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N u m b e r 261

The How-To Magazine

M a r c h 2017 | s i g n s h o m

Digital Signage Revenue How to Start Selling Digital Signs

Marquee Attraction Art and Signage Blend to Create Showtime


illustrated S i g n B u i l d e r I l l u st r at e d

Fashionable Electronics Project Wrap-Ups M a r c h 201 7

The Versatility of Solid-color Wrap Films


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Contents March 2017

Vol. 31

No. 261

How-To Columns

14 16


By Mark K. Roberts Hitting the seven seas of sign reproduction.


By David Hickey A town teams up with ISA on EMC code changes.


8 10 51 52


Raiders of the lost art! Editor Jeff Wooten digs into yesteryear’s sign styles today.


DDP gives back to the troops at USSC; curved light creates a statement.


Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

Adam Brown profiles the samurai of our trade keeping handmade art alive and well.


18 22 26 34 40

46 2

Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017



By Ashley Bray How you can start selling digital signs.


By Jeff Wooten Building monument signs using lightweight, cost-effective materials.


By Adam Brown Located at the intersection of art and signage.


By Jeff Wooten Honoring the past to create a new kind of showtime.


By Lori Shridhare Fall under the spell of Brandcraft.


By Mike Antoniak Award-winning installers showcase the artistry and adaptability of solid-color films.

Cover Photo: Craig Minielly/Aura Photographics; Pattison Sign Group.


What is your favorite section of the magazine?

March 2017, Vol. 31, No. 261 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. “Shop Talk! It may be at the end of the magazine, but it is always an important read.”

Publisher Arthur J. Sutley 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 212-620-7244 “I like the How-to columns and the real-world tips and techniques they provide our readers.”

“Features, particularly when they deal with complex, artistic projects that go that extra mile.”

Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220 Contributing Writers Mike Antoniak, Adam Brown, David Hickey, Mark K. Roberts, Lori Shridhare

art Creative Director Wendy Williams Art Director Nicole Cassano Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production 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 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

March 2017

Light is technology Visit OSRAM booth 2580 at ISA Sign Expo 2017 Explore the latest in leading edge LED lighting technology specifically designed for signage applications at OSRAM booth 2580 at the ISA Sign Expo 2017. Learn how you can outshine and outlast the competition with the new industry leading warranty from OSRAM. For more information, visit

Light is OSRAM

Editor’s Column By Jeff Wooten

AGENDA April 2017 April 19-22:

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

May 2017 MAY 7-11:

Raiders of the Lost Art

Digging into yesteryear’s sign styles today.


aybe it’s one of the side effects of getting older, but as I’ve noticed others absorbed in their smartphones, sharing their thoughts via social media, and/or instantaneously streaming TV shows and movies, it can appear that we can be too overreliant on technology. It’s almost like slow down and smell the virtual roses. It’s also a Catch-22 situation because I can’t fathom returning to the days of typewriters, white-out correction fluid, and overnight carrier pigeon correspondence for magazine production. In sign shops, flatbed printers are doing what was impossible years ago. Emailed proofs are quicker for tweaking and making the sale. And honestly, when you have tons of detailed carvings to make, setting up a CNC tool path can seem a welcome remedy. It’s like one foot on this earth, and one foot on the alternate earth, if you catch my drift. But deep down inside, I’m pretty sure I’ll always be more impressed with the people out there still able to provide some human touch to their artistry. “Technology, no doubt, has a role in our industry, but there can be limitations when the design process always begins with a monitor,” Phil Ghi, owner of Ghi Sign Service, tells us in “Shop Talk” on page 52, in response to keeping the art of handmade signage alive. Meanwhile, in “Marquee Attraction” on page 34, we profile Eric Larsen and his work in refurbishing historical theatre marquees (both his hobby and his pas6

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sion). He reminds us that there really was more attention to detail and artistry in yonder years gone by. “[However] the days of true design and making a statement with a sign or marquee are fading,” laments Larsen. He believes the industry needs to go back to an apprenticeship program where the basics are handed down. “There are so many kids out there with raw art talent that cannot afford to go to a college. What better place for them to be?” he says. “I don’t have any schooling past high school—only what I learned from the masters in the sign business in my area and what I studied on my own.” According to Larsen, hand lettering is disappearing right behind the neon benders—if it hasn’t already done so. “I would much rather use neon in my designs and still do when possible,” he says. “However with fewer benders, it’s often too expensive for people to afford it let alone the costs to run and repair it. I get why LEDs make sense and are a good replacement, but in my opinion, neon is cooler to look at.” I’m not ready to back the argument that today’s shortcuts are leading to too-many assembly line products...yet. But when I do encounter sign works of art, I know my online status update and carrier pigeons are definitely fired up about them!

