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Contents FEBRUARY 2017

Vol. 31

No. 260

How-To Columns

12 16



By David Hickey What effect will the Trump administration have on our industry?


By Mark K. Roberts Creating a new set of service writer identification signs.


8 10 51 52


Identity crisis averted! Editor Jeff Wooten has designs on making the best possible signs out there.


Motivational signage helps “Bulldog” athletes mend their paws; USSC hands out a prestigious award.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

Ashley Bray talks with FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson about opportunities to plan for in 2017.



18 26




34 42 46 2

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017


By Jeff Wooten A shop makes steampunk signage for Lucky Strike locations. By Jeff Wooten Unwrapping the DUNA-USA “Spirit of Christmas” Sign Contest winners. By Jeff Wooten Reclaimed barn wood adds nostalgia to a new identity sign.


By Ashley Bray A sign shop scores on channel letters for a hockey arena.


By Mike Antoniak A Rickenbacker guitar gets redesigned with a vinyl wrap.


By Renae Farrah Find your way into a new area of expertise at your shop.

Cover Photo: Landmark Sign Group, Chesterton, IN.



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Congrats Jeff Sutley on your promotion to Associate Publisher!

February 2017, Vol. 31, No. 260 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Subscriptions: 800-895-4389

executive offices President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr.

“Well deserved!.”

Publisher Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7247 ; Fax: 212-633-1863

“Congrats! Mom is going to be so proud. HaHa.”

editorial “Your creativity and unique ideas have really paid off!”

Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220

“I owe you a drink to celebrate. Congrats!”

Contributing Writers Mike Antoniak, Renae Farrah, David Hickey, Mark K. Roberts, Lori Shridhare

art Creative Director Wendy Williams “Congratulations, Jeff! Killin’ it since 1982!”

Art Director Nicole Cassano Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production “Move over 2017 - Here comes Jeff Sutley and that’s a wrap.”

“Congrats, ‘Big Time Sign Guy’! Well deserved. ”

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Associate Publisher Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233 Mid-West & West Coast Sales Manager Heather Bonato 212-620-7225

“Today a promotion, tomorrow the world! Congrats, Jeff!”

Sign Builder Illustrated is published monthly. All rights reserved. Nothing herein may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. To purchase PDF files of cover and layouts or hard copy reprints, please call Art Sutley at 212-620-7247 or e-mail


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

Light is continuous BackLED Plus Square Lens: supreme uniformity, fewer modules The new BackLED Plus Square Lens contains exclusive technology that delivers a uniform pattern on the face of shallower depth signs. — Available in medium and small sizes with a variety of CCTs and colors — Single board cuttable chain of LED modules with flexible connection cables — IP66 rated to protect against dust, moisture, and condensation in outdoor applications Learn more about BackLED Plus Square Lens at

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Editor’s Column


By Jeff Wooten

February 2017 February 16-17:

The Midwest Sign Association will conduct its winter meeting at the Hilton Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (

February 16-18:

Graphics of the Americas Expo & Conference will be held at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (

Identity Crisis Averted

April 2017


The ISA International Sign Expo takes place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (

April 19-22:

Designs on making the best possible signs out there.


Sign Builder Illustrated

ics—“creative activity related to the design of new signs or the reuse of existing signs” and “marketing and other business research on the value of a brand or logo as depicted on a sign.” (Note: For more details, contact Patty Herbin at patty@ No disrespect intended to the meatand-potato fabricators and installers of the sign universe, but after growing up on a steady diet of Saul Bass, Maurice Noble, and Jack Kirby, I’ve always held a little extra affinity for the design aspect. I get a rush seeing some of the behindthe-scenes sketches sent to me showcasing how what started out as imagination ended up turning into reality. On page 26, you’ll find a recap of the winning entries of the recent DUNAUSA “Spirit of Christmas” sign contest. I was honored to be invited to co-judge this contest, as we evaluated their design, execution, and “wow” factor. It was a tough collaborative decision, as literally every piece was in First Place at some point of the judging process. But it was a thrill just to see so much signmaking imagination and ingenuity at work, and it reminded me why I love the design process so much in the, ahem, first place. (Note: You can view all the entries for yourself at

Jeff Wooten Editor,

February 2017

May 2017 MAY 7-11:

LIGHTFAIR® International (LFI) 2017 will be in full effect at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (

June 2017 June 7-11:

The Texas Sign Association Annual Conference happens at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. (

June 8-10:

Photo: Landmark Sign Group.

here was a brief, initial instinct to blare “Identity Crisis” across the headline of our cover, but in the end, we deemed this would be an unfair, exploitative statement to associate with some of the brilliant, eye-catching solutions coolly and calmly crafted by sign makers in this month’s issue. Some of our articles will show how sign makers modeled signage after the popular sci-fi/fantasy “steampunk” movement, used reclaimed barn wood to marry the old with the new and provide a unique aesthetic for a restaurant sign, scored with innovative channel letters for the home arena for the NHL’s Boston Bruins, and refreshed a classic Rickenbacker guitar with vinyl graphics. If there is a trait these projects have in common, it would have to be the design work involved in their creation. It’s amazing to see how many of these projects were given the go-ahead on just their design concepts alone. And yet, it seems that design work can be the most overlooked, most under-priced component at some shops. It should not be this way. Last month, the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education (AACSRE) announced its Emerging Fellows program, which “provides research support for projects related to the societal benefits of on-premise signs.” In addition to engineering studies, economic analysis, and legal issues, other topics being addressed with this Emerging Fellows program include a couple of design top-

This year’s SEGD Conference, Experience Miami, will be headquartered at the Loews Miami in Miami, Florida. (

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In The Industry

Signage Helps “bulldogs”

MEND THEIR PAWS D avidson, NC—Being pulled from an athletic event with an injury could be enough to wrinkle any high school athlete’s brow. But for members of the Vicksburg High School “Bulldogs” athletic teams in Vicksburg, Michigan, a visit to their athletic department’s training facility is no reason to permanently take on their canine mascot’s prominent pout. Instead they’re encouraged to “turn that setback into a comeback” in colorful signage designed by Portage, Michiganbased Agio Imaging ( The large format custom print provider direct-printed the motivational messages and graphics onto Dibond® graphic display board ( by 8

Sign Builder Illustrated

3A Composites USA. Marc Androsky, account executive at Agio Imaging, who also happens to be a Vicksburg High School parent, approached school leaders about “sprucing up” the training facility with bulldog mascot-inspired signage highlighted in Vicksburg’s red-and-white school colors, according to Davina Logan, director of sales, marketing, and administration at Agio Imaging. School athletic department administrators readily agreed to the training facility upgrade with Androsky—who Logan describes as “very creative and extremely knowledgeable”—taking the lead in signage design and the school agreeing to paint the facility’s walls and cabinetry.

February 2017

“The idea was to transform the plain, white space with the school’s colors and branding,” said Logan. “[Androsky] wanted it to be a motivational, fun place. Even though students may be hurt when they enter the room, we wanted to inspire them and to promote school spirit.” Agio Imaging chose 3mm white Dibond supplied by the Grand Rapids, Michigan branch of distributor Laird Plastics ( for direct printing display graphics with a superwide format UV printer. A CNC router was used to contour the signs to various sizes and shapes, including one circular sign and one arched sign with lettering. (Note: Dibond is an aluminum composite material consisting of two

USSC Award

Combining Dibond, digital printing, and routing.


colorful Graphics completely transform a school’s training room.

painted sheets of 0.012-inch aluminum bonded to a solid polyethylene core—a unique composition that makes it approximately half the weight of aluminum. As the flattest panel on the market, Dibond presents a superior surface for direct digital printing; it also can be routed and returned to add dimension or roll-formed to deliver sweeping curves. Dibond offers outstanding durability in outdoor applications and won’t bow or oil can.) The five signs created for the training facility range in size from 47-1/2-by-471/2 inches to 95-by-47 inches. Graphics were designed to recognize all Vicksburg High School athletic teams and to promote school spirit, including

a large circular sign featuring a bulldog mascot caricature. “Vicksburg” lettering tops an arched sign describing the VHS Training Facility as the space “where Bulldogs mend their paws” and punctuated with a paw print. “We chose Dibond for its rigidity and extreme durability in creating these large signs,” said Logan. “Dibond routes exceptionally well with clean, sleek edges and allows us to cut out custom shapes.” Agio Imaging used stainless steel standoffs to install the signs on the walls of the Vicksburg High School Training Facility. “The school loved these signs,” said Logan. “It was a complete transformation of the training room for them.”

