49 Mile Scenic Drive’s sign designed by Rex May has a mysterious story

29th December 2019

MadeGood – Please give me some background on yourself as a film maker, is this film about Rex May’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive sign typical example of your work? You co-directed this film with Tyler McPherron, do you often work together? Please tell me a bit about you working dynamic.

Bradley Smith – I have worked with Tyler as a DP many times, but when prepping this project he really understood what I was going for conceptually and he had ideas that were beyond just our visual approach…so I asked him if he wanted to co-direct the piece with me. He makes beautiful video see it at his site.

Alexander was also a part of this film from beginning to end…even though his role was that of writer/narrator/illustrator, all three of us put our heads together as a team to make this project what it is.

MadeGood – How did you find out about the story of the 49 Mile Scenic Drive sign, and what made you want to make a film about it? I think I saw a quote of you saying this started out as a film about design, and it took on a new life. Please tell me more about this.

Bradley Smith – The writer/narrator/illustrator Alexander Barrett has a real eye for typography, design and illustration (his new book This is San Francisco is a gem). He noticed the two slightly different versions of the sign, and we thought we would make a quippy design critique, which lives on in the visual “Let’s Compare” section of the film. But once we started researching and contacting people around this story, we realised that Rex May’s story needed to be told.

Rex May, the designer of the 49 mile scenic drive sign | MadeGood

MadeGood – Following on from the last point, there’s some great graphic design in the film itself (not just the sign in question!), are it’s obviously quite central to your short. Who created the artwork for your film?

Bradley Smith – Alexander Barrett! Follow him on Instagram for frequent awesomeness.

MadeGood – What do you think happened to the original signs? It seems they were quite iconic, do you think the originals were sold and replaced with cheap replicas!?

Bradley Smith – After much digging, we found out that someone was responsible but more importantly, also discovered that instead of pointing fingers we wanted to celebrate Rex May and the team that corrected the horrible redesign

MadeGood – What are you working on next?

Bradley Smith – I am currently working on PHANTOM SEASONS, a light art installation commissioned in Wyoming (I have developed a body of work as an installation artist over the last couple years)…here is the project blurb:

“PHANTOM SEASONS is an apparition inspired by two phenomena: the vibrant colours from each season and our most limited resource of all – time. Using LEDs to light the walls and snow of Town Enclosure, PHANTOM SEASONS erupts in colour at variable intervals inspired by Old Faithful and other awe-inspiring geysers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This nightly ritual is triggered by an unreliable timer that, like nature, forces us to look at the impermanence of natural wonders and our own perspectives of time. As the seasons on this planet change each year, what changes do we notice in ourselves? What dreams will haunt the seasons that we have left? What realities will we leave behind for other beings to inherit?”

the 49 mile scenic drive sign in situe | MadeGood
An original version of the 49 mile scenic drive sign | MadeGood
Screenshot 2019-12-08 at 16.50.54 | MadeGood

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