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

June 2017 June 8-10:

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

June 8-11:

The Texas Sign Association’s Sixty-fourth Annual Conference happens at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. (

July 2017 July 26-30:

The Mid South Sign Association Annual Meeting and Trade Show takes place at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown in Memphis, Tennessee. (

August 2017 August 11-13:

The Tri-State Sign Expo commences at the Downstream Casino Resort in Joplin, Missouri. (

Jeff Wooten Editor,









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In The Industry

USSC Sign World:

DDP Gives Back


illside, New Jersey—This past December, at the annual USSC Sign World International Tradeshow held at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, it was a little more than business as usual. In addition to the regular selling and networking typically found on the show floor, exhibitor Diversified Display Products (, a regional supplier of branded rigid board substrates and digital large format printing products, made quite the impression—and the difference —with their “Give Back Initiative” fundraiser they hosted at their booth. The fundraiser supported the Wounded Warriors Project, an organization that helps thou8

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sands of injured warriors returning home from the current conflicts and provides assistance to their families. (For more information, visit As a tribute to the U.S. Troops, DDP’s booth was set up to simulate a military camp. Complete with DDP personnel uniformed in military fatigues, the company was ready and armed to sell the leading large format printers and supplies. DDP furnished the booth with real artillery shells, camouflaged netting, sandbags, and a very large American flag that hung proudly over the exhibit. The supplier utilized their HP, Roland, and Epson large format printers to produce combat vehicle graphics that were printed on Diamond Digital media at the

show. The prints were made available to everyone who donated to the Wounded Warriors Project. In addition, DDP produced dye-sublimated “limited edition” plaques to add value to the contributions. Not to be forgotten, DDP’s car door wrap competition had camouflaged graphics on Avery’s Cast Vinyl MPI1105. Their “Give Back Initiative” and military theme could be found throughout the Convention Center as well. To the first 1,000 attendees entering the show, DDP handed out authentic dye-sublimated dog tags with the U.S. flag printed on them. The USSC had invited the Color Guard to be present at the welcoming ceremonies. The Council had created a

Creating Curved Light

DDP’s booth served as a tribute to U.S. troops.


There seemed to be a deep appreciation that we were trying to give something back to a worthy cause. video that encompassed a clip representing each of the military branches, and with each clip, any military representatives in the audience of that branch would be asked to stand and be recognized. As part of the opening ceremonies, Diversified Display Products was honored to have received the “USSC Distinguished Service Award” for its work and efforts on the Wounded Warriors Project. “There seemed to be a deep appreciation that we were trying to give something back to such a worthy, deserving cause,” says Andrew Wolf, vice president of Diversified Display Products. “When we were in the infancy stages of brainstorming this year’s theme, we were inspired by all the attention our Armed

Forces had been receiving, particularly during this past election year. So we wanted to keep the focus on how proud we are for all who serve and served.” When DDP decided to exhibit at Sign World with this theme and initiative, the company had no idea of the importance and impact it would have. “For us, this event has taken on much more meaning than selling large format printers and supplies at a tradeshow,” says Wolf. The U.S. Military is the epitome of team spirit. In following that mantra, Wolf gives a special thanks to the attending DDP team (Lana Kondratowicz, Nuno Rodriques, Brian Smith, and Damian Warbeck) for adopting this work ethic and demonstrating extraordinary efforts.

ew York, New York—Teads is a growing global video advertising-technology company. While the overall design for the company’s new offices in New York City is minimalist with a mix of materials from the sleek to the organic, a main hallway provided an opportunity to make a bold statement. “They needed a physical embodiment of what their company is about: innovation, elegance, and moving forward,” says Gerard Toledo, interior designer at DMDesign LLC, which designed the space. Their vision evolved into a fixture that would bend and be installed on a suspended mount system along the ceiling so that it appeared to flow down the hall. “We needed a seamless, thin profile that gave the illusion of floating light,” says Toledo. DMDesign used iLight Plexineon White 1X 3500 LED fixtures to help them achieve the shapes. “With such a free flowing form, finding just the right suspension points and working with existing site conditions, including air ducts, was key,” says Toledo. “ [iLight explained] our limitations and opportunities. They also met with us on site to make clear exactly how installation would work.” The final result was better than anyone had imagined.

