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A Scenic View of Sign-Making


creative carving

Selling to Your Customers

Num ber 221 | No v em ber 2 0 1 3

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November 2013


44 18

Righting our Directional Sense with Wayfinding BY LORI SHRIDHARE

A consulting firm shows why one size doesn’t fit all in wayfinding projects. Plus Brad Burnett on why SEOs matter for sign shops.

27 32

Ordering Digital Signage BY LORI SHRIDHARE

Menu boards are crossing over into the electronic.

The Scenic View of Sign Making BY JEFF WOOTEN

A CNC router is brought in for the finer details.

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015-805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564) (Bluechip Int’l, Po Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Agreement # 41094515) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10004. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices. Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions printed or digital version: 1 year US $105.00; foreign $197.00; foreign, air mail $297.00. 2 years US $149.00; foreign $267.00; foreign, air mail $497.00. BOTH Print & Digital Versions: 1 year US $158.00; foreign $296.00; foreign, air mail $396.00. 2 years US $224.00; foreign $400.00; foreign, air mail $600.00. Single copies are $36.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only. Copyright © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2013. All rights reserved. Contents may not be

32 40

The “Spirit” of Engraving BY ASHLEY BRAY

A business tests the limits of its laser engraver on a project for a whisky company.


Neon Arrow Hits the Target BY JEFF WOOTEN

A Southwest-themed sign lights up a Texas tattoo shop.

reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher 212-620-7247 or For Subscriptions, & address changes, please call (800) 895-4389, (402) 346-4740, Fax (402) 346-3670, e-mail or write to: Sign Builder Illustrated, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 1172, Skokie, IL 60076-8172. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 1172, Skokie, IL 60076-8172. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



How-To Columns


Full Fleet Makeover

DECEMBER 2013 December 5-7: USSC Sign World International is taking place at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (www.ussc. org/main_signworld.html)



February 11-14: Digital Signage Expo will be held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (

Success at Selling Monuments

14 Success at Selling Monuments BY KATIE SCHWARTZ

Develop an effective marketing strategy for monument signs.


TSC1 SBI’s Trendsetters ’14

An advertorial section featuring roundups of the latest innovations in the sign industry.

Departments 4





Sign Show


SBI Marketplace


Shop Talk

Jeff Wooten checks out some stats and statistics related to effective signs for business clients.

The latest news from around the industry.

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade. MONUMENT SIGNS Selling to Your Customers


A Scenic View of Sign-Making


NU M BE R 22 0 | NOV E MBE R 20 13


Emergency! Jeff Wooten shows how Larry Chan at Signs and Prints is making hot decals for fire engines.


Wayfind On the Cover > Trendsetters Special


> Laser Engraving > Neon Arrow


A sterling example of signage can be found at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. Photo: Carpman Grant Associates.

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

February 27-march 1: Graphics of the Americas Expo & Conference is taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida. (

MARCH 2014 march 6-8: Dscoop9, an independent global community of graphic arts professionals who use HP equipment and related solutions, will be held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida. (

APRIL 2014 aPrIL 24-26: The 2014 ISA International Sign Expo returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (


by jeff wooten

November 2013, Vol. 27, No. 221 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Better Business Signage

executive offices

President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Publisher Arthur J. sutley

A new study shows that signs really do pay off.

55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 editorial editor

Jeff Wooten

323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 252/355-5806; fax: 252/355-5690 associate editor

Ashley Bray

Photo: Stuart Monk / ShutterStock.coM


ecently I found myself hovering around the fringes of a conversation between a store owner and his employees about putting up signage at their new location on the corner of an intersection. They were debating whether they were also going to need a sign perpendicular to motorists on the side of their new building, in addition to the official one that would be hung above the storefront entrance parallel to the street. After revealing my secret identity and interjecting my two cents worth (and bringing up terms like “permits” and “standoffs”), I learned that the main reason for their sign makeover was that they were looking to enhance their presence more than they did at their old location. They’d already decided to leave behind their faded, worn-out sign they’d been using for years for something brighter and more colorful. But they wondered if another sign would increase in-store traffic. So yes, they were well aware that, when it comes to signage (and Canon cameras), image is everything. This also timely ties into the concept of signage as a vital component of a business’s success brought up at last month’s National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC) sponsored by the Signage Foundation, Inc., and the University of Cincinnati’s Colleges of Business & DAAP. One study cited was “Additional Insights from the BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper Study: A Three-Year, Longitudinal Update,” released by Professor James J. Kellaris, who polled consumers on what makes a sign hard to read. 4

According to his report, key factors cited by respondents that “negatively affect legibility” are: + Letters are too small (83.3 percent); + Placement of the sign makes it hard to see (71.4 percent); + The sign is not sufficiently lit at night (63.6 percent);

55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 401/722-5919; fax: 212/633-1863 contributing writers

Butch “superfrog” Anton, Mike Antoniak, Brad Burnett, Jim hingst, Peter Perszyk, Mark roberts, Katie schwartz, lori shridhare, randy Wright art

Corporate Art Director Wendy Williams production

+ The color of the letters does not stand out from the background (60.3 percent); + The letters use a fancy font (47.8 percent); + The letters are spaced too closely together (35.6 percent); and

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers circulation

Circulation Director Maureen Cooney advertising sales national sales director

Jeff sutley

+ The sign looks very similar to other signs nearby (34.4 percent).

212/620-7233; fax: 212/633-1863 west & midwest regional sales manager

If there’s one underlying theme running through this month’s issue, it might be improving visual identity with signage. Stories include: a more up-to-date aesthetic design of wayfinding signage at the Massachusetts State House in Boston (p. 18), a reimagining of a mountedletter sign for an Inn now incorporating routercarved components and a change of scenery (p. 32), lighting and engraved etchings to improve wall display units (p. 40), and an upgrade from painted MDO to colorful neon (p. 44). So when talking with your retail or restaurant clients, stress to them to keep the customers in mind above their own needs, when it comes to an effective sign design for them.

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

Kim noa

212/620-7221; fax: 212/633-1863

For reprint information contact Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad St, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 Circulation Dept. 800/895-4389

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Above image used for advertising purposes only. LuxemBright® Fire Series™ modules are potted to IP67 standard and are not intended to be submerged in water. Fire Series, Fire, and Flare are Trademarks of CAO Lighting, Inc. Blaze and Inferno are Registered Trademarks of CAO Lighting, Inc. © 2013 CAO Lighting, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dispatches A whimsical, nautical design from KMA Design helps update a fleet's look and improve wayfinding at the dock.

A Full Fleet

Makeover Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—A fleet of six entertainment cruise ships is sailing in style with an all-new look. The Gateway Clipper Fleet, which runs in Station Square along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, has KMA Design ( to thank for its revamped logo and branding, as well as for the new wayfinding system around the dock. Established in 1996, KMA Design specializes in environmental graphic design and handles everything from traditional graphics to Web sites. On the Gateway Clipper Fleet project, KMA worked to bring the fleet’s appearance up to date. “They wanted something whimsical and fun,” says Michael Martin, senior designer 6

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

and senior associate of KMA Design. Martin notes the importance of creating an eye-catching design because the fleet is frequently on TV during the coverage of sporting events. “We try to go in with three options: traditional, a little 'middle of the road,' and then something 'off the wall.' And they actually liked the 'off the wall,'” he says. KMA Design incorporated a nautical theme with flags and a design on the sides of the boats that mimics the flowing movement of the waves. This nautical theme was also extended to the wayfinding. Previously the dock only had one small sign with an LED display. This was replaced with a new entry

Canadian School “Advances” to Wide Format

Irvine, California—Roland DGA Corp. ( and Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM) have teamed up to bring the benefits of Roland’s advanced SOLJET® Pro 4 XR-640 large format color printer/cutter to the school’s students, faculty, and research staff. "We are very pleased to be able to incorporate the XR-640 into our teaching curriculum,” said Dr. Abhay Sharma, associate professor of graphic communication at GCM. “With the XR-640, we can instruct student projects in large format printing—exploring topics such as ink consumption, printing with white ink, and [producing] vehicle wraps. I’m really looking forward to seeing the results this semester."

The wayfinding incorporated a number of materials: aluminum, reflective vinyls, Akzo Nobel paints, and fiberglass for the spindles on the paddle wheels.

all photos: kma design.

archway, an information display center, dock identification signs, and administrative office signage. In addition to crafting the new theme, KMA Design also determined the ideal locations for the wayfinding signage. “There’s a major traffic flow issue when you come down to the bottom of the dock because you have eight gates to possibly go to,” says Frank A. Speney, senior associate and constructability expert at KMA Design. “We were able to place a directional right on the corner of a swing blade where you would actually be able to see it from two different angles, which really helped out a lot.” The wayfinding fabrication was handled by Big Apple Visual Group, which incorporated a number of materials into the sig-

nage (aluminum, reflective vinyls, Akzo Nobel paints, and fiberglass for the spindles on the paddle wheels). Bunting Graphics handled painting and applying the vinyl decals to the boats. “They just wanted something different that nobody else in the city has,” says Martin, “and I think that we really were able to achieve that for them.” —Ashley Bray

With its two inline mirrored printheads, integrated printing and contour-cutting technology, and new Eco-Sol MAX® 2 inks in nine colors (including white, metallic silver, and light black), Ryerson students can use the XR-640 to explore applications ranging from signs and banners to wraps, P-O-P, and more. “Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management is Canada’s leading educational program focused on graphic communications disciplines,” said Don Ross, Roland DGA’s national director in Canada. “We appreciate the opportunity to place today’s most advanced large format printing technology in the hands of tomorrow’s graphics professionals.”

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Dispatches +

Alexandria, Virginia—Eight ISA-member companies representing twelve locations hosted students from middle school to post-high school vocational training programs and community colleges as part of the National Association of Manufacturing’s (NAM) Manufacturing Day on October 4. The International Sign Association (ISA) recently partnered with NAM to help expand knowledge and improve perception around manufacturing careers and the value of manufacturing to the U.S. economy. While each host company was able to tailor the day’s activities to suit their audiences, most offered tours of manufacturing facilities and explained the diversity of careers within the sign industry. Some companies began conversations about internships or co-op placements with participating educators. “What an exciting opportunity to see the

possibilities in our industry through fresh eyes,” said ISA President and CEO Lori Anderson, who a t t e n d e d Manufacturing Day at Lauretano Sign Group in Terryville, Connecticut. “We know that finding skilled workers is going to become increasingly difficult, and the demographics are not on our side. The typical highly skilled manufacturing worker is fifty-six years old. “Reaching out to the next generation of workers to showcase the variety of careers within our industry is extremely important.” Elsewhere Poyant Signs in New Bedford, Massachusetts showed more than thirty high school students the entire process— from design to finished signs loaded onto

trucks for shipment. Students expressed surprise at the scope of operations. Mattatall Signs, Ltd., in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia offered tours of the shop floor, art room, and laser/photopolymer room to twenty-five Grade 10 students from a local high school. And Kieffer & Co., offered tours of its Sheboygan, Wisconsin facility, landing the company on the front of the local newspaper and garnering video coverage. “We had a lot of fun and can’t wait to do it again next year,” said Kieffer & Co. Vice President of Manufacturing Jeff Fuhrmann. Also participating in this event were: Cummings Signs (Dothan, AL; Riverside, CA), Federal Heath (Oceanside, CA; Euless, TX; Jacksonville, TX; Delaware, OH), North American Signs (South Bend, IN), and Watchfire Signs By Time-O-Matic (Danville, IL). Taking part in Manufacturing Day is another component in ISA’s efforts to improve workforce development. In all, more than 800 manufacturers across the nation participated in the initiative, tripling in size from the inaugural event in 2012.

