I agree with what you're saying, although I wasn't actually meaning to refer to the decals in that way. I knew it was somewhat(OK a lot) vague when I wrote it but I was trying to save words at the time. Now I pay the price. In that context I actually meant the brand of the frame, meaning that even the decals (brand of the frame) are to be ignored when determining the quality of the construction of said frame. When judgeing the whole package graphics (and paint job) are far more important that quality of construction in the real world of selling "product". That's why the best framebuilders use the best painters. This was a BIG sore spot with Dave Tesch. It used to annoy the livin' crap out of him when someone would take delivery of a new frame and the only comments from the customer were how awsome the paint job was. Like a stake through the heart for an ego like Teschs'. Also the fact that according to Dave "any substandard Joe Blow Caveman Backyard framebuilder can make a piece of crap" look like his frames. Maybe not 100% true, but pretty much so. Many people can't see through the paint job. It is particularly true if someone is buying off the shelf.
The ideal situation is painter/framebuilder in some cases. As the workmanship becomes more refined on the frame itself ,it becomes more neccessary to refine the paint techniques along with it to accentuate the work, as opposed to bury it under paint and clear coats. Also, at the highest level, the philosophy of the lug contours (the way the lugs were filed after brazing) has to be continued to get the best results and to preserve the subleties of those curves. Over the years I have been able to get it down to where multi layer colors (the ones I make myself mostly) can be applied extremely thin while being very smooth and glossy without the appearence of too much paint. Basically it requires violating all the "rules" that normal car painters and paint manufacturers reccommend and adhear to, and strike out on your own. After buying paint from the same dealer for the past 12 or 13 years I took a frame over there (my fixed gear road bike) just to show them that I wasn't actually drinking ALL of the Imron I buy from them. I swear I had never actually seen someones jaw drop before. After I told him how I made each color he was dumbfounded. He clutched his crusifix and crossed himself and said "keep that VooDoo outta here". Not really, but I mix things and create stuff that they all think can't be done. Much of it can't be done on a car, but a bike frame is a whole different animal. Now they think I'm some kind of Wizard, which isn't exactly wrong. The masking was something they could not comprehend. That is something that doesn't transfer to car painting. Masking techniques are another thing that can make or break a paint job. Pardon me if I tell a funny story. Many years ago, after the Bicycling Magazine article "USA vs. the World" (Oct. 1983 I think), wherein appeared a photo of the head tube of one of my frames came out; a framebuilder/friend of mine asked how I masked the lugs like that. He started off by saying "I know you're not using masking tape, I can't get that to work at all." He was quite sure I had a secret; some liquid masking agent or oil of some sort. I told him I had never revealed my secret to anyone before, but since he asked, I would tell him as long as he didn't blab it all over town, etc. He was primed and ready and then I let it out. "Masking tape". Perhaps there was actually a jaw drop that time also. I did tell him how to do it. And it is masking tape.
Graphics do sometimes provide a clue as to the "personality" of the builder in the case of custom builders. Perhaps not always (just to be safe) but not uncommonly. I would not call that a hard fast rule, but certainly as valid as saying that dogs and their owners are alike.
To sum it up, "clothes make the man" applies to bike frames as well. I have also noticed that most painters (and framebuilders who use painters) have a "style" which is often distinguishable just by the colors and/or schemes and graphics that they use out of preference. These are usually the things that catch ones attention about any given frame. Even when some people think they are looking at good workmanship, they are actually seeing a good paint job.
> Brian Baylis wrote:
> > So I guess I'm saying that what makes a frame what it is, is in fact the
> > craftsman and not the bits and decals.
> "Slight disagreement here Brian," (said as the graphic designer in the
> crowd raised his hand timidly).
> The decals are of secondary importance in a frame to be sure, however I
> feel they provide a real insight into the taste and level of esthetics
> of a frame builder. The graphics tell me as much about a builder as the
> style of joining the seat stays to the seat lug or the type of fork
> crown he uses. The refinement of the logo design can even be an
> indication of the number of years the frame builder has been practicing
> his craft and his expertise.
> Probably the best example of what I would consider a poor design is Tom
> Ritchey's decals. The decals look like each was designed by a different
> person; no harmony exists. Plus the letters themselves are very
> clumsily drawn; almost a naive, self taught look to the rendering of the
> letters. Of course, some would be drawn to this naive look of the
> graphics that I am critical of. To each his own.
> Chuck Schmidt
> South Pasadena, California