ristol, Pennsylvania—The United States Sign Council ( chose Wendy Kern of Bartush Signs in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania to receive the Andrew D. Bertucci Memorial Award for Service Above Self. The award is presented only when an individual within the organization shows extraordinary devotion to the Sign Council and whose work has made a significant contribution toward the betterment of the sign industry. Kern truly exemplifies the term “service above self.” A member of the USSC Board of Directors for six years, she has served as President of the Board in 2013 and 2014. She has been active on numerous committees including the “Leadership Team” in 2016. She helps at the Sign World International show in a number of ways. Kern is also a member of the UL Sign Industry Business Panel, attending meetings to review and discuss business issues related to sign industry members and UL Standards that control and affect a sign company’s ability to do business. All of these activities on behalf of the USSC involve numerous conference calls and in-person meetings throughout the year. The award is named for Andrew Bertucci, one of the original founders of the Eastern States Sign Council, which has become the largest organization of independent sign shops in the nation—the USSC.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


Sign Show BANNERS/MATERIALS/EQUIPMENT JustAddBanner Solves a Long-standing Problem Associated with Mounting Banners Sign Stuff, Inc., offers a new patent-pending outdoor banner post mounting system called JustAddBanner™, which solves the problem of poorly mounted banners that sag and have a shortened lifespan because they are whipped by high-speed wind gusts. The integral bungees are more pliable than the banner and spread the force of the wind across the four bungees instead of upon the banner alone. When the air becomes still again, the bungees pull the banner taut keeping it displaying well and easy to read. JustAddBanner makes it simple to mount, change, or remove a banner in minutes, and the bungees embedded in the vertical posts can be instantly adjusted for different banner heights. (734) 458-1055;

DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES Break Into the Personalization Market with Roland’s New VersaUV LEF-200 Printer Roland DGA Corporation has added VersaUV LEF-200 to its lineup of benchtop UV flatbed inkjet printers. Improving on the previous generation LEF-20, the LEF-200 features a new on-board primer option for priming a wide variety of substrates quickly and conveniently. It also comes with Roland VersaWorks® Dual RIP software, which simplifies the process of producing graphics with special effects. Ideal for the personalization and specialty printing markets, the twenty-inch-wide LEF-200 prints high-quality CMYK, White, and Gloss ECO-UV ink effects (or an optional Primer in place of Gloss) on a range of materials and objects, including three-dimensional items up to 3.94 inches thick, such as pens, smartphone cases, and more.

SERVICE TRUCKS/CRANES Newest Van Ladder Bucket Truck, 3928-HD, is Sure to Raise Some Eyebrows With increased reach and load capacity, the new heavy-duty model 3928-HD bucket truck from Van Ladder builds on a history of efficient design. Vehicle and lift combinations have been developed specifically for the sign and lighting industry. Work-ready packages are available, and vehicles can be tailored to user specifications. Efficiency and ease of use continue to be a trademark of Van Ladder. Set up at the job site with no outriggers and operate the lift with zero emissions while the vehicle is turned off. Get organized with everything you need in an enclosed body. The truck integrates without impacting storage space and leaves generous remaining vehicle payload. (888) 887-5847;

VINYL/VINYL FILMS An Easier Install and Removal with Arlon’s DPF 510 Arlon has launched its new short-term promotional removable film, DPF 510 Removable, as an addition to its print media product line. DPF 510 Removable is available in a Gloss (DPF 510GTR) and Matte (DPF 510MTR) finish. It features a low-tack adhesive that makes the material easy to use during installation and removal. The adhesive allows the material to be removable up to one year after application. It is ideal for short-term P-O-P, tradeshow, and window displays. DPF 510 Removable features a two-sided, lay-flat poly-coated liner providing a consistent, vibrant print quality, and it is compatible with a wide variety of print systems (including eco-solvent, solvent, and latex). (800) 232-7161;

Introducing HP PVC-free Durable Suede Wall Paper HP introduces a new addition to its digital wallcovering portfolio: HP PVC-free Durable Suede Wall Paper. This paper has the soft, textured feel of suede that adds a sense of luxury and warmth to an interior space. Certified Type II (ASTM F793) compliant for durability, it is suitable for use in both residential and commercial environments that are subject to wear and tear. Highly mold- and mildew-resistant, HP PVC-free Durable Suede Wall Paper has multiple environmental certifications including FSC®, REACH, and UL GREENGUARD GOLD, making it safe for the most sensitive of spaces (including schools and hospitals). It is engineered with ColorPRO Technology to deliver color excellence and produce professional image quality results. HP PVC-free Durable Suede Wall Paper is easy to use with common primers, pastes, and installation methods.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017


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By David Hickey

Undiscovered Country What effect will the Trump administration have on signs and graphics? Taxes President Trump also ran on cutting taxes for businesses, including elimination of the estate tax and reduction of the corporate tax. His proposal to lower the tax rate to 15 percent for business owners who file as S-corps (top marginal tax rate is currently 39.6 percent) will affect many in our industry.


Sign Builder Illustrated

the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry. Health Care Although, at press time, there is great uncertainty about the details of his plans, President Trump campaigned on a promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. While reports indicate that some provisions of the ACA may be kept, others that impact the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry could be targeted for repeal. Regardless of how any changes shake out, the impact will be felt. According to the 2015 ISA Wage & Benefits survey, about two-thirds of sign, graphics, and visual communications companies provide health insurance benefits for salaried employees. About 60 percent provide health insurance for hourly employees. Consequently any changes to the insurance system—and, by extension, the health care industry—could have an impact on our businesses.

February 2017

Regulations Another element of President Trump’s campaign rhetoric was repealing the Obama administration’s executive orders and regulations. While it is unclear exactly how the new administration and Congress will approach regulations on manufacturers and the broader business climate, ISA will continue to work with groups with which we share a common interest. We all have stories to tell about how our industries benefit when regulations

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Orhan Cam


he sign, graphics, and visual communications industry presents a world of opportunities for business expansion. But regulations and federal laws have stifled progress for many. The International Sign Association (ISA) has worked on a number of issues in recent months, designed to help fight unwarranted regulations, positively influence others, and to prepare member companies when those arguments are lost. A new administration in Washington, D.C., is certainly expected to bring changes. It isn’t a stretch to imagine that a Trump administration, working with a Republican Senate and House of Representatives, could have a much different approach to issues that affect small businesses like health care, taxes, labor policies, and regulations than former President Obama and congressional Democrats. Here’s a look at some of the ways in which the new Congress could impact

Labor The Obama administration used the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to issue many rules and regulations that affect the workplace. The last eight years saw the administration issue the “poster rule,” the injury and illness reporting rule, the “persuader rule,” and several other regulations from agencies such as the Department of Labor. Look for the Trump administration to try to repeal or revise many of these same rules. One of the rules with the biggest impact—the overtime law that would have significantly increased the number of workers eligible for overtime—was delayed by a judge just before it was due to take effect. A lawsuit had been brought by twenty-one states and a coalition (of which ISA was a part).

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



By David Hickey

that harm businesses are eliminated. That said, there is still one major regulation that I expect to take effect as scheduled: the OSHA mandate that all mobile crane operators be certified by November 10. The ISA is operating as though the election of President Trump will not result in this rule being further delayed or removed and is urging sign, graphics, and visual communications companies to prepare. This crane certification mandate isn’t new—it already passed (more than six years ago), even though the compliance deadline just now is approaching. We are uncertain whether the new administration will have the time or inclination to focus on this relatively small and obscure rule before its November deadline. That being said, ISA is working with

our contacts in Washington, D.C., and with our colleagues in other similarly affected industries to determine if there are any such possibilities. In the meantime, we strongly encourage sign companies to plan as though the crane certification requirement will become effective on November 10, 2017. Please don’t wait too long; ISA doesn’t want members to be forced to shut down their cranes and service trucks come November 10. (Note: Check for additional information.) The fact of the matter is that small businesses and the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry face a new and, in many ways, unfamiliar terrain in Washington D.C. But great change can also present great opportunities, and ISA’s Advoca-

cy team will be looking to capitalize on these opportunities on a regular basis. ISA remains a visible presence for the industry, as we continue to meet with and educate members of Congress on the value that our products bring to small businesses and the economy. In the end, it is the leadership of the United States sign industry that will help promote the change we truly need in our nation’s capital. Know that ISA will continue to monitor federal regulations as well as continue its work at both the local and state levels. If your company needs assistance with sign codes or help navigating federal regulations, you can contact David Hickey is vice president, Government Affairs, at ISA (

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Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

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Suspended in Action Creating a new set of service writer identification signs.


have been fortunate to serve as a sign supplier for several automobile dealerships over my thirty-seven years in the business. Most of my indoor signs are informational and consist of directional and wayfinding products. I always strive to create a nice, clean appearance with my signage and doing this helps keep me busy with interesting assignments. One such auto dealer recently approached me requesting the creation and installation of six unique, suspended, oval PVC signs that would identify their assistant service managers. So without further ado, let’s start the engine and rev it up to make these signs! When I create lightweight signs, I always like to make them so that they can be suspended with plated jack chain. This type of chain is easy to take apart, yet I always make certain that there is no chance someone will come around and “slap” one or more of these types of signs. For these suspended signs, I select16