Three New Mimaki Branches Open Suwanee, Georgia—Mimaki USA ( announces the opening of three new branches in the U.S., as it progresses a business expansion strategy aimed at tapping into high-growth cities and regions in the sign & graphics, textile & apparel, and industrial markets. The new branches—located in the cities of Torrance, California (relocating from their former California branch in


Northridge); Rockaway, New Jersey; and Dallas, Texas—increase Mimaki’s footprint in the U.S. region to over six nationwide branches. Mimaki USA’s plan is to strengthen its business partner network in these geographical areas to help provide dealers and their clients with the support of fully equipped demonstration showrooms and customer service facilities. “M i m a k i U S A h a s w i t n e s s e d

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

increased growth in these regional areas and is excited to offer the convenience of serving our dealers and customers in these office/showroom demonstration centers with Mimaki products,” says Paul McGovern, marketing & promotions manager for Mimaki USA.

photo (top): lauretano signs; (left) poyant signs.

Students Learn About Possible Sign Careers

SignSHOW D I G I TA L P R I N T I N G E Q U I PM E N T/ S U P P L I E S Mimaki USA is Excited to Announce the Release of the Enhanced JV400LX Latex Inkjet Printers The Enhanced JV400-130/160LX Latex Inkjet Printers from Mimaki USA improve on the company's previous models not only with a new LX101 latex ink set that now features CMYK, orange and green inks, and the world’s first white latex ink but also with upgraded heaters for more efficient curing. The lower curing temperatures allow greater flexibility and more media choices. These improvements are in response to their customers’ desire for a wider variety of media options (especially in the textile and home décor arenas). The LX101 ink has been formulated to produce extremely vivid, glossy, high-quality images with excellent ink color density. Six-color process printing is possible, and the color gamut has been expanded to achieve coverage of 93 percent of the Pantone® color chart. Additionally three-layer printing (color-white-color) is now an option.

Roland DGA's New VSi Series Wide Format Printer/Cutters Take VersaCAMM® to the Next Level Available in thirty-, fifty-four-, and sixty-four-inch models, the VersaCAMM® VSi family of printer/cutters from Roland DGA all boast a fresh, new look. The improvements are much more than skin deep though. Incorporating a newly designed eight-channel Piezo inkjet printhead, variable droplet inkjet printing, and the latest in eco-solvent inks, the VSi delivers stunning images with exceptional detail at all print speeds. With seven different droplet sizes available, the VSi Series achieves smoother gradations and richer density for superior photographic and high-resolution output. The VSi printhead also produces smaller droplets than previous printhead designs; this allows for rich, bold color and deep image saturation on a broader range of media. Every VSi printer/cutter is equipped to take full advantage of Roland’s faster-drying GREENGUARD Gold certified Eco-Sol® MAX 2 inks in CMYKLcLm, high-opacity White, Metallic Silver, and Light Black. Additionally Eco-Sol MAX 2 inks are extremely scratch-resistant and provide outdoor durability for up to three years without lamination.

LETTERS/LETTERING Designed for the Unique Demands of Its Sign & Design Customers, Gemini Relaunches Its Web Site Gemini Incorporated has redesigned its official Web site (, in an effort to provide the best customer service in the industry. Featuring a multimedia experience showcasing the company’s complete product line, the site incorporates videos, photo galleries, sign design tools, enhanced order tracking, and catalog downloads. Gemini customers can log in to the “Sign Pro” area for exclusive content or easily navigate the site to find the latest Gemini specifications and up-to-date product news and information. Designers have kept the site fun and simple with a user-friendly approach. Take the “Learning Center,” for example. Users can watch videos about sign installations, maintenance, LEDs, and kerning all in one organized department. Click on any of the product tabs and a drop-down menu will appear showing different options.

ROUTERS/ENGR AVERS Kern Laser’s Z12 Monument Etching System is a Monumental Achievement Kern Laser Systems manufactures laser-engraving equipment that offers the greatest amount of detail available in the monument etching industry. Granite and marble can be etched with beautiful designs and photographs, and even urns and caskets can be engraved. The Z12 system features a strong, solid steel frame and an extra-high gantry, which is designed to handle heavy stones up to twelve inches thick. A wraparound gantry and roller bed table makes loading and unloading of material quick and easy. The low-profile table and pass-through design allow for easier integration of existing conveyor systems. 218/631-2755;

There’s an App for CNC! The New Thermwood Mobile App Thermwood Corporation has announced that its new Thermwood CNC Mobile app is available for use on all smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The Thermwood CNC Mobile app allows users to monitor many aspects of their Thermwood smart-router and QCore Super Controller—including programs, events, cycle times, scheduled maintenance, and much more—from just about anywhere. The app also permits users to obtain a variety of information: a listing of every machine they own and its current state; the current Feed Override setting; a listing of all current and past part programs loaded/ran in chronological order with extensions; and much more. Users can download the app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.


Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

WANT MORE FOR YOUR MONEY? WHO DOESN’T? As a local sign company, when you join an ISA affiliated association in your state or region, your International Sign Association membership is automatically included. That’s two great memberships for the price of one. •

Stay on top of current trends and find innovative solutions to keep your customers coming back.

Build a strong professional network to learn best practices from your peers.

Protect your livelihood by utilizing ISA’s rapid-response government relations team to fight oppressive local, state and federal sign codes.

Learn from others in the industry to grow your business.

PUT US TO WORK FOR YOU. ISA Affiliated Associations: Arizona Sign Association California Sign Association Colorado Sign Association Illinois Sign Association Mid South Sign Association Midwest Sign Association Minnesota Sign Association Nevada Sign Association

Northeast States Sign Association Northwest Sign Council Sign Association of Canada Southern States Sign Association Texas Sign Association Tri State Sign Association Utah Sign Association Wisconsin Sign Association

For a full list of ISA Affiliated Associations, please visit:

(703) 894-2587 I

SignSHOW S I G N B L A N K S / PA N E L S / S U B ST R AT E S Fome-Cor® Board in New Half-inch Thickness Helps Adds Dimensionality, Rigidity to Displays Fome-Cor graphic display board in the 1/2-inch thickness from 3A Composites USA allows graphic designers to add more dimensionality and rigidity to short-term point-of-purchase displays, interior signage, and exhibits and kiosks. Fome-Cor board can be die-cut producing a permanently closed compressed edge, and it can be embossed to create three-dimensional effects. It is also perfect for long-term framing applications and for mounting printed graphics. Fome-Cor board in the 1/2-inch thickness is available with white extruded polystyrene foam bonded between two clay-coated paper liners in the Bright White color. These Bright White liners create graphics that pop in direct digital printing and screen-printing applications. Fome-Cor board in the 1/2-inch thickness is available in four standard sheet sizes: 48-by-96-inch, 48-by-120-inch, 60-by-96-inch, and 60-by-120-inch sheets. 800/626-3365;

S O f T wA R E - D E S I G N / P R I N T/ R O U T E R / E ST I M AT I N G Cloud-based Software Allows Easy Creation of Tailored Customer Web Sites Cyrious Software is launching Cyrious Online to give digital printing, sign, and graphic companies the power to create tailored Web sites (a.k.a Digital Storefronts) for each customer or group of customers. The software offers users the ability to design, approve, and order on their own—24 hours a day, 365 days a year—from any device that can access the Internet. The process requires virtually no staff involvement from order through generation of a print-ready PDF. Cyrious Online features custom products per Web site, an online WYSIWYG designer for customization, real-time artwork approval, integrated financial approval, print-ready PDF output, support for PayPal™, and online chat integration for any help needed along the way. The accessibility and ease of use makes this online ordering system ideal for frequent purchasers. And the built-in approval process also adds unique features for franchises and corporate approval chains where the orderer is not the payor.


Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

VINYL/VINYL fILMS/SUPPLIES Introducing the Graphix RACK Vinyl Storage System There’s no more need to worry about tripping over rolling carts or vinyl sticking out two feet into the room! Graphix RACK has announced that its new Graphix RACK vinyl storage system is now available. This storage system is wallmounted to take advantage of all that unused space. You can stack the original Graphix RACKs vertically to go from floor to ceiling. This is great for filling in all extra available wall space—above your plotters, cutters, laminators, desks, and any work surface. The Graphix RACKs are available in four sizes to accommodate the standard sign and heat transfer vinyl rolls. You can even purchase the original Graphix RACK and then add expansion Graphix RACKs to customize your wall system. You can add as many as needed to fit across your walls! And since Graphix RACKs are constructed from Rigid PVC and primed steel rods, they will never need painting! 906/297-2029;

w I D E f O R M AT- M E D I A Arlon Releases a New Wide Width Digital Print Flex Substrate Arlon has launched DPF 390, a wide width, digitally printable flexible substrate designed for high-impact digital graphics. DPF 390 is a heavyweight, seamless, white translucent media for back-illuminated signage and awnings. The material lights up brightly and uniformly whether it is used in a fluorescent or LED lighting system. The substrate is easy to work with and can be installed in a variety of tensioning systems. DPF 390 is multi-purpose and can be printed onto with the most popular print systems (as well as used in standard vinyl applications). The pristine face stock can take heavy amounts of ink (single or double-sided), which ensures color consistency day and night without incurring additional material stretch.



