Creating Places: A Citizen Observer's Look at Nashville's Built Environment

Writer's Note: William Williams' interest in the manmade environment dates to 1970, at which point the then-young Williams started a collection of postcards of city skylines. The collection now numbers 1,000-plus cards. Among the writer's specific interests are exterior building design, city district planning, demographics, signage, mixed-use development, mass transit and green/sustainable construction and living. Williams began his Creating Places column with The City Paper in February 2005. The column in its original form was discontinued in September 2008 and reinvented via this blog in November 2008. Creating Places can be found on the home page of the website of The City Paper, at which Williams has worked in various capacities since October 2000.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Creating Places: Eastside Cycles

It always pains me to criticize folks who are doing something very positive for Nashville. And the wife-husband/business partners duo of Francie Hunt and Scott deShon are class folks clearly making a wonderful contribution to the city with their Eastside Cycles. But I have to be honest: The exterior of the couple's new location in Five Points is glaring, as each excessively large letter of the business name screams from window after window after window. At quick glance, the lettering looks hand painted on the glass, rendering the presentation even more make-shift. The overall effect reminds me of the over-the-top signage we see at used car lots and check-cashing joints. Essentially, the building looks like one massive sign. It's disheartening, particularly when you consider Hunt and deShon are such community oriented people who would never purposely deface the district. In fact, the Eastside Cycles metal signage — with the pointing bike rider — is as cool as it gets.

Perhaps I'm being harsh. And it's possible I did not get the best view of the signage and, as such, failed to see that it's temporary. The bottom line, however, is this: Rarely do massive and significantly spaced individual letters — one per window, no less — provide an attractive visual for a business. The keys to signage are a combination of quality color scheme, font, materials and proportionate relationship to the overall building exterior space. Blended perfectly, a sign can make a strong contribution to the built environment. Fumble with any of the elements and signage is often no more attractive to our manmade fabric than a surface parking lot.

I wish Eastside Cycles nothing but the best. I also hope new signage is forthcoming.


  1. I would love to see them remove the chainlink fence (cheap fix to cut down and recycle at PSC metals) and do some landscaping as Annode on Main Street did this past summer.

  2. Where is the chain link fence? I can't see it.