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

ed 1/8-inch white Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) blanks. The first thing I did for this project was cut these PVC blanks into six oval shapes. I like using ovals as a sign design for several reasons: (1.) They look cool, and (2.) They do not have any sharp edges. Remember it’s safety first when it comes to sign making! Using my handy oval-shaped sign template, I traced around the template with a Sharpie® pen. I then took my X-acto® knife and scored the PVC with it at least two to three times, always making sure to follow my template. After I had finished cutting the PVC material, I sanded the edges, creating a smooth bevel on both sides of the ovals. Then I rinsed them off with some water and thoroughly dried them until they were smooth. Next it was time to compose the copy for the signs. We digitally printed out the individual’s name and the company name at the

top of the signs on our awesome Roland VersaCAMM printer using ORAFOL vinyl. On the second line, we printed out the employee’s name, while the third line featured their title. To begin the fabrication of each sign, we carefully adhered our vinyl prints to one side of the sign panel. I usually spray a little Rapid Tac application fluid to help smooth out the little bubbles. After drying each individual sign face, we drilled two small 1/8-inch holes at the top of the sign. Then it was time to suspend our signs. We used small jack chain, which can be easily shortened with a pair of pliers. This lightweight chain can be purchased at any hardware store or home improvement center. If you’re working on suspending signs using this method, make sure you have two chains per sign face. Each chain should be the same length for the current project. For suspended ceilings, we use small hangers that grab both sides of the suspended ceiling framework. These small hangers can be purchased at craft stores or home improvement stores. To begin the installation of these six signs, we made a checklist of what we needed to accomplish this: two identical lengths of chain, a ceiling grid hook, and a small “S” hook to attach the sign. Measuring the sales counter for the service writers, we divided it by six, giving ample space for each service writer to have some ample “elbow room.” In a few short minutes, our service writer’s name signs were installed and ready for a lifetime of service to the automobile dealership. Now let’s go find some other signs we can make. I’m ready! How about you? Mark K. Roberts is a native Houstonian, a thirty-seven year sign craftsman, and a teacher of sign techniques.

Wall Graphics Transform an Office MACTAC was recently challenged with transforming the Sundance Institute’s office environment into a creative and more appealing space with high-end textured wall graphics. The Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that advances the work of independent storytellers in film and theatre. As a preferred vendor of HP, Mactac was approached to supply the print media for two large walls spanning from the Sundance lobby to its conference room area. Mactac had to select a substrate that was not only easily installable but that also fit the décor of the office space. Texture was also a consideration, and Mactac supplied sample swatches so the Sundance team could see how several embossing and design patterns looked within the space. Mactac also provided different adhesive combinations with technical specs. Ultimately Mactac’s IMAGin DecoMural, a medium-textured media, was selected for its unique finish. The graphics were printed on an HP Latex 3500 printer, and HP handled the installation at the Sundance office. “Sundance was ecstatic with the results of the project,” said Brian Daniel, Solutions Architecture, HP Inc. “It has made their space more inviting and creative.”

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


Identity Signs By jeff wooten Wooten

Signs for the

Win! 18

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

A sign shop makes signage for Lucky Strike locations across the country.

All Photos: Landmark Sign Group.


n 2003, Lucky Strike Entertainment struck gold when they launched their first Lucky Strike Bowling location in Hollywood, which trendily mixed modern nightclub sensibilities with bowling alleys to create a hip, happening hangout. Now some fifteen years later and numerous other locations around the country, Lucky Strike was ready for their next ventures. FTW Chicago is a custom, one-of-akind indoor mini-golf course intertwined with an indoor arcade and a modern Chicago-themed restaurant with “neonvintage” bar and grille cuisines. Meanwhile Lucky Strike Social in Albany, New York combines Lucky Strike bowling facilities with FTW arcade games and a live music venue. When Lucky Strike owners needed custom signage for these new locales, one sign shop in Northwest Indiana put up the high score here by designing, constructing, and installing a variety of signs used throughout the facilities. For the past eight months, Landmark Sign Group of Chesterton, Indiana has been providing distinctive signage for these new Lucky Strike locations. The sign company first became involved with Lucky Strike Entertainment by servicing their signage and neon at their bowling location in downtown Chicago. It’s been quite the journey for this group of sign makers. Owner Al O’Brien started Landmark Sign Group back in 1983, first operating out of a two-car garage. From these humble beginnings, the company has grown to become the largest custom sign company in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana areas creating “landmark” signage and has even advanced to taking on national account work. Today Landmark Sign Group operates out of a 30,000-square-foot facility that includes full metal and plex fabrication, an AXYZ 10-by-22-foot dual-head CNC router, a custom-built 950-squarefoot down-draft spray booth with baking technology, and a team of professionals who have over 500 years of accumulated

experience in sign manufacturing. They also offer expert sign installation and service for their products, as well as sub-contracted signs. They possess a fleet of cranes, bucket trucks, and aerial equipment and have even had to use helicopters for installation of signage atop buildings dotting the Chicago skyline. “Perhaps one of our greatest strengths is our delivery time,” says O’Brien. This concept of being a custom sign company that could produce the quickest turnarounds was borne out of part planning and part necessity. O’Brien explains that, during the early days back in his garage, they had to make certain their vendors and employees were paid on time. “Successfully doing this meant that our clients knew they could rely on us to meet any deadline thrown at us,” he says. “[We can] make the boldest guarantee in the industry: When we promise to deliver, it’s on time or on us!” When Lucky Strike developed their FTW (“For the Win”) concept, officials told them that they were looking for unique signage with a “steampunk” theme at these locations in Chicago and Albany, New York. (Note: Steampunk incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by nineteenth century industrial steam-powered machinery as an alternative sci-fi/fantasy history.) Lucky Strike sent the sign company a few rough sketches of what they had in mind, and Art Director Jerry Lefere and Head Technical Engineer Terry Ambrosini designed preliminary drawings for sixteen interior signs and four exterior and directional signs. The two then met with FTW Chicago Owner Steven Foster for a walk-through of the facility. At this meeting, Lefere and Ambrosini brought a sample of one of the design elements, a 3D-routed foam gear painted to look like a real metal gear. Foster was so impressed with how realistic the gear looked (as well as the other prepared designs), he immediately gave the go-ahead to move into pre-production planning. This included taking their logo elements and complementing them with

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


This interior sign had to be visible across the entire gaming floor.

Incandescent bulbs give an old-style marquee feel.

We are able to utilize a lot of our new ideas and technologies to create unique, one-of-a-kind signage that can be seen all over the country. high-resolution graphics, producing full shop and engineering drawings, and showing construction and installation methods. Careful consideration was given to color, lighting, and materials to make sure that everything exceeded expectations. Landmark Sign Group sent Controller Shaun Ensign out to do a preliminary survey of each site—taking photos and measurements, going over issues like mounting methods and electrical access, etc. “We do a pre-installation survey to make sure that what we have designed and engineered will still work after the buildout has been completed,” says Lefere. Here is a closer look at the signs Landmark Sign Group came up with for the new Lucky Strike FTW and Social locations. FTW Chicago: Main Entrance Sign. This was an important sign to get right, 20

Sign Builder Illustrated

as it was the one being installed onto a granite wall at the entrance to the flagship FTW Chicago. Landmark Sign Group spent a great deal of extra time making sure this sign would be just as impressive as the interior environment. “We created a multi-layered sign using elements of their logo,” says Lefere. Sign construction started with a 1/8inch aluminum, CNC-routed gear reverse-illuminated with LED cove lighting. At the center of the sign is a four-inchdeep aluminum cabinet with a translucent Lexan® face and a translucent digital print applied to the face. The face also includes 3/4-inch acrylic push-thru copy and stars for more dimension. At the top and bottom of the center cabinet are 1/2-inch acrylic flat cut outs with digital prints on the faces. On top of the flat cut outs, Landmark Sign Group added 1/2-inch acrylic stars

February 2017

and copy with embedded amber LEDs that generate a halo effect on the graphic. FTW Chicago: Reload Sign. This was another important sign, as it identifies the spot where patrons can go to purchase more points for their game cards; so it had to be visible throughout the entire gaming floor. The Reload sign consists of an aluminum background that is covered with velvet wallpaper that the FTW Chicago had purchased overseas. Landmark Sign Group then attached 3D gears that they CNC-routed out of two-inch-deep high-density foam and painted with a distressed look. They attached amber LEDs behind the gears, which created a gold halo on the wallpaper. “We then fabricated letters with incandescent bulbs inside of them,” says Lefere, noting that the owners were, once again, “blown away” by the look. FTW Chicago: Wheels of Wonder Sign. There are a few one-of-a-kind games inside the arcade, such as Wheels of Wonder, an over-sized slot machine where people can win tickets for prizes. Landmark Sign Group fabricated a 800-538-8377

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Lefere. “This is by far the brightest sign in the place—so bright that we had to add a layer of translucent white vinyl to help diffuse it even more.” Landmark Sign Group also built a custom-illuminated shelf under the sign for people to set their drinks on while studying the map. The shelf has embedded ribbon LEDs with a digitally printed polycarbonate top and a scratch-proof laminate.