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Improved motion control for superior cutting quality. To request a brochure, DVD, and samples, contact us at: • • 888-437- 4564

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Katie Schwartz


Success at Selling Monuments

Developing an effective marketing strategy for monument

ties, and threats (“SWOT”): Strengths could include your current client database or positioning within a specific market. Weaknesses are often product knowledge or costs associated with manufacturing. Opportunities include the potential for increased profit and the ability to gain new customers. Threats are almost always competition-related (whether it’s local or Internet-based). Once your SWOT analysis is complete, take a moment to brainstorm ways to overcome any challenges presented in your analysis. One sign shop in Aurora, Colorado chose to overcome the weakness of costs associated with manufacturing by outsourcing. “It would be cost-prohibitive for us to manufacture monument signs in-house, so we teamed up with a wholesale manufacturer,” says Lee Cooperman,

Photo: amanda heersink, visual comm. sPecialist/fastsigns aurora.



he foam monument sign market is fiercer than ever. Customers are no longer a given—they have to be earned. Thriving retail sign shops that are successful in selling foam monument signs are already aware of this fact. Not only do they have a strategy to continuously solicit customers, but they also make every effort to keep them. Ultimately the key to earning customers is planning ahead by developing an effective marketing strategy for foam monument signs. This strategy should include an analysis of your market, an overview of the strategy itself, the development of techniques to implement, and a blueprint for monitoring the success of the plan. The first step in developing an effective strategy is understanding your individual market— specifically its strengths, weaknesses, opportuni-


Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013










15 16


22 23


Make Your Plans Now To Be There Go to or Call 215 785-1922 for a Free Registration Brochure

29 30



W T F S 4 5

6 7 12 13 14 18 19 20 21 11

25 26 27 28

Exhibit Hall Open: Thurs., Dec. 5 - 3 to 7 Fri., Dec. 6 - 10 to 5 / Sat., Dec. 7 - 10 to 4 Atlantic City Convention Center, Atlantic City, NJ

Come For The Convention . . . Stay For The Fun!!

• Educational Program • Newest Products & Technology in Exhibit Hall • Networking Opportunities • Thursday Beer Bash • Friday Meet & Greet • Free Door Prizes • A Dozen Casinos • Nightly Entertainment

UNITED STATES SIGN COUNCIL 211 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA 19007 / 215 785-1922 / FAX 215 788-8395 / Sign World International is a Registered Trademark of the United States Sign Council, Inc.

Photo (left): fastsigns-aurora; (right) strickler signs..

CEO of FASTSIGNS Aurora. “Our partnership has transitioned this weakness into a strength, as our customers [are able to] get a quality product.” Simply put, a marketing strategy is a game plan designed to get to new customers. An effective strategy should answer two basic questions: (1.) Who are you marketing this product to? and (2.) How are you different from your competition? Top candidates for monument signs include government entities, schools, housing associations, shopping centers, professional complexes, and religious institutions. Cooperman explains, “Since we have a good number of apartment complexes in our area, we decided to target that market.” Once Cooperman defined his target market, he began positioning his company and his strategy for implementation. “I think the product sells itself, so I ordered a custom monument sample from my supplier,” he says. “This way I can physically show my clients the features and benefits of the product, for example faux stone.” In addition to defining your target market and techniques, your strategy

FASTSIGNS Aurora has targeted apartment complexes as a main client for monuments (top), thanks to the sheer number of units in their area. Another market to consider: shopping centers (right).

needs to include the features and benefits of the product, your marketing plans, and pricing and distribution information. Your strategy should reflect the monument product’s features that would benefit your target market the best.

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Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

tion, and are independently tested to withstand high-speed winds.) As for pricing, each shop’s strategy will be different—if you decide to outsource your product, the average profit margin ranges from 60 to 100 percent. Implementing your strategy is the culmination of all of the research and planning you’ve done to this point. Let’s summarize—you’ve developed your SWOT analysis, identified methods to address your concerns, researched and determined your target market, differentiated yourself from the competition, educated yourself on the features and benefits of the product, and determined your marketing mix, pricing, and distribution. Whew! Now it’s finally time to “start the ball rolling” and implement your strategy into the marketplace. FASTSIGNS Aurora utilizes a multifaceted marketing mix that includes social media, print, and online mediums to promote foam monument signs. The course you use to implement your strategy is outlined in your strategy itself— within the marketing mix portion of your plan. “We’ve been successful with the product,” says Cooperman. “In fact, we’ve already sold three or four this year.” The final aspect of an effective marketing strategy is determining your ability to measure the success or failure of your plan and the capability to strategically modify the plan as necessary to meet your needs. Proven techniques for measuring a plan’s level of success include tracking online leads and conversions and following up on all sales calls and estimates. Be sure to keep a binder or online spreadsheet that lists all of your prospects, the source of the lead, and the outcome. This will allow you to project sales, formulate future campaigns, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of your current strategy. Remember: An effective marketing strategy focuses on the evolving needs of the customer as well as the methods used to continuously engage new prospects while maintaining your current customer base.

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Katie Schwartz is marketing coordinator at Peachtree City Foamcraft ( in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania.

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Wa y f i n d i n g S i g n s / B y L o r i S h r i d h a r e / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Righting our Directional Sense with

Wayfinding I

n considering wayfinding design for a complex organization, we often think of an equal playing field—with all visitors to the site utilizing the wayfinding signage in the same way and deriving equal benefit. However wayfinding experts will tell you that the reality is there is a great deal of diversity in how we approach navigating through an environment. Add variables such as age, disabilities, and other challenges, and the system is no longer one-size-fits-all. Enter wayfinding consultants. Their job is to analyze the scenarios that would be most difficult for a range of populations and create solutions that will meet the location’s needs. Carpman Grant Associates ( of Ann Arbor, Michigan was founded in 1986 by partners Janet Carpman, Ph.D., and Myron Grant, with the goal of providing wayfinding services to organizations with large, complex


Sign Builder illustrated // November 2013

facilities where everyone (customers and staff alike) has trouble finding their way around. And their work here can prove inspirational to your shop when it comes to wayfinding. “Our goal is to reduce the stress of disorientation for users and the costs of disorientation for owners,” says Carpman. “We are passionate advocates of wayfinding ease for everyone—from those who are able-bodied and in possession of good perception and thinking skills to those for whom wayfinding is particularly difficult.” Specifically they aim to pay special attention to people with disabilities, elderly people, people for whom English is a second language, people who cannot read, people who are directionally challenged, and others. Working closely with Dick Nicolson of Nicolson & Associates for their sign design needs, Carpman Grant Associates’ services run the gamut of wayfinding offerings—from architectural design review to detailed wayfinding analysis,

all photos: carpman Grant associates.

A consulting firm shows why one size doesn’t fit all in wayfinding projects.


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ning, and implementation (design of signs, maps, and wayfinding-related programs), as well as ongoing wayfinding system management. Their clients include hospitals and medical centers, museums, universities, and government buildings. “Organizations come to us with all kinds of wayfinding needs,” says Grant. “They may want to improve customer satisfaction and decrease complaints about wayfinding, or they may be planning a new facility and want to be sure it will be easy to navigate. “Or they may have a new corporate identity and need to re-design their institution’s signage, or they may be wondering whether or not wayfinding technology—such as smartphone apps, digital signage, and kiosks—can solve disorientation problems in their facility.”


Finding Awareness In recent years, there’s been an uptick in awareness of wayfinding as malls become more complicated and hospital sites merge to form even larger complexes. Carpman says that professionals are almost always familiar with the term and understand its importance, and these days, many so-called “ordinary” users also know about wayfinding. “However both groups tend to expect that disorientation can be completely remedied by signs,” she says. “They don’t understand how aspects of design (site planning, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, etc.) and operations (terminology, training, maintenance, etc.) affect wayfinding. “While well planned, designed, and implemented sign systems are essential for wayfinding ease, there is much more that can—and should—be done.”

Clients come to Carpman Grant Associates for a variety of wayfinding needs: to improve customer satisfaction, to place signs in new facilities, for rebranding purposes, and even to incorporate new technologies. Before

Successful wayfinding systems require more than signs—they also require good design and the proper terminology and maintenance.



Look at State-of-the-Art Today every industry utilizes some form of wayfinding, whether it’s a company that helps employees navigate, a university that directs students and visitors, or an airport that communicates essential information on terminals, gates, and other airport features. “Clients understand that the wayfinding bar has been raised. They can no longer serve customers well if their facilities are time-consuming, frustrating, and confusing to navigate,” says Carp20

One of the goals on a wayfinding project for the Massachusetts State House was to improve access from public entrances to public destinations.

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013



On the Massachusetts State House project, Grant and Carpman, together with design partner Nicolson Associates, created a cleaner “YouAre-Here” map system.

man. “The state-of-the-art in contemporary public facilities is to understand and meet user needs and expectations and to provide the best customer experience possible. “Making it as easy as possible to find, navigate, and exit their facilities is part of living up to that commitment.” What is also prevalent today is new technology being incorporated into wayfinding, such as digital sign displays. But are these added features substantial improvements or just “pizzazz?” “Technology can be beneficial in helping people navigate, but its effectiveness depends on a number of factors,” says Grant.

“These include whether or not users prepare in advance (good in theory), the accuracy of the directions or maps on display (often accurate, sometimes less so), the legibility of the graphics (varies), etc.” Just as a number of factors determine the effectiveness of wayfinding technologies like digital signs and apps, these state-of-the-art aids should also be one of many tools used in creating wayfinding. “We don’t see traditional signs and maps disappearing anytime soon, but we anticipate them becoming better integrated with the new types of wayfinding technologies,” says Carpman. Grant agrees, “Technology is most



November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


useful when it’s considered one of an arsenal of wayfinding tools, but it’s not a panacea.”

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Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

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The first stages of working on a new wayfind project include moving through several iterations of sign design with the client, followed by a bid package that includes sign location plans and message schedules that tell the fabricator where the signs are to be located and the text for each sign. Design intent drawings (DIDs) and performance specifications are also drawn up. “DIDs let bidders know how we expect the signs to look, the materials to be used (including durability requirements), and to some extent, the fabrication techniques that should be employed,” says Carpman. “Our specifications allow each shop to make adjustments that optimize their strengths in a way that makes the signs better and more economical.” In working with fabricators on sign development and installation, Grant and Carpman prefer to include only prequalified, invited bidders who are capable of fabricating the project. “The pre-qualification process typically requires prospective bidders to answer questions about their business practices and policies, as well as their fabrication, installation, and project management capabilities,” says Grant. “We are sensitive to how much effort goes into creating a bid, so we like to make sure that all participants stand a real chance of winning the job.” Once the bid is awarded, they work closely with the fabricator, taking the first step of walking through the site with the client together to review each sign location. “The fabricator provides finish samples and prototypes as requested in the bid documents,” says Carpman. “They also provide pen-plots of each sign and thorough shop drawings for each sign type. The pen-plots, which can also be inkjet prints, are proofed for spelling, layout, and typography quality. “Shop drawings are reviewed for fabrication techniques, sizes, and materials, as well as mounting and installation methods. Some sign types require a stamped drawing from a structural engineer. It is the responsibility of the fabricator to acquire the stamped drawing.” Throughout the fabrication and installation process, Grant and Carpman remain available to answer questions

and resolve concerns. Once substantial completion has occurred, they perform a punch-list review.

