A glimpse into the history of Panaji through its unique brands

The rotary telephone on this sign indicated that the store had a telephone, one of the first in town, and a matter of pride.

Such signs are increasingly difficult to find. There is now only one carpenter making them and business is dwindling rapidly for him too. RR Sawant’s store has been closed since March 2020. Just around the corner from its dilapidated storefront, a bustling boutique prints cheaper and easy-to-maintain LED-backed flex, vinyl, or acrylic signs.

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I am happy to see several elders of the old guard hanging on to the charming multicolored wooden signage. “Serif fonts have a small line or stroke at the end. When the letters were hand painted, the extra brush stroke becomes an interesting way to tidy up the letter, ”said Rawlley, explaining how the signs reflect the times. When machines began to be used for sign making, it was easier to use Sans Serif fonts with straight edges. The typography also reveals the era of the boutique’s opening or the fashion for lettering at the time.

Panaji has some amazing examples of Art Deco lettering, like the signage of the JD Fernandes stationery shops, near the Jardim Garcia da Orta (the municipal garden). The letters are thick and curved, resembling interlocking gears, echoing this popular design style of the 1950s-60s.

Rawlley laments the lack of sensitivity in the use of signage these days. “In the past, you can see how the signage was an integral part of the facade. The names of the buildings and establishments were either integrated into the facade or supplemented. Now the panels are placed on any available surface, ”he says. A particularly egregious example was a shoe store with a logo protruding far from the facade of the otherwise charming old building.

They all bemoan the changing nature of the city, the unrecognizable streets. In many antique shops, the walls are lined with vintage prints of gods and grandfathers, and sepia-tinted photographs of the shop and town. Images of wide, tree-lined avenues with no traffic in sight linger as we dodge motorcycles racing in all directions, much against the tide.

On the way home, Rawlley pointed out the graffiti on the city walls. “This is also a new type of typography that we have to pay attention to,” he said, pointing to a painted “Casino” and a stenciled portrait of the slain Father Bismarque Dias, both anonymous works of art. that remind us that a historic city can be found on its walls and on its signs, “touch someone now” or in the future, if we only remember to look up and see.

Chryselle D’Silva Dias is a Goa-based journalist.

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