This sign was hung from the ceiling using aircraft cable.

16-by-5-foot aluminum backer frame and wrapped it in an industrial-looking digital print. They then fabricated frontand reverse-illuminated channel letters and mounted them to the face. They hung the finished sign from ceiling beams using aircraft cable. FTW Chicago: Mini-Golf Sign. FTW Chicago also needed a map of the layout

at their six-hole indoor mini-golf course. The challenge was making a four-byeight-foot sign with a thin, low profile. The sign company ended up using one-inch milk white acrylic for the diffuser so they could make the cabinet profile at two inches deep. “We applied a translucent digital print to the face of the acrylic and filled the cabinet with bright-white LEDs,” says

FTW Chicago: Restroom Signage. Landmark Sign Group combined visibility with the desired steampunk theme for directional restroom signage hanging throughout the venue. They fabricated a 2-foot, 6-inch-by-5foot cabinet with push-thru icons illuminated internally with LEDs. They then fabricated a hanging bracket out of galvanized pipe that is suspended from the ceiling beams with aircraft cable. Lucky Strike Social: Entrance & Hanging Signs. The Albany, New York loca-

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February 2017

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tion is located inside a mall and is the first Lucky Strike Social-branded site. The Lucky Strike Entertainment design team sent Lefere and Ambrosini preliminary graphics depicting the desired look for these locations; they not only had to design signage around the provided theme but also within the guidelines of the mall management. Landmark Sign Group worked with the provided logo designs to create a sixby-nine-foot, eight-inch-deep illuminated cabinet mounted above the entrance. Along with backlighting a Lexan face with a translucent digital print, the sign company attached one-inch acrylic copy to the face to give it more dimension. “We gave the sign a four-inch retainer so that we could line the outside of the sign with 10-watt incandescent bulbs to give it an old-style marquee feel,” says Lefere. Lucky Strike Social: Arcade Sign. Landmark Sign Group produced a wide variety of signage inside the facility includ-

FTW Chicago mini-golf map sign.

ing a ceiling-mounted double-face sign that leads into the arcade. This was created by fabricating a large cabinet in the center that features trimcap faces with translucent digital prints. It is internally illuminated with LEDs. “We created a surround for the cabinet out of four-inch-deep high density foam in the shape of a large gear,” says Lefere.

The sign was installed from the ceiling with two-inch aluminum tubing. Landmark Sign Group is in current production for FTW Denver in Colorado and Lucky Strike Bethesda in Maryland. They are also involved in early design work for locations in Honolulu, Hawaii and Boston, Massachusetts.

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First Place: “Bethlehem.”

’Tis the Season for


Unwrapping the DUNA-USA “Spirit of Christmas” Sign Contest Winners.


his past October, DUNA-USA (, manufacturers of CORAFOAM® HDU, invited select dimensional sign fabricators across the country to partake in its first-ever “Spirit of Christmas” Sign Contest. The manufacturer had seen some 26

Sign Builder Illustrated

amazing-looking dimensional signs being made by their customers, so they thought this contest would be a great way for some of the more creative sign makers out there to express themselves even more using their material. DUNA-USA provided each of the nine participating sign shops with a

February 2017

2-foot-by-3-foot-by-2-inch piece of twenty-pound U200 CORAFOAM sheet and asked them to use it to come up with a dimensional sign of their making that captured what the “spirit of Christmas” meant to them. The company had one extra piece of instruction for the entrants: The contest

was designed to be 100 percent creative fun and to not be treated as “work.” Even better, DUNA-USA told all the participants that their entries would be donated to a pre-selected charity for display during the holiday season (in this case, the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago, Illinois; the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Washington; the International Child Art Foundation in Washington, D.C.; and the Shriner Hospital in Houston, Texas). “There were multiple goals with the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ contest,” says Brad Burnett, HDU sales representative at DUNA-USA (and the person who came up with the idea for this contest). “The main objective was to bring a feeling of Christmas into the children’s wards of numerous hospitals throughout the U.S.—as decorations during the run-up to Christmas day and also to Christmas-themed events planned at many of these locations throughout the month of December.” Sign makers were told that each piece should be valued at a minimum of $1,500 to $2,000, because ultimately, these projects were going to be put up for auction by their respective charities. “One of the main factors we relayed to the charities is the scale of craftsmanship and the correlative value involved in creating these donated pieces,” says Burnett. Participating sign makers also had some personal incentives, as well. The First Place winner won an iPad Pro, the Second Place winner was awarded a GoPro HERO4 BLACK camera, and the Third Place winner received a specially designed gourmet gift basket from Parmashop in Italy. In addition to Burnett, judges included Roger Cox, owner of House of Signs ( in Frisco, Colorado, and myself. Entries were judged on execution, design, and wow factor. Judging proved especially difficult as each piece was worthy of First Place. “From Santa Claus to Christmas trees and presents to sleighs, we saw a little bit of everything that encompasses what Christmas means to many of us,” said Burnett. “In my opinion, the true mark of the success of this contest is seeing each entry as a piece of an

ingly creative puzzle crafted by this entire group of artisans.” Here are the three winning entries —with commentary from the sign makers involved: FIRST PLACE “Bethlehem” T.R. MacMunn & Sons Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada Rodger MacMunn, Owner Rodger MacMunn has been making signs for over twenty years, but believe it or not, this was the first contest he had ever entered. He admits that it took him about a month of brainstorming and fretting to finally settle down on a design that he would be satisfied making for this contest. His original idea was to just do something with the words “Merry Christmas” in many different languages, but he worried about possible spelling mistakes or misplaced accents. He had already carved plenty of Santa Clauses in the past, so that prospect wasn’t exciting to him either. “And I don’t really like the commercialization of Christmas—except when some of that money comes my way,” he laughs. So Rodger decided to do something related to the true meaning of the season. “Christmas is still, for many, the time of year when we look forward to spending time with the extended family and friends,” he says. “What could say this better than ‘Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men?’ which all started on a clear night in Bethlehem some two millennia ago. “And honestly, I really wanted to do a hand-carved gold star, so I designed everything else on the sign from there!” Rodger works alone these days, primarily on dimensional signs, in his 20-by38-foot sign shop located in a really rural, really remote part of Canada. “I have a lovely set of chisels and a CAMaster Mini Cobra CNC, all of which I used for this sign,” he says. He did some Internet sleuthing and found a nineteenth century painting of Bethlehem that he liked, and using that as a bit of a reference, Rodger traced his vision onto the CORAFOAM

blank. This allowed him to router-carve out the sky portion in order to lay the smalts. (Note: He used smalts honey and mixed it with some black 1-Shot paint to create this effect.) He hand-carved the Bethlehem town scene and used a hand-router to put a little bit of trim lip/side edge on it. The Cobra CNC router was also used to carve out the letters. Rodger chose the verse—“Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, Peace, Goodwill toward men”—because he found it was not only a good one for the season, but also a good way for people to live their lives in general. The self-described “funky little” checkered background finish on the bottom portion of the sign was achieved using a 1/8-inch tapered bullnose bit. Rodger ran the same tool path with a 99 percent stepover twice with opposing angles. Rodger used Modern Masters ME195

Second Place: “Here Comes Santa Claus” by North Woods Sign Shop.

Third Place: “Believe in the Magic of Christmas” by Sundance Sign Company.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


I really wanted to do a hand-carved gold star, so I designed everything else on the sign from there!

Copper metallic paint for the lettering and the face, while the other bronze color on the sign is Modern Masters Antique Copper acrylic paint. The rest of the paints are PPG PORTER® and SUN-PROOF® house paints. He applied 22k Moon Gold Leaf from WB Gold Leaf to the hand-carved Bethlehem star and the gilded border to make them stand out even more. In the end, Rodger hopes that his piece can inspire not just benevolence toward the less fortunate during the Christmas season but also throughout the entire year.

SECOND PLACE “Here Comes Santa Claus” North Woods Sign Shop Ludington, Michigan Scott McGlue, Owner The staff at North Woods Sign Shop believes that their sign will put a smile on all kids’ faces—those that are young and those that are young-at-heart. “The gold leaf represents the sparkle in children’s eyes, the sparkle of stars, and the sparkle of the season,” explains Scott McGlue. Scott recognizes that a lot of sign art-

ists are really children at heart, so when it came time to make his contest entry piece, it inspired his shop to evoke the spirit of Christmas through a child’s perspective. “Anticipation often makes Christmas Eve the most exciting night in a child’s whole year,” he says. “Santa, his sleigh, the reindeer, and his bag of toys evoke feelings of magic, wonder, joy, and hope.” A little background: North Woods Sign Shop is the only shop in the area that specializes in carving dimensional signs of all types. Scott purchased the sign shop from original owner Diana




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Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

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Bondesen last spring, however, she still works there and was instrumental in selecting the design for this sign. They manipulated the design of the sign using Flexi software. Then CNC Operator Greg Erickson imported the design into EnRoute software and carved out the details using their Techno CNC router. North Woods Sign Shop employees then hand-shaped the CORAFOAM and sanded it until they got it the way they wanted. They used chisels to handcarve additional details. (Note: The Christmas tree jutting off the upper right-hand side is part of the original CORAFOAM blank.) “Then we used 1-Shot and Chromatic paints and premium 2400 Series FDC green vinyl,” says Scott, noting that the 23k gold leaf was applied last after they had finished painting the reindeer. Jeff Nelson and Diana performed all the brush-painting and gold leafing on the sign.

