Sandwich boards from Providence Optical

A selection of sandwich board designs from Providence Optical's Onega Astaltsova.

There’s nothing revolutionary about using a sandwich board outside your optical. They’re ubiquitous in front of bars, coffee shops, or any business that can afford some chalk. But like all effective advertising, it’s the singer not the song. Onega Astaltsova uses chalkboards to sing the virtues of her Providence Optical shop in Providence, RI. And it works. 

THE IDEA: “The idea to use chalkboards stemmed from a desire to create a certain feel for the business,” she says.

“I took into account the atmosphere of the street where our shop is located because I wanted our signage to harmonize with the vibe of the surrounding businesses. At the same time, it had to be something eye-catching that’s easy to spot from some distance and, of course, it had to be distinctive.”

Her sandwich boards are the kind of fun, playful optic that her clients have come to expect. 

“It’s a sort of chain reaction from our overall aesthetic — our window displays, the interior of the shop, our product lines and our blogs.  The whole package of our communication with our clients has an inner harmony.”

THE EXECUTION: The materials are the easy part. Anyone can buy a sandwich chalkboard and chalk. Astaltsova uses real, basic chalk, not chalk paint, which is an imitation. 

“I add some soft pastels, which I collected in large quantities when students of the local school of design (Rhode Island School of Design) left them on the sidewalk after graduation. If I need to put something out just for one day and I don’t want to remove my previous work from the board yet, I use a black foam poster board, draw on it and insert it in the frame on top of the previous one.”

THE REWARDS: The idea was to use the sandwich boards to communicate with the community. It’s not so much about helping a sale, but rather creating the opportunity for a sale.

“We greet visitors by letting them know of local events, such as a dog show taking place in the area. One of the most fun boards I created was to congratulate a couple on their wedding day — our store was on the route between the church and the reception!”

Ten years into running her business, Astaltsova has used the success generated by her creative sandwich boards to start making eyewear for editorial photo shoots for apparel companies and runways in wood, acetate and 3D-printing.

“I like going to professional trade shows to watch the growth and evolution of eyewear designers and to check out the latest technologies.”

She’s also spent the past six years writing for a professional optical publication in Russia, called Magazine (OpticMagazine).

Do It Yourself: Take Your Sandwich Board Skills to a New Level
  • Use Caran D’Ache Neocolor Crayons for a smudge-resistant, chalky look that’s removed with water. Astaltsova also recommends the Posca Paint Pen, which makes opaque lines.
  • Here is a fun project: Make your own projector! You can trace a photo of eyewear from a magazine or an image printed from your computer. Enlarge it and project it onto the board. 
  • Do a Google search for chalkboard workshops coming to your town. For example, the group Better Letters is offering a four-day workshop at the beginning of July in Minnesota.
  • You can achieve a consistent look with ready-made lettering stencils, or you can make your own. If you can’t draw, write some quotes or fun facts about optics on a board.
  • Get a few boards to give yourself enough time to work on each one. You can display one while you work on the next. That way, you can take your time, be creative and make it look just right.
 

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 edition of INVISION.



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