To most of us, beautiful designs just spring full blown from nowhere in particular. But in reality, the polished look of all the objects we see – complete with all the associations each one brings to mind and the various messages and feelings each one conveys – are the result of much hard work by a visually-gifted group of people who work as “designers”.

Metro Sign and Awning is well staffed with a group of designers who routinely make clients’ visions come to life in three dimensions. One of these is Susan MacGregor, Senior Designer, who is responsible for creating the drawings that will later be turned into signs, as well as for the presentation visuals shown to clients for approval, and for the “fabrication production” drawings that serve as the “blueprints” for the company’s many complex manufacturing processes.

Susan gets a chance to stretch her creative muscles on many assignments, too, coming up with a logo or suggesting visual ways to enhance the branding for specific customers.

One of her most challenging responsibilities is taking an architect’s original sketch and trying to figure out how to make a sign out of it. “What were they thinking?” is a thought she commonly experiences.

Susan earned a college degree in architecture and art, and her first job was drafting drawings for a small sign company. “I started working before computers came in,” she recalled, “so we did drawings by hand on big boards. In a sense, I’m doing the same work today, but so many tools and technologies have changed. They don’t make signs the way they used to, so we don’t design them the same way, either.”

Wearing Many Different Design Hats

Susan’s favorite part of her job is coming up with logos for “Mom & Pop” stores that don’t have the finances for a professional branding company. “Sometimes they have an idea of what they want,” she says, “and sometimes they don’t. So I get to generate a visual look and feel that artfully expresses who they are and what they offer. As a company, we don’t spend a lot of time doing this. But when we do, I get a lot of enjoyment out of the challenge.”

Among her favorite projects was one she designed from an architect’s rough sketch – an upscale restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. “Our fabricators came up with a way to make the sign out of wavy metal, and I really enjoyed doing the drawings for that one.”

Another fun project was L’Artisan Bakery, in Providence, RI. “I worked hard on that one to get just the right look and feel for the image they were trying to convey.”

One of the most interesting challenges Susan faced was the need to come up with a logo for MTV Hair Salon that doesn’t look anything like the television channel.

“I had pretty much free rein on that project,” she recalls, “which doesn’t happen too often in the sign business.”