Meet Earl Phillips: Cleveland's Greatest Living Sign Painter

Biopic of Earl Phillips, proprietor of Cleveland's U-Need-A-Sign Co. at 131st Street since 1960.

Elderly man standing in front of a shopfront which is emblazoned with a huge fascia sign that reads "SIGNS".
Earl Phillips in 2023, at the former premises of his U-Need-A-Sign Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: John Skrtic.

Recently Michael Bierut shared John Skrtic's photo (above), stating that: "This is probably my favourite piece of environmental graphic design in the world"—high praise from someone who has seen, and created, a lot of award-winning graphic design.

The man in the picture is Earl Phillips, now retired, but formerly the proprietor of U-Need-A-Sign Co. at 3838 131st Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

Seeing him again reminded me of this wonderful short biopic, which John Skrtic (@skrticx) also had a hand in. I realised I'd never shared it before, so here it is, packed with Earl's life, work, and wise words.

Behind the Sign by Cleveland SGS (@clevelandsgs) on Vimeo.


Man sitting in front of a shopfront which is emblazoned with a huge fascia sign that reads "SIGNS".
Earl Phillips in 2018. He was in business from this shop from 1960. Photo: John Skrtic.
Portrait of an elderly man wearing trousers and shows splattered with paint, and in front of a shop entrance with various bits of signage around it.
Earl Phillips, now retired, in 2023. Photo: John Skrtic.
Two men posing in front of a shopfront which is emblazoned with a huge fascia sign that reads "SIGNS".
John Skrtic and Earl Phillips in 2023.
With thanks to John Skrtic for kindly allowing his photos to be reproduced, and for giving this post its headline.

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