Stately Wayfinding Beyond the for-profit sector, non-profits such as museums and government buildings present special challenges for wayfinding design. One notable wayfinding project that Carpman Grant Associates worked on was for the Massachusetts State House in Boston. As a multi-use public building, it houses the governor’s office, offices for all state senators and representatives, chambers for the state Senate and House of Representatives, meeting and hearing rooms, and event spaces. “The State House is also the numberone tourist destination in Massachusetts, as it contains many art, historical, and cultural artifacts and treasures,” says Grant, “therefore it serves a large number of diverse visitors who have widely varying missions.” Built in 1798 by architect Charles Bulfinch, there have been additions over the years, including a rear annex in 1831 and east and west wings built from 1914

In recent years, there has been an uptick in an awareness of wayfinding and its importance. through 1917. Set on over six acres, the state complex overlooks the Boston Common, the oldest park in the U.S. For this project, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had several goals: provide better access to the State House for all citizens, improve access for people with disabilities, address security concerns, respect the historic architecture, and ideally create a model wayfinding system for other state buildings. “In addition to a host of contributing factors, two features made wayfinding especially difficult at the State House,” says Carpman. “One, the annex and the main building do not connect on some


The biggest challenge was to respect the historic design of the architecture, (including an eighteenth century font style), while providing the quality, durability, and functionality of a contemporary wayfinding system.


November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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You are Here: Incorporating Wayfinding Ease into Projects According to Janet Carpman, Ph.D., and Myron Grant of Carpman Grant Associates, the following are several important considerations to factor into a wayfinding project: + Wayfinding ease can be improved even in the most challenging architectural and operational environments. + Sign and “You-Are-Here” map design can achieve high levels of function and aesthetics. + Wayfinding implementation can be phased. + Needs of people with disabilities can and should be addressed by a wayfinding system. + Users and managers should be involved in wayfinding system assessment and planning. floors, although room numbering could be interpreted to indicate that they do so. “And two, tightened security as a result of the terrorist attacks in 2001 has left only three of the original twenty-one entrances open and the main public entrance—leading to key tourist destinations—closed.” As part of their work on this project, the firm drew up detailed wayfinding analyses of the exterior and interior physical environment and conducted interviews and focus groups with visitors, staff, and management. The analyses found that the public entrances were difficult to find, internal circulation was problematic, direct access from public entrances to public destinations was non-existent, most signs and maps were out of date, wayfinding was hard for people with disabilities, and that exits were tough to find. With these findings in mind, Grant and Carpman designed a wayfinding master plan. With design partner Nicolson Associates, they also created new exterior and interior signs, as well as a cleaner “You-Are-Here” map system for the State House. “The sign design challenge was to respect the historic design of the

+ Ongoing audit/evaluation is needed as situations, locations, and priorities change. + Making wayfinding as easy as possible for all users is a fundamental part of serving citizens who use public buildings. + Be respectful of the needs of all users and of the client’s budget and other project constraints/ realities. + Do your best to prevent marketing/advertising information or artwork being placed where wayfinding information is needed. + Strive for information comprehension and legibility. For more information, visit and tecture, including colors, details, and an eighteenth century font style, while providing the quality, durability, and functionality of a contemporary wayfinding system,” says Grant. The feedback on this project has been overwhelmingly positive, with an emphasis on the ease the change has brought. “People finally understand where they’re going and can figure out how to get there—no small feat in a building notoriously disorienting for the thousands of tourists, legislators, lobbyists, and others who pass through it every day,” says Patrick Reed, former deputy superintendent for administration in the Bureau of State Buildings for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. What this classic wayfinding project revealed was that nothing can replace the solid training and years of experience that goes into planning a wayfinding project for a large, historic site with many variables.

Scan the QR code for more information about Clarke Systems! November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Do Sign Shops Need an SEO? Making sure your sign company is actively pursuing SEO (Search Engine Optomization) for your Web site is as important as keeping your customers happy. To put SEO (or Google Ranking) into perspective in the sign industry, take the two fictional sign shops of John’s Sign Xpress and Vince’s Sign Corporation. Both do excellent, high-quality work and have invested thousands of dollars into high-tech sign-making equipment for their respective businesses. John’s Sign Xpress is in its second year of business and currently consists of owner John and four other employees. John is making a concentrated effort on expanding his customer base. Meanwhile Vince’s Sign Corporation has been in business for over fifteen years, employs over twenty-five people, and already has a substantial customer base. Both companies offer wholesale CNC services and count on national business as a large part of their revenue. Vince has a professional Web site but hasn’t updated it in years and is not concerned about Google Ranking. But one of the key business strategies John is concentrating on is expanding his Web presence. He allotted part of his advertising budget into building a professional Web site where he could showcase his services and work. Research by John led him to the conclusion that, to increase the number of visitors to his Web site (thus increasing business, hopefully), he will have to concentrate on optimizing the content he has online to people searching for wholesale CNC work. John started signing up for as many free sign shop and service directories as he could, placing a link to his Web site on as many as possible. He also started a link exchange page


Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

on his Web site and listed vendors and friends’ companies that were industry related. He strategically added keywords such as “wholesale CNC signs” on his site and even started a monthly blog showing pictures of the beautiful signs he made. Slowly but surely, his Web site was gaining in rank and the number of visitors to it were increasing. After time, John’s work paid off, and his Web site gained a higher SEO score than Vince’s Sign Corporation. As a result, people searching the term “wholesale CNC sign” had a far greater likelihood of landing on John’s Web site first and missing Vince’s completely. The moral of this story: While Vince’s Sign Corporation will probably not go out of business for not concentrating so much on SEO, the chances of John’s Sign Xpress becoming a serious contender in the wholesale industry over time are high. After all, as John’s Google Ranking campaign continues and say the visitors to his Web site surpass 5,000 people monthly (provided he still provides the quality level of work he always has), the chances of his amount of business increasing rise exponentially—SEO is the true Force Multiplier for a business. —Brad Burnett Brad Burnett is marketing director at Coastal Enterprises ( in Orange, California.

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Innovative Solutions For Accessible Signage

“We believe signage is part of the design, part of the built environment...” Nova Polymers, Inc., is the global leader in the development of materials and processing equipment for the fabrication of Accessible and ADA compliant signage. With a focus on education and the continued development of innovative materials that meet international accessibility guidelines, we continue to lead the sign industry and help people with visual disabilities navigate the built environment. We believe that signage— specifically wayfinding signage for those with visual disabilities— is not simply an element that is added to design. We believe that signage is part of the design, part of the built environment. Wayfinding signage for those with visual disabilities does not have to be something that presents itself as a visual pollutant. It is something that should be incorporated into a facility’s overall design while addressing the needs of those with visual impairments.

As an AIA continuing education provider, we are able to collaborate with those architects and specifiers that are designing the built environments of tomorrow. The Accessibility courses we offer are designed to educate the design and fabrication industry on the new accessibility codes and how to use them to enhance the overall design and accessibility of a facility. We deliver over 250 AIA

The New ADA In March of 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) updated the ADA codes in the U.S. for the first time in over twenty years, making the 2010 Standard for Accessible Design (SAD) the law of the land. The new ADA added restriction relating to typography but countered that with a provision for variable message signage that expands design capabilities to better meet the demands of everyone.

Industry Trends The Novacryl Photopolymer Designer Series was developed to incorporate the very same materials and finishes that are being used as wall coverings, fabrics, and organic panels in some of the world’s most exotic locations, local educational institutions, and healthcare facilities. In many instances, Novacryl is much more than tactile wayfinding signage—sometimes, while meeting ADA base needs, we are

continuing education programs every year—engaging with thousands of Architects and Designers. With each of these visits, comes the opportunity for Novacryl to be specified.

embracing emerging technologies like QR codes and NFC (Near Field Communication) for assistive devices that take ADA signage to a completely new level. The Future Over the last twenty years, all public facilities in the U.S. have become accessible to those with all disabilities. Signage has and will continue to play an integral role in accessibility allowing people to navigate the built environment. This trend is expanding globally into Canada, the Middle East, Australia, and beyond. Our community of Preferred Fabricators allows us to educate our industry and provide the best quality accessible signage in the world. As technology continues to evolve and commercial building expands globally, the need to understand how to navigate people through the built environment with accessibility signage will be in continued demand. When you work with Nova Polymers, you are working with a network of property owners, architects, designers, fabricators, and a material manufacturer that is always finding new ways to lead our industry.

—Mike Santos, Director of Sales & Marketing To find out how to get involved, visit us at

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


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lAser engrAving trendsetter 2014

“lasers are allowing sign shops to be one-stop shops...” We’ve seen a move in the signage industry to investing in machinery that can allow companies to diversify their product offerings. Increasingly we’ve seen sign shops discovering that they can become one-stop shops for their customers by adding a laser to their business. By investing in a laser, they can customize products, offer award engraving, and even engrave company giveaways all for the customer base that they’ve already developed. With our ability to create highresolution engraving and fine detail cutting, we see our laser systems as a great fit for these companies looking to diversify. Our company manufactures powerful and user-friendly equipment that is a huge asset to sign shops. Our systems are robust enough to handle a variety of signage projects. From cutting dimensional letters and graphics to engraving text, photos, or other images (even creating the most intricate inlay work), high-quality laser cutting and engraving are valuable tools in the signage industry because they can tackle such a variety of projects and materials. In the sign industry, we’ve learned bigger is better. Shops want to be able to quickly and easily produce a large quantity of a particular item or be able to mark or cut larger pieces of different substrates. And they want to do it with a system that’s user friendly and doesn’t take

ages to learn. To meet this demand, we’ve created the Fusion Laser series. The Fusion Series features three systems—the Fusion 32, FiberMark Fusion 32, and now the Fusion 40 (which was released in mid-September of 2013). The series truly changes what people expect from a laser. This Fusion Series features a redesigned motion control system to allow higher speed engraving, as well as the best cutting quality we’ve ever produced. Users will see true flame-polished edges on acrylic and up to 150 percent speed increases in cutting thin woods and acrylics, which is especially beneficial to the signage community. The large (32-by-20inch and 40-by-28-inch) engraving beds also allow sign shops to tackle larger jobs or increase production by filling up the entire bed for a particular job. While the CO2 version of the Fusion can work with a variety of materials (wood, acrylic, fabric, etc.), the FiberMark Fusion system was designed for direct metal marking, which is ideal for businesses specializing in more industrial projects featuring materials like stainless steel, titanium, chrome, and other metals. We’re constantly striving to bring to market the features and benefits our users are looking for. Our most recent innovation is the Epilog Control Center (ECC), which can be found in the Fusion Laser

Series. The ECC offers users a host of features that will help them minimize job setup time and maximize all of the other great Fusion features. Not only can users access a job-time estimator and job-time recorder, but they can also move the lens carriage in real time and send jobs to the laser directly from the ECC. Sign businesses are constantly looking for a way to increase throughput and maintain product quality while minimizing costs. They’re also interested in creating the most stunning signage in the most time-efficient manner. With Epilog’s large engraving areas (up to 40-by-28 inches) and powerful wattage configurations (up to 120), we’re helping the signage industry quickly and easily create amazingly detailed engraving results, as well as laser-precise cutting applications.