March 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


Sign Show ACRYLICS/PLASTICS The New Johnson Plastics Plus Fully Integrates Johnson Plastics and Bur-Lane, Inc. Johnson Plastics and Bur-Lane are combining their expertise, assets, and resources to better serve engraving, sign-making, awards, personalization, and sublimation customers while maintaining the roots and values of the family companies their customers have come to know. Customers now have access to the largest full product offering in the industry from both companies. They can pull up their accounts and place orders through an easy-to-use Web site and receive shipments even faster due to an increased number of branch locations throughout the US. Johnson Plastics Plus will be announcing new services and products in the first fully integrated catalog in early 2017 and throughout the year.

Rowmark Introduces New Plastic Sheet Material for Stencil and Template Creation Rowmark LLC has expanded its product offerings to be the first to supply the market with Lucent, a versatile, easy-to use sheet material ideal for creating custom stencils, templates, and educational and promotional tools. Lucent is the best material choice to fabricate custom and personalized templates, patterns, or scrapbooking elements for customers who are crafters, educators, or professionals. Lucent is a single-ply product in a durable matte finish in a .025 thickness and is available in translucent clear as well as five translucent colors. Lucent laser cuts easily to create a smooth finished edge. Add a splash of color or personalization with screen, pad, or UV-LED printing.

DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES Groundbreaking Technology Opens Up Bright, New Revenue Opportunities The new Pro6410 NeonColor from OKI Data Americas liberates graphic design from the limits of the standard CMY color spectrum and enables the printing of super-bright, eye-catching fluorescent designs on transfer media for use on garments, product decoration, and packaging. Textile decorators and graphic arts departments can employ the Pro6410 NeonColor’s unique features to create fluorescent effects on either light or dark backgrounds, with the added option of using OKI’s NeonWhite toner. The incredible versatility of the Pro6410 NeonColor and its vibrant color spectrum means businesses now have fast access to new revenue streams in the aforementioned fields.

FABRICS Create Attention-getting Retail Displays with DigiCompetition from Top Value Fabrics Top Value Fabrics has expanded its line of display fabrics with DigiCompetition, engineered specifically for the retail market. This lightweight, versatile display fabric is wrinkle-resistant and engineered with a print-receptive coating. The fabric yields excellent color and is recommended for use with a variety of ink chemistries (including dye sub transfer, dye sub direct, latex, and UV). DigiCompetition compares to heavier weight display fabrics offering stretch, softness, and premium printability at a competitive price point. DigiCompetition is REACH-compliant, meets NFPA 701 FR specifications, and is stocked in widths up to 122 inches.

MAGNETS DaVinci Technologies Presents a Trio of “Attractive,” New Magnetic-receptive Print Media Signetics Select, Signetics LTX, and Signetics Duo from DaVinci Technologies offer effortless installation across a wide variety of applications including menu boards, retail P-O-P, and decorative wall graphics. Signetics™ by Ultraflex is the new standard in magnetic-receptive media, offering a cost-efficient solution in magneticreceptive graphics with no-edge chipping and exceptional durability. Products are easy to clean with no lamination required. Rolls are 165 feet and come in 54-, 60-, and 74-inch widths. Signetics LTX features enhanced engineering for Latex printers and is available in 115-foot rolls of 54- and 60-inch widths. Printable on both sides, Signetics DUO is available in 115-foot rolls of 54- and 60-inch widths.


Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017 800-538-8377

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Sign Show ROUTERS/ENGRAVERS New Features are Easily Accessible on AXYZ International’s Redesigned Web Site One innovative feature of the new AXYZ International Web site,, is the CNC router comparison page, which allows visitors to view a snapshot of each product. Also they can select an application and see what products are recommended. Visitors are then directed to each CNC router’s individual product page, which includes an overview video, images, features, specifications, and options. Meanwhile, for each industry, there is an overview, a gallery that displays projects made for that industry, a list of materials that can be cut on the routers, and machine recommendations. Visitors can also request a quote on a CNC router, download product brochures, and subscribe to AXYZ’s newsletter.

Zünd RM-L Router Option: More Powerful, Versatile, and Automated At the heart of the new Zünd high-performance RM-L routing system is a robust, powerful spindle with pneumatic collet. With up to 3.6 kW of power and a maximum torque of 0.7 Nm, dense, hard materials can now be processed at much greater speeds and cutting depths. This reduces the number of passes required and significantly increases throughput. To ensure sustained performance and efficiency, the spindle is water-cooled. In addition, a high-performance dust extraction system helps keep the working area clean, which further contributes to overall productivity. The new router module is equipped with MQL, a minimal quantity lubrication system that keeps the bit lubricated to minimize friction. As a result, very little heat is generated during routing, which has a dramatic effect on bit life.

