In the first of our features on products that helped define our industry, we take a closer look at the Signmaker IVB plotter from Gerber, launched circa 1983.
If you are signmaker who was there during the transition from brushes and paintpots to plotters and vinyl, you more than likely owned one of these bad boys.
The Gerber Signmaker IVB came as standard with 1 single font installed, Helvetica Medium Auto-Kern. Of course you had the option of turning your IVB into a graphics tour de force, through the installation of up to 8 additional fonts that came supplied on an electronic plug-in printed circuit board!
At a cost per font ranging from £200-£400, these font cards weren't cheap, and initially the range wasn't huge.
During the early 80's vehicles with vinyl signage were invariably designed with either Helvetica, Times Roman, and of course for those wanting a little more panache, Brush Script and Commercial Script were also commonplace.
The Gerber IVB was hated as much as it was loved. The traditional signwriters were horrified that their 'art' had been demeaned by a machine that churned out 'me too' signs that lacked any of the originality or aesthetics that typified a quality hand painted sign.
Traditional signwriting was a craft which involved at least five years spent learning the painstaking art of hand-painting signs on to wood or metal. A steady hand and a good eye were needed, as well as a feeling for design and lettering.
Those that purchased a IVB had other ideas, they bought into the USP of "Greater Productivity, Greater Profit Margins", they also realised that many customers didn't want, and indeed couldn't afford, bespoke art for their shops or vehicles, they wanted an easier and lower cost option - with a Gerber plotter you could deliver on that need, and produce simple signs for A-boards, shop fronts, windows and vehicles, in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost.
Ironically, with todays wide format printers we have gone full circle. The art is back, and now creativity not possible with a simple vinyl cutting plotter, can again be sold for a premium price. A sign that may have taken days or even weeks to create as a one-off handpainted original, can, with suitable software and printer, be designed digitally, and then be reproduced at the click of a button for use on advertising, vehicles, shop fronts, windows, as well as t-shirts, cups, mousemats, and more. Surely that is a win-win for the more creative?
From the sales manual
Remember why you bought your Gerber IVB? Maybe it was the high tech sales pitch that did it for you...
"Welcome to the world of automatic text generation! The original Gerber Signmaker III, first introduced in 1982, brought microprocessor technology to the art of graphic layout and production. Its many features made it an instant success in the industry. The Signmaker IVB retains all Signmaker III capabilities and expands on them with the addition of new features to simplify use and increase the variety of graphic effects which can be created."
Just don't forget to keep your bale arms tightened and your sprockets free of glue!!
Back to the future: You can add some traditional creativity to your current designs using some of these superb old fashioned lettering fonts from sign artist Dave Correll