—Amy M. Dallman, Marketing & Communications Specialist For more information, scan here.

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


Innovative CNC Routing and Knife Solutions

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rOuters trendsetter 2014

“the use of one large machine with productivity equal to two separate machines…” At AXYZ International, innovation is crucial to maintaining our competitive advantage. The AXYZ CNC Routers are widely regarded as the most versatile in the industry. This has been achieved through years of innovation and working with customers to develop cutting systems that are extremely powerful, easy to use, and incredibly reliable. Why is versatility important in a CNC router? Signmakers will typically need to process many different sizes of different materials using a range of cutting tools. AXYZ routers are all built to order in whatever size and with whatever cutting head configuration is most suited to the customer’s needs. It may be used for V-Carving a natural wood 3D sign one minute, and then a few minutes later, it may be utilizing a tangential knife to cut pre-printed graphics with the AVS camera registration system. The use of one large machine with productivity equal to two separate machines is becoming increasingly popular. Advantages include lower running costs and a smaller factory footprint. With its 103-inch process width, the AXYZ 8000 Series machine accommodates two standardsized sheets of material. The two independently controllable cutting heads operate simultaneously cutting two identical parts at the same time.

One of the biggest developments in the graphics industry in recent years has been the ability to print on just about any substrate through the use of UV-based flatbed technology. It is now common to see high-quality printing on a wide range of rigid substrates such as aluminum, acrylic, wood, MDF, aluminum composites, and many others. The ability to cut clear acrylic and leave a smooth polished edge is important because flame or diamond polishing cannot be used on printed materials. The AXYZ router utilizes a new sevensegment controller for ultrasmooth motion and a high-quality helical drive system with servo motors maintaining rigidity and precision at all times. The result is a smooth, virtually polished edge that needs little or no further finishing. Another challenge facing the sign industry is rising energy costs. AXYZ is leading the way with innovative solutions to address these costs by making the routers more efficient. Large vacuum pumps or blowers (which power the vacuum decks of CNC routers) are one of the more expensive parts to run. AXYZ has pioneered a unique approach that allows smaller pumps to be used with no loss of performance. The zoned vacuum deck has

multiple smaller zones that are automatically activated or deactivated as the machine head moves around the table. This allows the vacuum hold down to be concentrated in the area it is most needed while utilizing smaller more efficient pumps. Traditional finishing systems that use a high-speed knife or low power routing spindle are not suited to cut heavier materials. Traditional sign-making routers such as the AXYZ Series routers with their high-power 5 or 10hp spindles and camera registration for exact print to cut alignment are the only cost-effective way to process these materials. These routers now include new cutting heads, vision systems, drive methods, and all-new controllers to handle high-speed motion smoothly and safely. To learn more about AXYZ routers, visit

—Greg Jenkins, VP, Sales For more information, scan here.

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


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software trendsetter 2014

“everyone in the sign process should be on the same page at the same time...” TechVOX Inc, creators of signVOX and recently launched shopVOX, is a cloud technology company based out of Palo Alto, California. As an innovative leader in the sign industry, we provide professional tools to the sign, print, and promotional products industries where true collaboration software is needed. These industries provide custom services and products where everyone involved—like the customer, sales rep, production staff, installers and vendors—need to be easily accessible to one another with updates and other valuable information. Today instant gratification is often expected, hence there is a need for more effective ways of interaction than phone/fax. TechVOX Inc provides these solutions. signVOX is a complete business management software built from the ground up specifically for these industries. Our many years of software applications experience and sign industry involvement has made this possible. We believe everyone involved in the sign making process should be on the same page at any given time. Hence our pricing is for ten users, not per user. If signVOX was priced per user, it would be unaffordable for all employees to be on signVOX creating information holes which would defeat the purpose of using the software. shopVOX, our recently launched simple production management software, is perfect

for a small shop with a couple of users that utilizes Quick Books as POS to a complex fabrication shop with multiple workflows, job costing, and custom steps using either signVOX, Quick Books or other big ERP systems. Even though the sign industry is a large and old industry, we have witnessed that it is very unorganized. Sign shops tend to be more reactive than proactive due to information not being

When cloud-based signVOX entered the scene, we have enabled every sign business, small or large, to take advantage of software to help manage their business very efficiently. We also offer tools which integrate signVOX to popular applications like Google apps, Outlook, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, QB online, Xero, etc. We are also ready with an open API to integrate signVOX/shopVOX

easily available and the lack of affordable Business Intelligence. signVOX and shopVOX provides business organization by making available a platform where information is readily accessible to all team members on the cloud at an affordable cost. Software products have been very expensive—costing tens of thousands of dollars upfront, which made it unaffordable for smaller sign shops. Since software is now more affordable and available on the cloud, the sign industry is realizing the benefits of software products to help manage sign businesses.

to new software. The sign industry continues to experience changes due to technology advances, and we will be here providing continuous updated technology needed to allow our customers to manage their business effectively, collaborate better, and project a more professional appearance, while saving time and money.

—Rao Meka, Co-Founder 855/GET-VOX9

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


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PAints trendsetter 2014

“Bringing quality and value to your sign paint projects...” For over seventy-five years, Matthews Paint has been a leading manufacturer of acrylic polyurethane sign paint. Unlike many coatings that evolved from house or automotive paint, Matthews Paint is formulated from the start to satisfy the varied and extreme demands of architectural, commercial, and outdoor applications. Through an ongoing process of intensive research, development, and field-testing, we offer the most advanced sign paint system available. The Complete Matthews Paint System: Matthews Topcoats provide a long-lasting, UV-resistant finish that boasts unsurpassed color and gloss retention. With three different lines to choose from— including the environmentally friendly MAP Ultra Low VOC—and unlimited color options, there is a topcoat to meet any project requirement. An environmentally friendly option, MAP Ultra Low VOC limits VOC to less than 50g/L, while providing greater durability, gloss retention, and hiding than standard acrylic polyurethane paints. Available in 75,000plus colors and satin and gloss levels, MAP Ultra Low VOC allows professionals to meet the strictest regulations while maintaining quality. Matthews Primers, including Chromate-Free and Low VOC product lines, provide excellent

paint adhesion to a variety of hardto-adhere substrates and can be directly coated with any Matthews topcoat. In addition, Matthews Primers offer increased paint durability, corrosion protection, and filling capability. Available in all finishes for a variety of applications, Matthews Clearcoats protect your paint job while enhancing its depth and vibrancy. Comprised of the same durable resin as our color lines, Matthews Clearcoats provide unparalleled resistance to UV rays, moisture, harsh weather, impact, chemicals, and graffiti. Matthews Cleaners are designed to remove waxes, grease, silicones, and other contaminants on a variety of substrates including bare metal, plastics, primers, and more. Our environmentally friendly, Ultra Low VOC option is highly effective and compliant with most VOC rules nationwide. Customize your application with Matthews Additives to achieve your project goals. Our suede additives provide a unique, textured finish. Matthews metallic tones help you achieve optimum brilliance. Brush and roll additives offer maximum

leveling and flow characteristics. Our basecoat converters allow you to paint multicolor signs in hours instead of days. Delivering free-to-attend world-class training in state-ofthe-art facilities is just one more way that Matthews Paint helps you outperform your competition. Matthews Training classes provide both classroom-style technical training and hands-on opportunities to practice what you learn. Matthews offers a number of Color Tools to ensure a precise color and gloss match. The Online Color Formula Retrieval allows easy and accurate retrieval of Matthews Paint formulas, matching more than 75,000 paint shades in over 196 color systems. With over 1,580 colors, the Spectrum of Color card deck system makes choosing colors easier than ever. Matthews Paint mixing stations allow you to mix over 75,000 colors according to your specifications. Exceptional Customer Service and technical support is a cornerstone of Matthews Paint. Our highly skilled professionals take pride in bringing quality and value to your sign paint projects. From substrate preparation to clearcoat application, the Matthews team listens to your needs and responds quickly and creatively. For more information, scan here.

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


Switch On.

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grAPhic films trendsetter 2014

“more customers prefer—even require— sustainable product solutions…” 3M Commercial Graphics has been a leader in translucent films and flexible substrates for decades. We challenge the ordinary. 3M innovates with a core focus on finding solutions and helping sign makers tackle challenges. We are a total solutions provider to the sign industry—from films to substrates, inks, graphics protection, adhesives and tapes, abrasives, and safety solutions. No one else offers this full set of solutions. In addition, we offer our standard-setting 3M™ MCS™ Warranty. With multiple touch points among people, countries, technologies, and businesses, the evolution of ideas and innovation at 3M is borderless. We invest significantly in R&D capability year after year to drive opportunity for the richest collaboration possible. 3M has a diverse tool set of technologies from which to draw. To best address the sign industry, we bring our knowledge of light management and material durability that the corporation has developed over the decades in a number of varied markets. One challenge the sign/ graphics industry faces is meeting the sustainability demands of their customers—especially as it relates to light efficiency and energy efficiency. 3M’s unwavering commitment to sustainability spans the life cycle of our products. With hundreds of new products introduced each year, we have a continuous

flow of opportunities to improve the environmental, health, and safety effects of the things we make. 3M Commercial Graphics advances our corporate goals— and yours—with products like the LED-enabling 3M™ Envision™ Translucent and Diffuser Films, which we launched last fall. New 3M Envision Translucent Films and 3M Envision Diffuser Films are the first graphic films optimized for use with energy-saving LEDs. 3M Envision Translucent and Diffuser Films help graphics manufacturers and sign builders create richly colored graphics for backlit signage with even sign illumination and no hot spots. Using these films, sign shops can achieve the same level of brightness with fewer LEDs, reducing material and maintenance costs while providing the great look that customers expect. Alternately graphics manufacturers and sign builders can keep the same number of LEDs and increase a sign’s brightness even more. They can give their customers the opportunity to be more sustainable

without sacrificing performance. The 3M Envision line of products for illuminated signage and wraps is designed to contribute to a winning business strategy for our customers—one that consists of leading-edge technology [and] best-in-class performance with a distinct sustainability edge. As the awareness of the importance of sustainability increases, more and more customers prefer—even require— sustainable product solutions. This will drive the sign industry to develop new approaches to provide greener solutions. The sign industry is on a path to continue to benefit from technological advances in materials and electronics. As light sources evolve, even more emphasis will be put on efficiently and effectively disbursing light. 3M will continue to provide new products to enable those advancements. There is also movement to more complex graphics that are customized to specific locations. With our 3M MCS Warranty, 3M is well positioned to enable the sign manufacturer to build digitally printed signs with confidence that they will last a long time.

