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Before 1972, there was no sign ordinance in Salem. Store owners were allowed to slap on whatever they pleased to the outside of their business, resulting in signs that were out of scale, distracting, poorly type-faced, and glowing with neon. Collins believed that the quality of a store sign was an important factor in Salem's facelift and he advocated for a set of sign regulations to be established.
Jim and Helen Baldwin, two graphic designers living in Salem, were hired by the SRA to write the cities first sign ordinance. The two had graduated from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, were they were trained in typography. Before writing, they first traveled to other historic towns in order to observe how they enforced sign quality.
They created a book called Sign Language, that served as a visual guide to the ordinances that they wrote. They then served on the design review board and helped store owners design signs that were creative, beautiful, and appropriate to the harmony of the city.