“They’re really good at getting gradients with a brush,” says Scott. The shop has a wide variety of paint brushes colloected from over thirty years of sign painting—from M. Grumbacher and Winsor & Newton brands to brushes purchased at WalMart®. While Scott finds that twenty-pound CORAFOAM is more dense and features more structure than eighteen-pound HDU, he typically uses ALUPANEL® as a backing to give more strength in mounting. “We used it for this sign too, although it really wasn’t necessary because of its final size and weight,” he says. THIRD PLACE ”Believe in the Magic of Christmas” Sundance Sign Company Dover, New Hampshire Mike Leary, Owner “We come up with design concepts for dimensional and commercial signs

every day, but being asked the question what does the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ mean to you and then bringing it to life was a challenge,” says Mike Leary. “We changed the direction of our design many times.” They settled on “Believe in the Magic of Christmas” as their final concept, as it was classic...and classy. “This phrase fit the question being asked, and it can have many meanings to many people—whether used to think of Santa, ‘giving and receiving,’ family, or faith,” says Mike. “The choice of a simple reindeer in Palladium leaf fit the sentiment of the quote.” Mike’s shop carved everything on the sign using their Precix advanced CNC router and painted everything using 1-Shot paints. Mike has been using a lot of PVC for v-carved signs (such as Kömmatex) but has been impressed with what he’s experience using CORAFOAM for these types of signs, as well.

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Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

The Sundance team used a stronger red for the background behind the gold leaf quote. “The bevel edge carries a slightly darker red to help with the transition to a very dark green, almost black recessed border,” says Mike. For the text, Mike used the Desire Letterhead font, which comes with multiple versions of the letters. “We followed an eighteen-page book on how to use this font,” he explains. “It has twelve As, fifteen Es, etc.” Mike credits his entire five-person staff at Sundance Sign Company, who all worked on portions of the sign, for putting this finished entry together. In the end, the shop achieved a very elegant, very traditional image that impressed the judges. “We wanted to stay away from what a lot of people gravitate towards—Santa Claus and that commercial aspect of Christmas,” says Mike.

Honorable Mentions: Artistic Sign Omaha, Nebraska Joe Putjenter, Owner Countryside Signs Seekonk, Massachusetts “Mike Z,” Owner Creative Sign Company Wyoming, Illinois Doug Haffner, Owner Great American Sign Co. Basking Ridge, New Jersey Gary Johnson, Owner Signs By Van Salinas, California Phil Vanerkraats, Owner Synergy Sign & Graphics Strasburg, Ohio Jim Dawson, Owner

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



“BARN” Appetit! Reclaimed barn wood brings nostalgic décor to a new identity sign.


igns Plus in Des Plaines, Illinois, just north of Chicago, has evolved into quite the sign-making enterprise. Their parent company, Best Bus Sales, is a long-time national supplier of shuttle buses and vans; seventeen years ago, 32

Sign Builder Illustrated

the company formed Signs Plus when they began noticing a growing demand for shuttle branding. Today Signs Plus works on many wraps for shuttles and fleet vehicles locally and nationally. However their capabilities have expanded into many other

February 2017

facets of signage. For example, they recently crafted an identity sign for Trezeros Kitchen and Tap Restaurant, a new Italian-American eatery in nearby Mount Prospect. The original building actually used to be a pizzeria that had been in operation

Photo: Signs Plus.

of their parking lot that also mixed the old with the new to match the interior décor and atmosphere. Thanks to previous projects providing signage for their former banquet hall, the couple contacted Signs Plus.

since the 1930s yet had been closed for quite some time; so it goes without saying that the new owners, Pasquale [Pat] and Julia Ergastolo, had their hands filled with remodel work. Their revamp marries the old with the new. The interior décor of Trezeros Kitchen and Tap Restaurant features a reclaimed bar front dating back to the 1930s from the existing building; locally made retro table tops; and contemporary, European-designed chairs and stools. The Ergastolos knew they were going to need some kind of buildingmounted identity sign front and center

On the Menu: Design Danny Woods of Signs Plus met with the Ergastolos to review the area of the building where they wanted a new sign. “Their restaurant has a lounge-type feel to it, so because of this, they wanted the sign to be a centerpiece without being obtrusive,” says Woods, noting that this sentiment was also behind the decision to use goose-neck lights in lieu of the more-typical internally illuminated channel letters. During the early stages of the buildout, Woods discussed with the couple about using a local company that specializes in supplying reclaimed barn wood. “Since [they] had peppered in the reclaimed barn wood in the bar area and table tops, we felt it would be natural to tie that [look] into the sign as well,” explains Woods. The end-result: A sign that incorporates reclaimed barn wood for the backer with dimensional, “rust” powder-coated architectural letters. Signs Plus designed the entire sign using CorelDRAW and Photoshop software programs. The owners provided blueprints from the build-out phase that Signs Plus was able to reference for sign placement. “When we were considering size, we actually made some simple signs out of Coroplast to place on the building to dial in the actual production size,” says Woods. These “mock” signs were temporarily held in place so Pat Ergastolo could step back and determine final size and placement. Order Up: Building with Barn Wood The barn wood panels procured for this project ranged in sizes of ten to sixteen inches in width and eight to twelve feet in length, which were going to be way too big. So Signs Plus settled on ripping the boards to six- and eight-inch widths. “We knew we would have to rip the boards down to get the seams to fit tight-

er together and give them a more natural, staggered look,” says Woods. The great thing about using this barn wood is that the natural patina and sun bleaching of a century-old plank of wood has all the character one could ever want for a sign of this type. Signs Plus only used an automotivegrade matte clear to preserve the wood. “We did not want to change the variations in tones,” explains Woods, “but rather just seal up what was there.” On the perimeter (where the freshly cut wood was exposed), Signs Plus used a combination of wood stains to make it appear as if the edges had weathered like the face. “We needed a surface for the wood to be mounted to, so we selected ACM board, similar to MAX-metal, to do so,” says Woods. The letters are cast aluminum with a “rust” powder-coated finish. These were stud-mounted to the reclaimed barn wood using one-inch stand-offs. “We mounted the sign to the exterior wall with French cleats,” says Woods, noting that this method is great for leveling off the sign and allowing the sign to protrude slightly and cast a nice shadow. In conjunction with this main identity sign, the customer also wanted a sign located near a side entrance. They requested it be the same size, yet it didn’t need to be as elaborate as the “main” sign. For this solution, Signs Plus used brushed aluminum ACM board for the backer and black 1/2-inch PVC for the letters. “So it still had a nice polished look while being more economically produced,” says Woods. After the Install: Tips for Making Signs Signs Plus and the restaurant owners were proud of the finished signs. “The great thing about the signage industry is that you can really ‘stamp your name’ on projects,” says Woods. Today five employees work in the Signs Plus “sign shop”—two who install shuttle graphics and three who install and design, if needed. Woods is the direct link to the owner. “We pride ourselves on repeat business and standing behind all of our projects,” says Woods.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



A sign shop scores on a channel letter project for a new hockey arena.

INSTALLA A fter twenty-five years of training outside of Boston, the NHL’s Boston Bruins returned to the city this past September thanks to the opening of the Warrior Ice Arena, built and owned by New Balance®. The Bruins’ new training and prac-


Sign Builder Illustrated

tice facility boasts a 75,000-square-foot rink with seating for 660 spectators. The arena will also host public skating hours, local high school teams, and the professional women’s ice hockey team, Boston Pride. Adjacent to the busy Mass Pike, eyecatching channel letters were a must for

February 2017

the new facility. Bids went out, and sign companies faced off to get a chance to work on the high-profile project. Poyant Signs ( in New Bedford, Massachusetts, had been tracking the project and talking with the design team, and in the end, they made off with the puck—and the job.


All Photos: Poyant Signs.

ATION Poyant is a full-service, family-owned business with a history that stretches back to the 1930s—almost as far back as the 1924 inception of the Boston Bruins. On this job, Gary Bolduc, account executive at Poyant, served as the point of contact. (Note: For a full list of the players involved, see the sidebox on page 37.)

The first hurdle to the goal line was the design. The new arena didn’t want just any channel letters—they wanted letters that looked like they’d been carved from ice (without the worry of them melting in the August heat of a Boston summer).