—Tony Fulco, Marketing Manager

For more information, scan here.

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


suBstrAtes trendsetter 2014

“making sure signage stays ever changing, alive, and relevant …” Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board high-density urethane (HDU) sign substrate material. We have been manufacturing Precision Board since about 1975, and our innovations for new formulations and process methods has been continuous. Coastal Enterprises started in the machining industry making large blocks of urethane for the prototyping and tool proofing markets. We entered the sign-making market in 1992, and ever since then, we have been selling Precision Board nationally through our distribution network. Our product innovations are driven by staying close to our distributors and sign makers, listening closely to their ideas and recommendations. Material and process method improvements typically start from them. Listening to them also keeps us active, humble, and on our toes. I think the biggest challenge facing the sign market today

is making sure that signage stays ever changing, alive and relevant. As manufacturers of sign making materials, we need to continue developing new materials for sign designers and fabricators to create new and fresh ideas on a continuing basis. To support this, Coastal Enterprises is developing new substrate materials that will allow greater sign detail with lighter weight, easier finishing,

and higher green material content. I think sign designs will continue to become more and more sophisticated in their design and overall structure. Building owners will drive this by understanding the value of fresh signage ideas and will be willing to pay more for them. New products like the ones Coastal is currently designing will support the talented and creative sign makers who will continue to breathe life into the signage industry. It’s definitely a team effort, and Coastal Enterprises is proud to be part of the team.

—Chuck Miller, President For more information, scan here.

November 2013 // SBI Trendsetters


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Digital Signage/ By Lori Shridhare /////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ordering Digital Signage Menu boards are crossing over into the electronic. Brian Fusco, chief product offer at Popstar Networks (, a company in Olathe, Kansas that provides customers with creative digital content solutions, attributes the surge in popularity of digital menu boards to the rapid advances in Photos: digital signage exPo.

screen technology. “Unlike more general digital signage, menu boards are critical to the core business activity in quick-service and fast-casual restaurants; they have to be highly dependable and fit within

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

list items would be simple entries for drinks, sides, and desserts. For a splash of the “unusual,” Popstar has been creating what they call “interruptive” promotional content, which is typically a large format video that takes over all screens in the digital menu board, playing across them in a fashion similar to a video wall. “Having this video appear at regular intervals is a way to quickly grab attention to promote a certain item and

Content for digital menu boards are comprised of three components: promotional, highlighted, and list items.

Photo: scala.

the aesthetics of the space,” he says. “Display advancements like thinner screens with lower power consumption and longlasting LED backlights and tighter bezels have really helped address those concerns—not to mention that they are lighter and easier to mount than ever.” Fusco mentions that the screens are also more aesthetically pleasing, with color and brightness that is comparable to traditional print and backlit signage. “Add the support for motion, sequencing messages, and changing your menus without printing anything, and digital displays are looking like a good option for menu boards in many businesses,” he says. According to Fusco, nenu boards in this field are comprised of three components: promotional, highlighted, and list items. Promotionals often cover the entire display and typically focus attention on specials, new items, or limited offers. Highlighted items are usually main meal selections or combos. The lower priority

Photo: ronin wireless network/digital signage exPo.

Some menu board systems offer the capability for “interruptive” content, which is a large format video that takes over and plays across all the screens on a digital menu board.

Photo: dse. Photo: scala.

then return all the screens back to the normal menu content,” says Fusco. “Not all digital menu board systems can support this kind of content (or even multiple screens for that matter), but it can be a pretty impressive visual component.” Working on a content strategy is as important as the technology behind the system—the strategy must be sharp and organized. The first—and most essential step—according to

As prices come down, displays are getting bigger and users are employing systems with multiple screens.

In the near future, expect increased integration of digital menu boards with POS systems so that information management on them will become more automated. Fusco, is to plan before the project commences. Next it’s crucial to identify which promotions will be built in, asking questions such as: Are there going to be multiple locations with different pricing at each? How large and how many digital displays will be part of the installations? Will there be items to support a changing menu over the course of the day? Fusco states that these answers will help determine how content needs to be approached. ”It is also important to know what sort of business parameters are at play, such as limits on what a franchise can put on a menu,” he says. Looking ahead, Fusco sees many of the digital platforms merging with others. “We are expecting more integration with POS systems, which can allow for managing much of the information on menu boards in a more automated way,” he says. “For example, information that changes in the POS display will also reflect on screen; the same computer that monitors inventory levels will alter the promotions.” A recent trend that will continue is the addition of social media on menu boards. A screen may run, for example, Twitter feeds or Facebook postings and connect to mobile devices. There are also trends to make both English and Spanish versions of the menu available and to feature an interactive kiosk with nutritional information. In terms of format and design, Fusco sees screens getting bigger as prices come down, and technologies that will alNovember 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


low for curved, flexible screen shapes. “At the very least, I think you will see more installations move toward multiple screens that have no bezel or visible edge between them, which may change how designers think about their menu layouts,” he says. Fusco refers to one obstacle for the menu board industry as the “drive-thru challenge.” The indoor menus can be translated to the drive-thru, but currently they are still too expensive for many customers since the hardware needs to

withstand the elements. “Special high-brightness screens with UV protection, air-conditioned and heated enclosures, and security are all important considerations that add up to more prohibitive cost,” he says. “However there are some very talented manufacturers addressing this area, so the future looks promising.” Finally Fusco surmises that designers will have to be thinking about “reactive content” in menu boards—content that changes based on factors such as inven-

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Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

tory or even weather. And crossing into truly experimental realms, designers will work with facial recognition. “While I believe this gets a little too much hype and has some privacy concerns, this technology has started to show the ability to reliably provide demographic information,” says Fusco. “If you know certain items will sell better to certain age groups or gender, changing what items are displayed based on who is currently in a store is an interesting prospect.”

Best Practices in Working with Digital Menu Boards Brian Fusco, chief product officer at Popstar Networks, offers the following guidance to pass along to end-user clients: • Don’t overuse the digital capabilities (motion, video, sequences, etc.). “The ability to add motion (video or animation) can help gain patrons’ attention and communicate more information,” he says, “but it can also be distracting and hurt readability if overdone.” • If using video or sequences of content, remember that they are looping elements over time. “Keep the content duration appropriate for the wait time your patrons experience,” he says. • Don’t skimp on your hardware. “Choose screens and media players that will last,” he says. “Get the largest screen sizes they can to allow for readability and design flexibility as their menu and brand evolve.” • A digital menu board is not simply “digital signage in restaurants.” “Content management systems matter,” he says. “Make sure they have one that fits the requirements of quick-service and fast-casual restaurants.”

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Scenic View of Sign A CNC router is brought in for the finer details. Sometimes in the sign building process, it helps to adopt new technologies—even when trying to keep it “old school.” For example, sign maker recently had turn from traditional chisels to a CNC router, in order to finish an 8-by-15-foot fully dimensional sign in grand style. This past February, Roger Peace, vice president of Camps and Operations at Word of Life Fellowship, contacted Dawn VanDerwarker, owner of Creative DeSIGNS & Concepts ( in Kingsbury, New York. He wanted to gauge her interest in making some signs for the lobby of their newly renovated Inn & Family Lodge in the small town of Schroon Lake, New York (nestled in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains). 32

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// /////////////////////////

Making all photos: creative designs & concepts.

Keep in mind that Word of Life is a huge worldwide religious organization and VanDerwarker is a one-woman shop. However she’d previously (and successfully) hand-carved a four-by-eight-foot double-sided PVC informational sign for their Ranch and Ranger Camp. The first two signs that Peace discussed with her was a 3-1/2-by-7-3/4-foot dimensional sign for their lobby and a 5-3/4-foot-by-14-foot sign for their auditorium—both reflecting an Adirondack lodge style (similar to their remodeled Inn). Then Peace brought up the idea to her of creating a brandnew entrance sign. The one the organization was using had been considered a landmark fixture in the area for years. However it was also a product of its time (a plain, painted

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


a cnc routing system helped creative designs & concepts finish the sign on time.

VanDerwarker decided to give the design of the sign a unique twist by focusing more on the colors of birch trees in the fall. The scenery was hand-painted with 1-Shot enamels and T.J. Ronan paints. VanDerwarker also used household sponges cut into leaflike shapes to help create a “fallen leaf” look.

ground with mounted letters). VanDerwarker’s heart started to pound at the mere thought of not only redoing this landmark sign but also taking on carving a sign of this size. (Note: It measured 8-by-22 feet.) Peace showed VanDerwarker around the renovated inn, and she noticed a lot of stone, natural wood, and rustic furniture. “The beauty of their building and its location really sparked some ideas for me in the design phase,” she says. VanDerwarker decided to focus the design on birch trees. “Pine trees and bears are so overdone on signage and logos in this area,” she says, “so I thought that adding the vibrant colors of fall birch trees would be a new twist and give the sign a little ‘pop!’” She submitted seven different designs for the lobby and auditorium signs and five designs for the entrance sign. Van34

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

Derwarker designed the basic sign layout and tested color variations using FlexiSIGN-PRO 8.5. “Once they selected the designs they loved, they gave me artistic license to move ahead,” she says, noting that she even provided hand sketches for the scenery featured on one of the main panels. “I made all the final color choices.” VanDerwarker hand-carved the base of lobby sign first out of one-inch-thick fifteen-pound Sign•Foam HDU and built on top of it from there. Ditto the auditorium sign, which came next. She loves working with HDU, since it’s easy to carve and there’s no waste. “I can carve and glue all the scraps together to add dimension to a sign,” she explains. “It’s also lightweight, which is important when I’m alone in the shop.” But it wasn’t until estimating the cost of the job that reality hit VanDerwarker. Up until this point, she’d always used three different chisels to hand-carve her signs. (Note: See page 38.) “But these little chisels weren’t going to cut it (or even carve it) on the entrance sign!” says VanDerwarker, noting that she hadn’t stopped to consider her lack of equipment and limited

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


shop workspace for a job of this size. So VanDerwarker purchased a Rockler 28-1/2-by-36-inch CNC Shark Pro Plus routing system. “I don’t think I could’ve done this sign in a reasonable timeframe without the CNC,” she says. Although VanDerwarker says there was a huge learning curve when initially using a CNC router, she credits Fletcher Conlon, her co-worker in a prior career, for helping her get through this CNC start-up. “He had some basic experience with two-dimensional CNC doing model railroads,” she says. Before beginning the routing process, VanDerwarker had to cut the HDU in proper-sized panels that would fit her small machine. She determined sizes by making sure most of the seams fell where the wood grain was, so a little sanding or touch up with a chisel would make the seams virtually disappear. “Unfortunately not all seams fell in the wood grain,” she says. Both sides of the main entrance sign were constructed out of two-inch-thick HDU and then (for bulk reasons) sandwiched between an additional piece of two-inch-thick HDU—a grand total of six inches. “I applied some parts separately, such as the scenery,” says VanDerwarker. “The interior of the sign was virtually hollow, except where I added more support.” Because she’s just a one-woman shop, VanDerwarker doesn’t offer installation services. “I can honestly say that, since 2006, I have only lost one job due to that fact,” she says. “But at times, it can be overwhelming being the boss, the employee, the bookkeeper, and the sales rep.” Realizing that the overall sign would be too large to assem36

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

ble in her two-car garage workspace, VanDerwarker had the foresight to design it for assembly as three separate pieces. During the design process, she tried to make the later installation process as easy as possible, knowing that another crew not familiar with the construction of the sign would be putting it together on-site. So VanDerwarker embedded steel reinforcement rods throughout each half of the circles—four on the top circle and three on the lower. “I left about eighteen inches of each of these rods protruding outside of the flat part of the circle [the part that attached to the word plaque],” she says, noting she added seven individual 1/4-inch-by-36-inch steel flat bars on the interior of the word plaque for stability. VanDerwarker then pre-drilled placement holes on the word The hand-carved sign in the lobby also features the birch tree elements found on the CNC-routed main entrance sign.

