It’s been over a year since I moved from Venezuela, that beautiful tropical paradise now damaged and constantly redefining what rock bottom means. I’m not going to explain here what’s so wrong about it, instead I will talk about store signs but you should know it’s not a nice place to live in anymore as it was less than 20 years ago.

Many Venezuelans have decided to leave the country to find opportunities and have a normal and hopefully peaceful life abroad.

venezuela astrid manzo


One of the first things Venezuelans experience when they arrive in a different country is the ability to feel their lives are not in danger just because they have nice shoes or they’re using a cellphone on the street. And of course, all that food and products available. Venezuela has been in a situation of scarcity for over 7 years, so for a newcomer, going to Walmart or Target is one the most exciting experiences. Sad but true.

My first year in Tampa, Florida

I must say Tampa Bay is full of surprises, you can go kayaking in the morning, have a delicious grouper sandwich for lunch and finish the day at a hockey game Downtown. I’m really liking this place.

It has everything and then some more. I’ve been pretty much everywhere from Bradenton to Tarpon Springs, the cute little Greek town, and as graphic designer I couldn’t help but notice the signs of small to medium local stores all across the Bay.

tampa Astrid Manzo


I don’t know about other places in the US or Florida but store signs in Tampa Bay are mostly just wrong. Imagine the most generic black crooked text over a white background sign that hasn’t been cleaned up in a few years. And it’s not just that, so many places seem to not even have a name. They just make a sign that reads: “Hair salon”, “Liquor store” or “Hot food” to name a few.

And don’t even get me started on their websites. Hint: It’s better not having a website at all than having a 1990’s looking one. But I’ll leave that for my next post.

So what you see everywhere you turn your head around is what seems like the same generic stores selling the same generic stuff. What makes them different? Why should I choose to go to one instead of the other? Those are clearly questions the owners of those places haven’t asked themselves. I wonder how their business is doing.

Maybe It’s just me

Is this a cultural thing of the US? Is there a reason business owners don’t care about what their store looks like? And I’m not only talking about store signs here. (Think sketchy-looking place, dirty floors and scary cashiers) Where are the designers of this place? Or maybe store owners don’t care at all and don’t want to invest?

When was the last time you saw a business succeed beyond just mediocrity without a brand identity? It’s not just the looks, it’s the experience.



Am I the only one noticing signs in my crazy designer head?

In my country, even the smallest store has a distinctive name and some sort of logo. Most places from a little hot dog stand to a local established decent-sized store has the work of a graphic designer somewhere. Not all of them are right or professionally-made but man, at least they try to be different, they put some thought into it and they try to stand out from the competitors.

It’s not just my country, when I went to Colombia it was pretty much the same as in Venezuela and Paris’ signs have a completely different style, classic and vintage, simple yet elegant. It goes well with the old buildings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m liking this country a lot so far. I could list a thousand things that work better here than in my country but store signs or graphic design is not one of them.

What do you think is the reason for this in the US? Or just Tampa Bay? How do store signs look like in your country? Hit the comments and let me know.