Poyant got to work on some mockups using pictures of various types of ice as inspiration. They experimented with multiple effects on acrylic by using spray paint, diffuser films, grinders, and lighting to find the right look. “We made lots of different mockups,” says Jason Fredette, director of Sales Operations at Poyant Signs. “You can have ice that’s more blue, you can have ice that’s more white, or you can have ice that’s scratched a lot and really scuffed up. You can have it where it looks like it’s been cut out of the pond with saw marks on the side and very extruded looking.” When Poyant had settled on a look, they invited the client out to their shop to view the mock-ups. From there, Poyant created a larger mock-up—a six-foot sample “I”—to bring to the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) for approval, along with conceptual drawings. “[BPDA] knew of the project and kind of had already blessed the idea of having a name on the side of the building but needed to see how it was going to be executed,” explains Fredette. Once Poyant got approval, they created architectural drawings in Illustrator and got to work on fabricating the letters. Aside from looking like ice, the letters are unique because they’re made entirely of acrylic—1/2-inch clear P95 acrylic faces with a matte finish and 3/8-inch clear 3030 P95 acrylic with a matte finish and second-surface diffuser for the returns. To form the curves of the letters, Poyant turned to their acrylic vendor for advice. (Note: All the letters had curves except for the two “E”s and “I”s.) The sign shop ended up creating custom MDF forms (or jigs) in the shapes they needed for the letters. The acrylic had to be heated to 180°F to 185°F, pushed into the form while still hot, and clamped into position. As the letter cooled, it retained the shape of the form. It took two to three weeks to form all of the letter curves. Once the curves were created, certain finishes were applied, like skate marks. “We actually have cut marks across

February 2017

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A Team Effort IT TOOK A TEAM effort to pull off a win on the Warrior Ice Arena project, and these are the players who took to the ice to get the job done. • Gary Bolduc, account executive, Poyant Signs • Jason Fredette, design, development, and prototyping, Poyant Signs • Matthew Mansfield, production management, Poyant Signs • Whitney Perkins, environmental graphic designer, associate principal of Roll Barresi & Associates • Leo F. Rusk, developer, project manager at The HYM Investment Group, LLC • Jay Rourke, senior project manager, NB Development Group (New Balance) • Samantha Hand, project engineer, John Moriarty & Associates, Inc. • Elkus Manfredi Architects, Boston, MA

the front of the letters so it looks like someone skated across the entire sign,” says Fredette. “The skate marks go across one letter to another to another.” The six-foot-tall letters were then assembled. The attachment process was something Poyant spent some time working on as acrylic expands and shrinks in temperature changes, and with Boston temperatures ranging from -20°F in the winter to 120°F to 130°F in the August sun, the attachment method had to account for that. Through some careful research, Poyant was able to make the save on this part of the fabrication. “These faces were all methylenechlorided together,” says Fredette. “When you use methylene chloride to bond acrylic, you’re actually doing a

The letters are acrylic with paint and different distresses added to make them look like ice.

We actually have cut marks across the front of the letters so it looks like someone skated across the entire sign. chemical weld, so you’re melting the acrylic and it rehardens. “The face is bonded to a return, and the return is bolted to a frame. So that bond between the face and the return has to be really strong. We did a bunch of research on it and figured out the coefficient and expansion and contraction for acrylic.” With the letters put together, the rest of the ice finishes were applied, including applying paint and distressing the letters. Poyant used pylon spray paint here versus traditional sign paint because they were aiming for a light, more varied misting rather than a heavy, uniform look. Illumination also played a role in the icy effect of the letters, and Poyant used white LEDs from GE to achieve the right glow.

The placement of the LEDs, however, required some fancy stick work from Poyant. The shop knew that when the P95 acrylic got wet in the rain or snow, it would reduce the matte, frosted appearance of the acrylic. The letters would become more optically clear, which would make it easier to see hot spots from the LEDs. So Poyant played with the distance and depth of the letters to avoid hot spots. They settled on a twelve-inch-deep acrylic letter with a one-inch-deep, brake-formed LED tray mounted behind the letters. A 3/16-inch piece of matte Lexan® with white, translucent vinyl graphics was applied to the LED tray to help soften the LEDs. “That gave us extra depth and al-

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


The new arena wanted channel letters that looked like they’d been carved from ice.

lowed us to make it so that the LEDs could be serviceable easier,” says Fredette. “We never really have to open up the letters; we just pull the back off. And it diffused the lighting.” A galvanized box houses the LED power supplies on the backs of the letters. Poyant also built an aluminum angle perimeter frame for each letter, as well as a .063-inch aluminum back that was curve-cut to follow the letters’ curves. The channel letters were bolted via steel angle with 1/2-inch-diameter through-bolts to two 6-by-6-by-3/16-inch structural steel horizontal tube supports. The letters, attached to the horizontal rails, were then loaded on a flat trailer and driven to the install site in four sections ranging from twenty-eight feet to thirty-two feet. Onsite the sections of letters were unloaded from the trailers, and then two of the four sections were joined via the horizontal tubes on the back using vertical connections to form a sixty-twofoot piece. This was repeated for the remaining two sections. One of the sixty-two-foot sections was picked up with a large crane and put into place. The horizontal tubes were then welded to angle that is welded to stubs that come out of the building, which are welded to steel inside of the building. The sign could only be connected to 38

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

the building in four places, and all of the steel work was done prior to the installation of the letters. “It took us four days to put the supports welded to the steel inside of the building, to locate them perfectly, and to make sure they were good,” says Fredette. “Getting all that lined up was pretty important.” The second section of letters was installed next and vertically connected to the horizontal tubes of the first piece to complete the 124-foot-long sign. Despite being in Boston, installers were able to work during normal business hours since it was already an active construction site, and the building front was on a service road pertaining just to

the arena. The installation was performed by Sign Erection and Maintenance Inc., and the letters were put up in about three days. What made the entire installation process more difficult is that the building façade leans forward and a bit to the left. “To get the letters in place, it was pretty tight,” says Fredette. “The glass at the top is forward of the letters. So when we were actually using the crane, we came about three inches away from the glass.” Talk about being right on the goal line! The client was pleased with the icy results, and Poyant secured a win on this five-month channel letter project.


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LED Retrofit Adds Shine to New Jersey Automotive Shop ROBBIE BERMAN is owner and CEO of a New Jersey auto repair firm bearing his name, Robbie’s Automotive and Collision Specialists. He keeps a close eye on every aspect of his business, including the lighting used in his signs. “They call me ‘Mr. LED,’” Berman says. “I hate when there’s a regular filament light bulb, so we’re on our third lighting upgrade in the building.” Most recently Berman put his focus on replacing the fluorescent lighting systems inside the business signs. “As soon as LED becomes available, we are upgrading,” Berman said. “The signs were the last LED project left at the shop.” To develop an LED solution for the

28-by-8-foot illuminated sign above the building and smaller signs on the building, Berman worked with David Feldman, the third-generation owner of Paterson, New Jersey-based Feldman Brothers Electrical Supply Company, which features complete lines of high-quality electrical products and fixtures. For the primary sign, Feldman did an LED retrofit using EVERLINE LED 8-foot Sign Tubes powered by fourteen EVERLINE LED Drivers. The product is designed for daisy-chain and parallel wiring and either vertical or horizontal installation. Universal Lighting Technologies assisted Feldman Brothers by

providing a lighting design layout with recommended positions and spacing for the LED sign tubes and drivers. “To convert to LED, we had to temporarily detach the sign panels and remove the transformers and ballasts,” said Berman. “We installed the fourteen LED Drivers and the twenty-eight LED Sign Tubes inside the existing system, and we finished the outdoor sign in six hours.”