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November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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Meet Dawn VanDerwarker Dawn VanDerwarker opened her oneperson shop, Creative DeSIGNS and Concepts, back in 2006 in North Hudson, New York, a small town with a population of 240. She started off with truck lettering and political signs but soon made the leap into a field that’s always held her fascination, dimensional signage. But being located in a small community meant having to concentrate on area-appropriate pricing (in order to complete enough such jobs to build up her portfolio). Through word of mouth, she worked on enough dimensional signage by 2010 to be able to relocate with her husband to larger Kingsbury, New York. Instead of paying rent for a store, Vanderwarker opted to operate out of her family’s two-car garage. Up until the Word of Life’s main entrance sign job, Vanderwarker primarily used a twenty-four-inch plotter working off of FlexiSIGN-PRO 8.5 to make her vinyl signs and silkscreen stenciling. In addition to her three chisels, other inshop tools include a basic table saw, a chop saw, and a band saw. Because of the CNC router, VanDerwarker is also having to work out of her fixer-upper farmhouse. “I set [it] up in a 14-by-20-foot spare room that we hadn’t renovated yet,” she says, “while I use my garage to chisel, assemble, and paint signs. For the WOL project, I had to position the machine just right to fit the eight-foot panels through it, so I could tile all the pieces.” In the near future, she plans to renovate her garage to be able to complete everything in one space.


Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

plaque. These rods not only acted as reinforcement for the structure of the sign but also aided in placement for when the sign would be assembled. “Additionally I inlaid eight-inch L brackets onto each side of the half circles (a total of four),” she says, “so after initial placement was made and urethane glue added, it could be tightened and secured down with 4-5/16-inch bolts.” Once she assembled the main word plaque, VanDerwarker applied castors to the bottom of the sign. “This way, I could move it out of the way while working on other parts of the sign,” she says. Before painting the sign pieces, VanDerwarker primed everything using 1-Shot. For the main word plaque, she sprayed a base coat of medium gray with an industrial paint sprayer and then dry-brushed some black, ivory, and a few shades of brown. “This pulled out the texture of the wood grain to give it a ‘drift wood’ look,” she explains. The lettering, the edging, and the sign frame were rolled with a basic mini-roller, while the scenery was hand-painted with 1-Shot enamels and T.J. Ronan paints. “To help get the ‘fallen leaf’ look I needed, I sponged on the texture with some household sponges I had cut up into leaflike shapes,” says VanDerwarker. She credits Word of Life with having some very talented people to design and build the uprights for the sign and to set it up. For example, WOL employee Doug Bensen designed the sign uprights. The four main upright posts are white cedar—the biggest one is eighteen inches in diameter. The long horizontals on the bottom are red pine. Only trees harvested from the property were used. Word of Life employee Carl Rambow de-limbed, de-barked, and sanded the wood. Once she saw the cedar stain added to the uprights, VanDerwarker then knew for certain that her decision to focus the design on the birch trees was the right one, as this element complemented the entire sign overall. VanDerwarker admits that she was nervous about how people in the area who viewed the original sign as a part of the local history were going to react to this change, as photos of the old sign being removed were being posted on Word of Life member Rannei Rambow’s Facebook page. “But as the photos of the reconstruction were being uploaded, people would leave the most wonderful

comments,” she says. “It made all my hard work and sweat well worth it.” VanDerwarker tells people she actually built four signs for this project, since the main entrance sign is double-sided. It took four-and-a-half months for her to design, build, and install of all the signs. “I was also working on jobs for other clients during this time,” she says. Don Lough, Jr., executive director of Word of Life Fellowship, Inc., told VanDerwarker, “The sign far exceeded my

expectations, and it has been a significant help as we rebrand our conference ministry for families. I have received so many positive comments from friends in town and constituents across the [country].” In return, VanDerwarker is getting inquiries from clients for this particular style of work, which really energizes her artistic side. “I love it!” she exclaims. “And it helps that this was one of the most pleasant customer experiences I’ve ever encountered.”

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Engraving/ BY AshleY BrAY //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The “spiriT” of engraving S

ometimes it’s the smallest details that can make the biggest difference on a project, and this is something SBC Laser recognizes. SBC Laser, a division of SBC Industries, was established when the roofing division of the company decided to look into alternatives to making their penetration flashings by hand. They settled on laser engraving and purchased a Kern Laser Systems custom-built, 150-watt, 52-by-120-inch machine that 40

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

could handle the 26-gauge stainless steel sheets the business typically works with. It didn’t take long however for SBC to realize that the engraver had capabilities that stretched far beyond those stainless steel sheets. “We saw the potential in what the system could actually do,” says Nick Caito, production and operations manager at SBC Laser. “So we started looking at it as a job shop, opening up a

all Photos: sbc laser.

A business tests the limits of its laser engraver on a project for a whisky company.

new division—SBC Laser.” Since SBC Laser was established, it has handled jobs as varied as cutting out various shapes and logos to etching designs onto pool table felt to creating shoe templates for footwear companies. One of its most recent projects was an intricate wall display unit for Johnnie Walker® Scotch Whisky. “The Johnnie Walker panels have probably been the most complicated and involved combination of materials, settings, and design we’ve taken on to date,” says Caito. SBC was brought onto the job through an inquiry on Facebook, which Caito finds to be a valuable asset to his business. “Social media is just so much easier to push this type of work. Everybody’s social media-based these days,” he says. “I’ll post a picture and within two days we’ve reached 500 to 600 people.” Together with the interior architectural design firm Bloom Interior Architecture (which creates build-outs for liquor stores), SBC Laser started work on creating a display worth toasting.

Drink to Design When SBC Laser receives renderings for a project, it typically works with them in CorelDRAW. “The [Kern] machine acts like a big printer from CorelDRAW,” explains Caito. “It registers everything from CorelDRAW and just about anything is importable into CorelDRAW.” (Note: The software can also read CAD files, which SBC frequently works in, as well.) SBC also uses the software add-on PhotoGraV, which allows scanned photography to be properly etched out on a variety of substrates (granite, stone, or wood) through a series of settings and conversions. On this particular project, SBC received the concept for the Johnnie Walker panel from London, but it was immediately met with a challenge. The London concept was built at seven feet tall, but SBC had to scale it down to a twenty-four-inch-diameter circle that was planned for the U.S. version. To do this, SBC had to remap and reconsider the design. They knew right away that using a CNC router wouldn’t work. “Basically they used a CNC router on the

SBC Laser created the in-store display panels through a combination of materials and intricate laser-engraving processes. large-scale one and prefabricated these panels,” says Caito. “Well this being as small as it is and as intricate as it was, the CNC just chopped everything up to where it wasn’t usable.” In order to achieve the intricate details and keep the surface and cut lines clean and free of snags and debris, SBC turned to its laser engraver.

Mixing Up Liquor Displays Starting with a 1/4-inch-thick piece of black acrylic, SBC Laser simultaneously etched a diamond pattern and the inlay

spaces for the Striding Man logo and the letters spelling out “Johnnie Walker,” “A blend of our rarest whiskies,” and “Masterfully blended.” The etching was accomplished by employing a multiple-pass process on the laser ranging from 40 inches/second to 90 inches/second with a variation of power based on the speed. The laser was at 100 percent power most of the time. SBC Laser then came back to the same file where it had cut lines also programmed in for the circular shape of one of the overall panels, the two rectangular

For one of the accompanying elements of the displays, SBC Laser etched letters into a brass strip. November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


To create the intricate artwork on the anodized aluminum panel, SBC Laser imported the provided .ai file into CorelDRAW and etched it out.

spaces for bottles, and the “Blue Label” lettering inlay at the top. (Note: A second, white circular panel with shelving was fabricated by another company. The rings surrounding each of the two circular panels, as well as the lettering on the rings, were also fabricated by another company on a CNC router. “It takes about four or five shops to accomplish one unit,” says Caito.) When the cutting was completed, the panel was washed off, prepped, and painted with a blue automotive paint by


a third-party automotive paint company. Next SBC began working on the letters that would be placed in the inlays. The client had requested that these letters have a metallic look.

It didn’t take long for SBC Laser to realize its engraver had capabilities that stretched beyond steel sheets.

