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One of the quickest and easiest ways of creating a sense of place on stage, is through the use of period signage. If you are on a limited budget, signs can effectively provide a shortcut to period atmosphere, without breaking the bank. A simple cobbled street can be from any era, but a Lyon’s Tea House sign, or one advertising Woodbines, will place it in time precisely and at a stroke. Here is our guide to Period signs, to help you make the right choice for your production.


The Victorian age (1837-1901) was an era of elaborate and complex design – some would call it fussy and over-wrought. This style could be seen in all aspects of design, from architecture, to fashion and interiors. There was a strong sense of nostalgia for times gone by in the Victorian age, and elements of design from earlier eras – symmetry, cloth banners, framing and cherubs – are common. Typography was no exception, and Victorian style shop signs bear this out. You can add Victorian authenticity to your street scene by painting shop signs on the side of buildings, or hire signs as props.

Thirties and Forties

Strongly influenced by the Modernist movement, when ornate Victorian stuffiness was thrown out wholesale, signage of the Thirties and Forties is simple and stark, with a minimal amount of fuss. Utilitarian and easy to read, you will be familiar with the typography style from old black and white movies. The simplicity of line is reflected in the fashion and architecture from the age. You should have no trouble augmenting the feel you are trying to create by use of well-placed signage props.


The Fifties saw a complete change from the complex design ideas of the Victorian age. Strongly influenced by American design ideas, Fifties signage will instantly add a sense of the period. Restaurants and shops really embraced the Fifties feel, so consider this when creating a scene. If you have a scene actually set in that period in America, you have a wealth of choice. Fifties design is instantly recognisable such is its place in our cultural consciousness.

Modern Era

No prizes for creating a modern scene with signs – there are so many to choose from. You might consider using them to add significance to the action on stage. How could you use a large arrow sign, or a ‘Dead End’ sign for example? Could it help add to meaning in your production?

Foreign Signs

A great way to change country entirely is with foreign language signs. It’s simply the quickest route out of England – particularly since, as noted, a cobbled street could be anywhere or any period. To take your audience out of their own realm and overseas, add a simple foreign language road or warning sign will suffice.

Signs are instant signifiers, and invaluable to set designers and props departments when they are creating mood and a sense of place on stage. We have a wide range of signs available, from wooden Victorian signs to modern steel signs. Have a browse, and see how designs have changed over the years.