Meet the guy behind epic Toronto restaurant signs
If you've gone out to eat in Toronto, you've likely seen Ian Milne's work. From Sweet Jesus and La Carnita in King West to Buca Yorkville, Milne's custom restaurant signs beckon hungry diners into popular eateries across the city.
Milne, who's an industrial designer of sorts, makes outdoor signs, as well as other unique items including jewelry, lighting and clocks. Despite the ubiquity of his pieces, he says he fell into his current business almost by fluke.
"I had a friend who was opening a restaurant and he was looking for ideas for various things," he says. "I just sort of said, 'I can probably make you a really cool sign.' And the rest is history."
He created that first sign, for the St. Clair West bistro Rushton, back in 2007. Around the same time, he also made a sign for Rocco Agostino's Silver Spoon.
Now sign-making is Milne's full-time gig. Some restaurant owners come to Milne with ready-made logos; others give him free reign. While working with Poutini's House of Poutine, for instance, he came up with the poutine-emporium's slogan: om nom nom.
On average, each outdoor sign runs between $3,000-$6,000. Milne relies heavily on durable materials - such as steel and glass -- thanks to Toronto's erratic climate. "My biggest enemy is salt on streets like Queen Street," he says.
While signs might be Milne's bread-and-butter, he looks indoors for opportunities too. "Every restaurant wants a cool conversation piece, be it a light or a piece on the wall," he says, noting he can get more creative here because he's not limited by certain materials.
Lately, he's also been getting commissions from individuals who want pieces for their homes. And, he wants to leverage his word-of-mouth popularity in the food industry to continue selling products beyond his custom signs, including his lighting fixtures and clocks -- or as he refers to them, his time machines.
For now though, you can spot some of his most recent work at Bobbie Sue's on Ossignton and at the John Street La Carnita/Sweet Jesus complex.
Photos via Ian Milne's website and the blogTO archives.
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