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

Knowing it had more engraving options with plastic, SBC opted to use Bur-Lane plastics with a finish that mimics brushed metal. “Also the plastic has a 3M self-adhesive backing, making installation a little easier,” says Caito. SBC immediately ran into a challenge with the small size of the letters—even with the laser beam width only measuring 5000th of an inch. “When you cut that file, the lines are so close to each other, and that material is only so strong and it melts away,” says Caito. “So we

went back to the drawing board and created artwork again using the text font and style and reverse-3D engraved the letters. “So we’re taking that piece of material and etching away everything around those letters except for the letters themselves.” (Note: SBC cut the letters out at a speed of 40 inches/second.) SBC Laser also cut out a rectangle, which holds the letters. “To keep everything together, running right across the middle of the letters, we made a smaller rectangle that spans across. It’s set to a lighter power setting so that it goes all the way through except it doesn’t break it,” says Caito. “So now you’ve got this long strip that has all the individual letters on it.” When the third-party installers received the elements, they simply snapped each letter off the rectangle and placed it into the inlays. The 3M adhesive backing held the letters in place. SBC also fabricated letters for the “Blue Label” inlay. The company started with a translucent white, light-diffusing acrylic, and at 100 percent power, lasercut the script letter pattern into it. SBC then took a thinner, .02-inchthick version of the Bur-Lane plastic with the metallic finish and cut the letter pattern into this. When the pieces were installed, the acrylic was inlaid into the proper space where it protrudes 1/8-inch off the panel. The metallic plastic was affixed to the top of the acrylic. (Note: When the display is lit, the raised lettering produces a halo lighting effect.) SBC also handled the “JW” logo on the left-hand side of the circle by etching 1/16-inch-deep into the white acrylic. It then took the brushed metal BurLane plastic used in other parts of the project and, employing a vector file of the “JW” logo, vector-cut individual pieces out. These pieces were then placed into the inlays on the acrylic panel. The finished circular display is affixed to a solid, milky white acrylic panel that’s backlit with blue lighting so that all of the elements glow blue.

into wood and served as a header. SBC also etched “Exclusive to Travellers” into a brass strip, which served as a subhead to the unit. Finally SBC etched intricate artwork into a silver, square sheet of anodized aluminum that surrounds the circular panels. They set up the artwork for etching using their CorelDRAW software. “We imported the customer’s provided .ai artwork directly into CorelDRAW

and modified it from there,” says Caito, explaining the company cut the sheet to size and shape and then laser-etched the artwork into it. The client was so impressed by the finished products that they’re considering an order of even more display units. To learn more about SBC Laser, visit or check them out at

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Closing Out the Tab SBC Laser also fabricated a few other pieces to round out the units. The company cut the letters “Johnnie Walker” out of Bur-Lane plastic with a brass finish. These letters were inlaid

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November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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Neon Arrow

Hits the A Southwest-themed sign lights up a Texas tattoo shop.


Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013


Target classic Tattoo in San marcos, Texas is located in a freestanding building with two other businesses. They’d been using a nicely painted mDo sign for the past seven or so years, but business had grown enough to where they were looking to expand their sign presence—in this case, a brand new neon

All phoToS: blAckouT SignS & meTAlworkS.

sign that would enhance their identity and reflect their interests. Store owners pat and morgan egan turned to Jay gordon to make this a reality. gordon is the founder and owner of blackout Signs & metalworks (, a shop of craftsmen that designs, builds, and installs unique, creative signs and sculptures.

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Gordon has known the Egans for years—both as a fellow artist and painter and as one of their customers. He’d been asking them for awhile to let his shop design and build a new sign for them.

Designs on Neon Gordon was given free rein on design ideas for the new neon sign, but he first required a vague idea of what they liked as a rough starting point. He found out they were big into the ’60s Southwest flavor, e.g., old ‘Welcome to the Badlands’ postcards and Cowboys-and-Indians themes. Gordon bounced ideas back and forth with Pat and Morgan. One idea that almost took off was using an exploding firecracker in the design. But four or five sketches later, Gordon reached the arrow design that the Egans really dug. “The initial rough sketch ended up being pretty close to the final sign design,” he says. The basic design features a sharp arrow piercing through reverse channel letters spelling “Classic Tattoo.” (Note: Gordon didn’t want the sign to look like the letters were mounted to the raceway, so they were “notched” to fit over the arrow.) In-between the larger sixteen-inch-tall “C-L-A-S-S-I-C” letters are three-inch-tall letters spelling “T-A-T-T-O-O” with a one-inch-tall band along the tops and bottoms of them outlining the arrow. This detail ended up the result of a happy accident. “After we finished designing the basic sign layout, we didn’t have anywhere to put T-A-T-T-O-O,” says Gordon, noting that ideas of making these letters a secondary sign or simply an unnecessary afterthought wouldn’t work design-wise. “But they happened to fit in-between each letter perfectly.”

aluminum construction. Gordon considered making the sign a little bigger, but Classic Tattoo doesn’t have a very large storefront, and he didn’t want to risk crowding it. So Blackout Signs played around with scale. “We took a picture of the front of their building and, from that, figured out a scale that would look good, clean, and classic,” he says. The sign cans are five inches thick, while the letters are seven inches thick. “This adds some dimension to the sign,” explains Gordon. Blackout Signs created the neon pattern for Kirk Tunningsley of Big Dog Neon ( in nearby Lockhart, Texas, who provided the glass-bent tubes for them about a month later. There’s a height differential of four inches between the T-A-T-T-O-O letters and the C-L-A-S-S-I-C letters. Fitting the T-A-T-T-O-O between the C-L-A-S-S-I-C fonts proved really tight. There wasn’t a lot of available space, and the letters actually sit up higher than the arrow. “The letters essentially closed off the arrow, which would’ve acted as the raceway,” says Gordon. “But we’ve had to put neon in open face channel letters that were a whole lot tighter access-wise than that before.”

Exposing Neon Gordon likes working with exposed neon for a number of reasons. For instance, it helps him achieve that “beautiful craftsmanship” he and his shop like to see employed in signage. It also affords him the opportunity to put on his thinking cap (unlike peel-and-stick LEDs). “There’s a lot of pre-planning where everything needs to go,” he explains. “You’ve got to design the sign so that the frame is out of the way. And you’ve got to consider how the sign is going to look when turned off, because there are going to be 15mm lines outlining the sign. It also has to be legible in the daylight too.” The sign (faces, cans, and aluminum framework) is an all46

Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

The sign is a bright spot at night, but Jay Gordon also had to consider how the neon tubes would also look during the day.

ton and Jason Mathis for their fabrication work. This involved quite a bit of effort to notch the letters they’d fit cleanly over the arrow. “We cut out areas behind each of the letters to run wiring and stuff like that,” explains Gordon. “It also kind of encapsulates the T-A-T-T-O-O neon, so that the light doesn’t bleed over into the faces of the red C-L-A-S-S-I-C letters.” Blackout Signs wanted a nice, crisp sign with bright colors, so after disassembling it, they applied 1-Shot paints to it. “We put a flattener agent in the paint, so it would soak up the light instead of reflecting it,” explains Gordon. “We also handpainted and airbrushed the sign.”

Tattoo-ed On

On installation day, Jason Mathis (pictured) and Gordon had to endure soaring Texas temperatures and a colony of bats.

Color-ful Choices Color selection is also crucial to Gordon in his neon projects. Here he used a variety of colors that embraced an “Americana” feel—red, white, blue, and gold. “Those colors are about as American as you can get,” he says. Gordon played around with many different color combinations during the design process. He ended up using two different colors of white neon for the feather on the back of the arrow. “We were trying to figure out how to break up the texture with straight lines,” he says. “We thought it would be fun to mix up those two different shades of white neon back there. I think it looks really good.” Tunningsley also welded different color tubing together in some of the units. “Each one of the T-A-T-T-O-O letters are individual units,” says Gordon. “Some are blue, and some are white. This allowed us to fit the letter and outline in such a tight space.”

Building a Bullseye The letters and the arrow were built as two separate pieces, and Gordon gives special props to his employees Shawn Hol-

Gordon and Mathis installed the finished sign in three sections. They attached the interior frame to the wall first. “Then the whole sign assembly slipped over that, and we pinned it down with some self-tapping screws,” he explains. “Then we attached all the neon to it.” Two transformers are used for this sign, and Gordon placed them up in the attic space of the building. “We hid all the wiring and the connections through the building, so none of the electric would be exposed,” he says. Gordon employed Transco glass tube supports to stand the neon off the sign, as well as #200 PK glass housing electrode enclosures for the C-L-A-S-S-I-C letters. Since the building has a cast concrete ’60s-style, fluted face, they attached the sign using concrete anchors.

“We’re Batman!” Gordon admits that they suffered a bit on the install. For starters, the Texas temperatures soared that day to 103 degrees. “We arrived early in the morning before they opened to try and beat the heat,” he says. The owners had also told Gordon that there was a colony of bats living behind the existing sign, which Gordon and Mathis had forgotten about by installation day. “So we’re up on ladders carefully taking down the old sign and making some noise, when a couple of bats fly out,” he says. “We thought, ‘Cool, now all the bats are gone!’ “But when we pried the last piece of the sign down, about forty bats flew out. We scattered! Fortunately no one got bit.” From deposit to installation, this project lasted eight weeks. “The owners are ‘super-stoked’ about their new sign because it really stands out and lights up the whole street,” boasts Gordon, reflecting on another original creation well done.

November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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Sign Builder Illustrated // November 2013

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November 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



B y j e f f wo ot e N

Signs and Prints of East Weymouth, MA

Hot Decals for Fire Engines


arry Chan has been involved in the sign industry as a one-man sign-making band since 1997. Chan is the owner and sole employee of Signs and Prints (, a print specialty company located in a dedicated 600-square foot space of his home. Chan started out doing basic designs on his vinyl cutter for some friends and later set up a plotter in order to do higher-end vinyl decals and lettering. He eventually graduated to wide format printing using a Roland Hi-Fi JET FJ-540 inkjet printer and VersaCAMM SP-300 30-inch and VS-540 54-inch printer/cutters, and his clients have been excited at what he’s able to do for them. Signs and Prints produces signage; banners; window, wall, and floor graphics; garment designs; vehicle graphics; and anything else his customers need to market their businesses. Chan uses EcoSol MAX inks to output onto a variety of media— vinyls, artists’ canvas, backlits, banners, satin photo papers, reusable materials, and magnets. Chan calculates the price of his work based on square footage and adds in the costs of ink and materials (as well as time and labor) for the final quote. Although he prices metallic vinyls higher than calendared and cast vinyls, these have been easy for him to upsell. “Some customers will come to me

requesting metallics after seeing them on someone’s truck,” he says, “or ask for it in a chrome, a gold, or a silver carbon fiber. They’re willing to pay for it.” Chan also does lettering and insignias for fire department trucks across the country (and overseas). “I made fundraising decals for the fire department in nearby Braintree, Massachusetts soon after the events of 9/11,” he says, noting that exposure and word of mouth has led to other fire departments emailing him for quotes. These decals range in sizes up to sixteen inches tall. Chan will typically output them onto Avery and ORACAL reflective vinyls. When he receives the artwork from a fire department or creates it from scratch, Chan will import and redraw it in Illustrator®. “Sometimes they’ll send me an actual emblem or patch, so I’ll scan it in and then redraw it with an overlay on top,” he says. When drawing the artwork in Illustrator, Chan prefers designing it as an EPS vector-based graphic or Illustrator native file. “This way, they won’t distort when I enlarge them,” he says. “However if a client sends me a raster-based JPEG file, I specify to them that it has to be 300-dpi resolution.” Chan then feeds the cut line and outline to his VersaWorks™ RIP that prints and cuts the letters or contour shapes in any color and any design.

To read about Chan’s work for small businesses & the military, check out the full story on


Sign Builder Illustrated

all Photos: signs and Prints.

// November 2013

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Sign Builder Illustrated November 2013  
Sign Builder Illustrated November 2013  

This issue features stories on ADA/wayfinding, monuments, banners, digital signage, laser engraving, neon signs, and more. It also features...