Designing in signs


Business owner creates signs, messages, schedules and location plans for `big' systems


Walter Montgomery Howard

Environmental graphic designer and wayfinding specialist

Walter Montgomery Howard Graphic Design, Baltimore

Salary --$55,000

Age --47

Years on the job --25 years

Training --Bachelor of arts in fine arts and graphic design from Rhode Island School of Design in 1981; continuing education from Maryland Institute College of Art.

On becoming a professional artist --His earliest recollections are of drawing. "I always knew I was an artist."

Jobs --His first job was in Texas, designing signage for buildings. "In Houston, I did large office complexes, then relocated to Virginia and loved it." He then became what he calls "a hospital wayfinding specialist" for four years, designing exterior and interior sign systems. He then did signs for airports, including Washington's Ronald Reagan National. He moved to Baltimore in 1998 to work for an architect and opened his business in 2003.

Definition of wayfinding --Designing and placing sign systems associated with approaching, maneuvering through and leaving a building. This includes parking, elevators and stairs.

Typical day --He has breakfast and goes to his home office. "I work on an iMac, usually eight projects at a time, creating signs, location plans, sign messages, schedules and fabrication drawings so that big sign systems can be priced [in] a bidding process."

The good --"Making phone calls from a shaded patio surrounded by birds."

The bad --Poor signs along the roadway, whether it's for fast-food restaurants, road signs or anything else. "I can't drive down the road without noticing bad signs."

Favorite projects --"One of the things I'm happiest with is designing the standards for all [public] parking garages in Montgomery County."

Philosophy --"All people live though a process of finding their way and I merely exist to assist."

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