they’re often difficult to track down, so the bulk of my process is staring at and vectorising the sign in Illustrator. It’s an enjoyable detective puzzle – first figuring out the easy letters, then using them to fill in the unknowns.”

Videography by Mike Marchlewski

According to Winslow, there are a few other methods through which he can visualise the hidden layers, “like isolating by a certain colour, or inverting certain colour channels, to discern between layers of paint”. Once they are fully recreated, he then animates them in After Effects and uses MadMapper to ‘projection map’ them precisely back onto the ghostsigns.

“As of late I’ve been experimenting with a few techniques where I’m blending an inverted version of the original photo over the sign as well, which balances out the light/dark parts of the sign, and makes it appear more flat like paint,” says Winslow.

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Projection mapped ‘Barlow & Roberts’ sign by the railway bridge on Southwark Street, London. Photo by Mike Marchlewski

“It’s such a rewarding feeling to resolve a worn layer, and then bring it to life with projection for everyone else to see. As I continue onto the second half of Light Capsules – my creative residency project – I plan to bring these alive using a few other methods, notably with augmented reality, so people can view them again after the actual projection in person.”

The project also marks the launch of the Ghostsigns Tours App – many of the selected signs can be found on the Bankside and Stoke Newington Ghostsigns Walks. See ghostsigns.co.uk and create.adobe.com for more on Winslow’s Adobe Creative Residency.

The remaining Light Capsule installations will take place at the following London locations from tomorrow evening:

Wednesday 21 September, 8-10pm
Ghostsigns Worldwide installation at The Distillery, 2-18 Great Suffolk Street [MAP]. Also check out the Facebook event page, and Better Letters listing.

Thursday 22 September, 8-10pm
Bermondsey Mesh & Wire Works at the junction of Tanner Street and Bermondsey Street [MAP]. Also check out the Facebook event page, and Better Letters listing.

Friday 23 September, 8-10pm
Westminster Gazette/Criterion Matches/Gillette palimpsest on Stoke Newington Church Street [MAP]. Also check out the Facebook event page, and Better Letters listing.

Saturday 24 September, 8-10pm
Take Courage at the junction of Park Street and Redcross Way, near Borough Market [MAP]. Also check out the Facebook event page, and Better Letters listing.

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Sam Roberts and Craig Winslow. Photo by Mike Marchlewski

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