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February 2017


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A classic Rickenbacker guitar stays in tune with a dramatic vinyl wrap.




he versatility of digitally printed vinyl cannot be overstated; the only real limits are one’s imagination. “These days just about anything can be wrapped,” asserts Jason Yard, marketing director at Mactac ( “If an object is flat or has a moderately curved surface, [it can be wrapped] in digital graphics for an entirely new look.” Earlier this year, Yard collaborated with Mactac Technical Marketing Manager Chip Ficyk on a unique project that backs up those claims—rejuvenating one of Ficyk’s prized Rickenbacker guitars with a distinctive wrap of digitally printed graphics. Tribute to the WWI Ace Pilot “I designed [the wrap] as a testament to Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I flying ace, who was also related to one of the founders of the Rickenbacker brand,” says Ficyk. The guitar face now features a bright red, white, and blue hat in a ring, the original insignia of Rickenbacker’s U.S. Army 94th Aero flying squadron, against a camo-styled background. Colorful patriotic stars, printed as decals, adorn the guitar’s control knobs as finishing touches. “The guitar looks and plays great,” says Ficyk, an amateur musician. “I am a big fan of the sound you can only get from a Rickenbacker guitar.” The project was actually an attempt to repair and hide damage to the guitar’s finish that had occurred years earlier. 42

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

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December 2016

Sign Builder Illustrated


In from the Cold Ficyk has always played in bands and first acquired the guitar, a Rickenbacker 330/12 model, brand new around 1991. A semi-hollow, body electric twelvestring, the guitar originally featured a maple body and neck with a clear “conversion” finish to show off and highlight the wood’s natural grain. And that’s how the guitar looked for years. Then, one fateful winter day in the late 1990s, Ficyk headed out for band practice with the guitar in hand. “It was one of the coldest days we’ve had in Ohio,” he recalls. “I took the guitar from the extreme cold outside directly into an overheated room without giving it a chance to acclimate to the temperature. “Right before my eyes I could see cracks starting to appear in the finish along its surface. It was like watching a crack on a windshield grow in slow motion.” Despite appearances, that crackled surface did not change the twelvestring’s distinctive tone, and he continued playing it. Years later, Ficyk bought another 44

Sign Builder Illustrated

Special Requirements When Ficyk saw a picture of another guitar with a Union Jack affixed to its face, he realized he worked with the potential solution every day at his job. Mactac’s extensive line of media products includes several vinyl films for digitally printed graphics. The creative options they allowed were tempered by the special challenges of Ficyk’s intended use however. Since his Rickenbacker is a semi-hollow body guitar, Ficyk was concerned a body wrap might impede the instrument’s sound. “I needed something that would take away as little of its resonance as possible,” he says. “I went to Jason and told him that I needed the thinnest material we have.” Years ago, a customer had contacted Yard about the best material for a planned line of guitar wraps. His recommendation for Ficyk’s project was an updated version of the same material he recommended back then: Mactac Bfree BRUV GVC929BFD in its IMAginB free line of gloss white films. “There are other films we could use, but they are too thick or add too much weight,” Yard says. “This is the best at conforming to changing shapes.” The pressure-sensitive vinyl is designed for wrinkle-free installations where the media must readily conform to the irregular shape of an object.

February 2017

One of the distinguishing features of some Rickenbacker guitars is their shape. Unlike many other brands, the face of models like the 330 is not flat, but tapers back from the playing surface so the sides of the body are lower than the top. Ficyk and Yard also discussed the pros and cons of adding a protective laminate. Ficyk describes himself as an aggressive player with a strong downstroke, so he wanted to protect the graphics as long as possible. Yard recommended Mactac PERMACOLOR RAYZor Lf3648G laminate film to ensure durability of the graphics. Ficyk took measurements of the guitar face to one of Mactac’s in-house designers. Together they refined his ideas for the graphic tribute to Eddie Rickenbacker into a design that would work with the contours of the body. Then the job was printed on a Mimaki JV-33 printer, and the laminate was applied. Easy Installation All the electronics had to be removed from the guitar before the wrap could be installed. Once the conversion finish was wiped down with alcohol, Yard went to work. “The biggest challenge was getting the design positioned exactly right, then laying it down was pretty easy,” he says. “Toward the bottom, I had to apply a little heat around the tailpiece to get it to conform. I also ran a little heat around the edges.” In half an hour, the guitar boasted the new and more colorful look, completely concealing the cracked finish underneath it. Ficyk took the Rickenbacker home, put it all back together that night, plugged it in, and started strumming away. “I could not tell any difference in how it sounds,” he reports enthusiastically. “The whole concept works. It looks great!” For now, he’s given up thoughts of selling it. And, as he plays the guitar around town, other musicians are taking note. “They can see how wrapping an instrument gives them a lot of possibilities,” he says. “This might catch on.”

All Photos: Mactac.

Rickenbacker and set the original aside, cannibalizing some parts from it to customize his newer model. Then, when he thought about selling the twelve-string, he entertained serious thoughts of redoing its damaged finish. If left untouched, those cracks could undermine its appeal and value, even though playability wasn’t affected. Over the years, Ficyk had noticed how musicians he admired like Paul McCartney and Paul Weller of The Jam had transformed their Rickenbacker’s with custom paint jobs. “That got me thinking of things I might do,” he recalls. “But the problem for me was finding an artist who could do the work, and the cost—easily several hundred dollars.”

Sticky Issues Addressed by 3M CGIS, the Commerical Graphics Innovation Summit, took place back in October. This event was the most recent initiative by the United Applications Standards Group (UASG) to set and maintain the highest possible quality and ethical standards for the graphic installation trade. Hosted in St. Paul, Minnesota in conjunction with 3M, the Summit gave over seventy-five companies three days of training and team building. By gathering together North America’s premier graphic installers and ensuring they have training support, the UASG reinforces its “cream of the crop” reputation amongst businesses looking for graphic installation services. A series of roundtable discussions proved a crowd pleaser with topics dedicated to accounting, human resources, sales and marketing, etc. Specific attention was devoted to hiring/firing practices and current OSHA requirements. A gymnasium wrap for a local non-profit, the Washburn Center for Children, was also completed. This year’s Summit attendees helped create a graphic environment most conducive to healing and suitable for children suffering from social, emotional, and behavioral issues. Production of the graphics was handled by St. Paul-based Vomela, and materials were donated by 3M. “The way we all come together and work side-byside on behalf of worthwhile charity organizations is really something to see,” said UASG President Julie Martin.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



Designing and building wayfinding signs can be a lucrative specialty.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

Find your way into a new area of expertise at your shop.


All Photos: Broach Custom Signs.

ayfinding signage is a growing trend across the nation, as cities compete for businesses and the tourism industry. Up until recently, most all cities turned to architectural firms to design their wayfinding plans. While comprehensive architectural services are needed for large metropolitan areas, sign companies can offer the same services to smaller municipalities and do an equally good job (or even better) because sign specifications written by a sign company are usually more practical and cost effective than specs written by architectural firms. You just need to do your homework and familiarize yourself with Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines. With Google Maps and county real estate mapping, it is simple to decide on proper placements of signs around a town or community. Our sign company, Broach Custom Signs, is located in Wendell, North Carolina, and we have completed wayfinding signs for nearby Saint Augustine University, N.C. State University, and surrounding communities. We have been in business for thirty-plus years and even have a separate division for national and franchise installations. Our most recent was project was for the Town of Knightdale in North Carolina, where we designed, built, and installed ten proximity signs and six trailblazer signs. The Knightdale Project: Design & Build I was hired for design services and was very fortunate that they chose my first design. It really wasn’t luck at all but more about being a good listener and working with their existing logo. The Town of Knightdale was looking for a reflection of the large population under the age of forty-five. They wanted their wayfinding to be upbeat but not modern—a common request from towns that are ready to swap out their historic image of an old building to a brighter colored image that signifies a

growing community. Along with the design package, we also created fabrication drawings for the Town of Knightdale for submittal and DOT approval. Each state mandates the font; the most common font is Clearview or Highway Gothic. The only real difference between a trailblazing and proximity sign is the speed limit and placement of the sign. In North Carolina, 4.5-inch text can be used if the speed limit is 25 miles per hour or less (which is not very likely in most parts of the town). I encouraged the town to go above the minimum to ensure that the signs would be readable. We designed the proximity signs with 6-inch text upper case and 4.5-inch text lower case and increased the trailblazer signs from the minimum requirement of 6-inch to 7.45-inch upper case and 5-inch lower case. To assist the city in their decisionmaking, I produced two life-size banners and hung them from our aerial bucket truck to view alongside the roadway where the signs were to be placed. The city unanimously voted to go with the larger size, and the end-result is that the signs are very readable from a distance of 250 feet.

We fabricated the signs from all-aluminum sign backer faces. The changeable panels are .125 gauge. Since NCDOT requires all faces to be retro-reflective, we used 3M Reflective Vinyl 680 on all of them. We painted the sign backs, posts, and decorative elements with matte black Single Source PPG paint. To match the reflective qualities of the sign faces, we custom-mixed the paint with extra pearl essence added. (Note: Metallic paint would be too over the top, and standard paint lacks the reflective qualities needed to match the reflective vinyl.) Square tube .25 and .375 were used for posts and finials, which came from Halophane Lighting. The Olympic finial was chosen as the flame seems to flow with the sign shape. Standard street sign finials are too small, so we obtained fifteen- to twentyinch commercial lighting fixture finials. We employed Dent Breakaway bolts because they are omni-directional and not directly mounted into concrete footings. Many breakaway systems are direct mount-bolted into concrete, so the concrete gets shattered along with the bolt. Then the old footer has to be hammerdrilled out and a new one poured when the bolt breaks.

Each state mandates the font to be used on wayfinding signs.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated




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Sign Builder Illustrated

wayfinding signs are a great market for experienced sign companies that prefer long-range projects and have the skill set to oversee everything. With the Dent Breakaway system, only the bolt snaps, leaving the steel plate with post intact in the footings. (Note: I have seen outrageous annual maintenance costs incurred by towns due to lousy breakaway bolt designs by firms that look good on paper and fail in the field.) A big pet peeve of mine is the possibility of rust marks dripping down the sign in the future, so we used stainless steel for all the hardware to prevent this down the road. Why make a beautiful sign only to go cheap on the hardware? We built the decorative bases inhouse by welding .060 aluminum bases in clamshell style. (Note: We installed these after all the signs were in place.) I was especially happy with the perfo-

February 2017

rated metal from that we painted green as an accent piece and mounted on the side of the posts. Although time-consuming to fabricate, it is small touches like this that set the signs off from others. Our sign shop is 10,000 square feet, so there was a bit of shuffling going on to maneuver around the signs while they were being fabricated. Our veteran fabricator Roger Phillips and sign painter Lynwood Barber worked together to build “transport vessels” so sixteen-foot-tall posts could be wheeled around the shop and onto trailers for installation day. Roger also designed our “spider-like” plate leveling system that was used to level steel plate and post during the

concrete pour. Certified flaggers and lane closure equipment was used during the concrete pour and sign installation, which was done a week later to allow the concrete to cure completely. The Knightdale Project: Installation Installation of the signs was a breeze. We worked from our crane truck to lift signs, which weighed in at about 600 pounds each, while two men set breakaway bolts between 1.25-inch aluminum plate and one-inch steel plate. Signs were then tarped and roped down to await their grand unveiling a week later. After the unveiling, we made our final punch list rounds, reseeded disturbed soils, and notified DOT that the project was completed. The signs look great, and we are currently working on gateway signs for them in the second phase. Wayfinding: Getting Involved If you are a wayfinding novice, working with cities to design and fabricate this type of signage is a challenge. The first step to breaking into the wayfinding market is meeting with the state DOT that your city is located in. Most all wayfinding signs are placed in DOT right-of-ways, so you will be regulated by their rules in size of sign, fonts, colors, reflectivity properties, height, setback from highway, and installation safety procedures. If you have never installed in DOT right-of-ways before, make sure you allow for safety flagger certifications and lane closure costs should your company be awarded the sign bid, as these will significantly drive up the installation cost. Also breakaway posts will be mandated and hours of operation along the highway are restricted so no work is done during peak times of the day, thus taking longer to complete the task. Your city will enter into an encroachment agreement that says the sign fabricating company will be equally liable in following the terms of the contract. The sign company needs to be actively involved in the terms of the encroachment agreement to insure compliance and successful completion of the project. Ideally you would be the entity submitting plans on behalf of the city to DOT for initial approval, or this should

at least be done jointly. A lot of correspondence is done through emails, so be sure you are copied on all emails. Get the city involved in the planning from the onset, as obtaining their feedback is important in a successful wayfinding project. The city knows their vehicular and pedestrian needs best. They just need your help transferring their knowledge into functional, directional signage. You can save the city money and make money yourself by spearheading the project, provided your company offers design services. Our initial cost was $2,500 for design services for a gateway, trailblazer, proximity, and destination sign design that was accepted by the city. This is just the design and does not include engineered footings, fabrication specifications, or location details. Additional hours are usually billed at your design rate of $50 to $100 per hour (depending on your location). Our rate is $65 per hour (or 10 percent of project costs). While your firm is not guaranteed to get the fabrication bid, it most likely will if you are competitive in your pricing. This can be a lucrative specialty and requires a lot of time and planning, so don’t bid too low as there are a lot of hidden costs in design time and installation procedures.



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Wayfinding: Beginning to End The wayfinding planning process usually takes fourteen to twenty months

Routing the perforated metal pieces.

February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated

SBI_MarketplaceAd_1-3Vertical.indd 1

49 1/20/17 2:44 PM

The spider-like plateleveling system.

to complete since city council must approve and vote on all designs, specifications, bids, and submittals (which may take six to eight months). Once the package has been complet-

ed, expect the DOT to take two to four more months for final approval and to produce a legal document approving project and encroachment agreement for the city to sign.

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Fabrication will take another three to five months (depending on the sign of the project) and installation an additional three to four weeks. Since you will be digging among utilities, a preliminary 811 call should be done as soon as you have footing designs since they may need to be altered for different locations to avoid hitting a fiber optics or gas line. Plan on hand digging most footings, as most signs are located in a spider maze of utilities. Call 811 three times—once for a preliminary check to pick the best location to install signs, again before digging to spot locate utilities, and then again when some areas are not marked and you are ready to complete the dig. So add money into your budget to cover digging every third hole twice in a new location; when you run into a utility, you have to stop and start over. Wayfinding signs make a really great first impression and are a good place for the city to invest their tax dollars. The best way to serve your client is to be honest and share your knowledge with them. Throughout the entire project, I used the free software program called Zoho (, which allows you to communicate with all participants, upload tasks, and share photos and documents. Doing so kept our client abreast of our progress at the end of each day. Clients that are spending a large chunk of public tax dollars truly appreciate being kept informed as they have the responsibility on their shoulders to see the project is completed per specs and on time. Be sure to tell your client upfront that they are going to need an annual maintenance budget line item for their wayfinding signs in the neighborhood of six percent of the cost of the project. Your company is likely to get this maintenance contract as well, if they are happy with your services and products. Renae Farrah is project manager at Broach Custom Signs NC, LLC (randybroachsigns. com) in Wendell, North Carolina.

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February 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



By Ashley Bray

Talking Trends

Opportunities to keep in mind as you plan for 2017.


ith the new year upon us, many shops may be reexamining their business plans, considering new equipment purchases, and searching for uncharted profit avenues. Change is the topic of the day. Of course, it’s easier to plan for the year ahead when you have an idea of what’s coming. We spoke with Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS (fastsigns. com), about trends to look for in 2017. Printing. Monson sees four factors affecting digital printing in 2017: Speed & Reliability. “We’re seeing higher speed, higher quality, better reliability, and inks drying faster so you can do same-day lamination on roll-to-rolls,” says Monson. “We’re thinking that that’s going to become the norm at some time in the future. The manufacturers are also using new and proprietary technology Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015805) (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. 12 issues per year. Non-qualified subscriptions Print version, Digital version, Both Print & Digital version: 1 year US/Mexico/Canada $50.00; foreign $99.00. Single copies are $15.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid in full in U.S. funds only.


Sign Builder Illustrated

that’s reducing the effects of banding and increasing print speeds.” Varnish & White Ink. Almost every printer manufacturer now offers one or both of these options to allow for special effects like textures on a print. Textures. Speaking of textures, Monson says a few flatbed printers now even allow for the creation of Braille— giving shops another inroad into the ADA market. Substrates. New fabrics allow for more interior décor projects like wall murals. The dye-sublimation process isn’t limited to fabrics. It’s also being used on rigid substrates like aluminum, glass, acrylic, plastic, etc. The crisp, high-quality look on these flat, sleek surfaces is starting to get attention in the U.S. market. Digital Signage. Monson believes the growth of digital signage will continue in 2017—especially in relation to cloudPrices are subject to change. Copyright © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2017. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or For Subscriptions & Address Changes, please call (800) 895-4389, (847) 763-9686, Fax (847) 763-9544, e-mail, or write to: Sign Builder

February 2017

based digital signage. The Cloud allows for a user anywhere in the world to control a screen’s messaging through the Internet. Monson also foresees a greater focus on beacon technology, which enables devices like smartphones to alert apps/Web sites that a user is approaching a location. Those apps, Web sites, retail locations, etc., can then push content, such as messages from digital signage, to the customer’s phone. Monson believes this concept will see greater growth in 2018 and 2019. Media players for digital signage are also becoming easier to work with, as shown in the Google Chromebit plug-and-play media player that FASTSIGNS offers. “There’s a real positive side to Google Chromebit and that is that it’s forcing prices down on hardware, and it’s also bringing more secure and more powerful solutions to the market,” says Monson. “I think long-term it’s going to make the price points better, but it absolutely requires education and then of course the creativity for creating good content.” Creating that content is an opportunity for sign shops, but it can also be a stumbling block as they contend with moving images and the challenge of dayparting— targeting specific messages to specific audiences at specific times of day. “The difference between static design and moving design really seems to be the challenge for sign companies to wrap their heads around,” says Monson. “You also have to have folks that can create moving images.” Selling digital signage also takes some getting used to. “It’s a different mindset and a different skill set to sell digital signage because you very often have to interact with the client’s IT department— you have to work through that and it’s a little bit longer sell cycle.” Hurdles or not, 2017 promises to offer new opportunities to those shops willing to take the leap. Illustrated, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 3135, Northbrook, IL 600622620. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 3135, Northbrook, IL 60062-2620. 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.


Shop Talk

February 2017 Sign Builder Illustrated  

This issue features stories on regulations, suspended signs, identity signage, carved signs, HDU, channel letters, LED lighting, vinyl wraps...

February 2017 Sign Builder Illustrated  

This issue features stories on regulations, suspended signs, identity signage, carved signs, HDU, channel letters, LED lighting, vinyl wraps...