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Sign Show SOFTWARE-DESIGN/PRINT/ROUTER/ESTIMATING ONYX 12.1: Improved Speeds, Color Consistency, and Process Control ONYX 12.1 software from Onyx Graphics, Inc., features accelerated speed and performance, a simplified user interface, enhanced automation, and advanced finishing tools to do more in less time. Process more files in less time with a full 64-bit platform for RIP and applications, with speeds that can improve a service provider’s profit margin by as much as 30 percent. Achieve a higher level of color consistency across multiple devices with integrated G7 correction, verification, and iterations (making it easier to match color and build output consistency). Enhanced tiling, combined with other job prep tools, enables a wide variety of print applications. ONYX 12.1 is available for the full ONYX software product line.

VINYL/VINYL FILMS 3M Continues Its Expansion of Print Wrap Films 3M™ Envision™ Print Wrap Film 480mC now features the many high-quality benefits of Comply™ Adhesive with micro technology. 3M™ Envision™ Print Wrap Film offers a high-performing, non-PVC suite of films that are 100 percent compatible with all printers—UV, Solvent, and Latex. Now featuring Comply Adhesive with micro technology, installers will be able to move SV480mC and LX480mC effortlessly across any application surface and expertly reposition the films to the perfect location after first contact. Along with improved liner release and the ability to stretch 150 percent and stay down without primer, these films provide a nonvisible comply pattern to ensure a smooth, bubble-free finish to a completed wrap.

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March 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



By Mark K. Roberts

A Keepsake to Remember Hitting the seven seas of sign reproduction.


customer of mine recently contacted me with a unique request. He informed me that he was selling his family sailboat, the “Betty Lee.” The customer had named this boat after his late mother-in-law, and he wanted to replicate the transom of the boat into a miniature sign, as a Christmas gift to his wife. For those of you unfamiliar with nautical terminology, the transom is the vertical section that makes up the rear of the boat—directly opposite the bow. It’s also the section where many owners place the lettered name of their boat. The sentimental value behind this project drew me in, and the more this customer told me about it, the more I liked his idea. A few days after our initial phone conversation, we ventured down to the marina where the customer’s boat was harbored. I allotted about an hour’s worth of time at this marina because we wanted to get as much of an up-close and personal look at the boat as possible to determine what this future sign gift would 14

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deliver. (Note: In my mind, I was already envisioning numerous nautical touches and “overboard” accessories.) Per the customer’s instructions, I chose to be as realistic and detailed as possible, with a selection of a light, vents, railing, door cutout, and other sea-worthy touches on this mini-sign. My first step on this sign reproduction was to duplicate the artwork featured on the transom of the “Betty Lee.” Taking extreme care, we took digital photographs of the boat’s transom from several different angles. We then created a detailed digital two-by-six-foot print on our Roland VersaCamm printer. I selected Arlon DPF 510GT Gloss White 002T vinyl material from Graphic Solutions Group. Next we cut out and painted the Duraply Medium Density Overlay (MDO) substrate. The following day, we tested the substrate to make sure the paint application was dry, and we determined we were ready to apply the vinyl. We applied our digital print using the

Arlon printable vinyl material, and the task was absolutely flawless. For the remainder of the embellishments, we attached the lights and vents to the sign in the exact places they were on the boat. The customer asked beforehand that I cut a hole behind the light so the wiring could be pushed through to the opposite side. He wanted to be able to light up the sign, and I was more than happy to do this. The remainder of the task at hand was to attach the top railing. For this element, I used quarter-round material and placed it on the top of the board with two-way tape. Since this was a Christmas gift for my client’s wife, we were able to get the sign completed in the (saint) nick of time! Upon delivery of the customized sign, the customer was ecstatic. His plan is to keep the sign at their lake house in remembrance of his late mother-in-law and their beloved “Betty Lee” sailboat. Mark K. Roberts is a native Houstonian, a thirty-seven year sign craftsman, the owner of the InterSign Company, and a teacher of sign techniques.








* * * *




QUOTE@YJINC.COM P.O. BOX 802050 SANTA CLARITA, CA 91380 P: 661-259-0700/F: 661-259-0900 WWW.YJINC.COM

How To Regulations


Sign Codes in Sahuarita


arah More, planning and building director in Sahuarita, Arizona, knows how a simple sign code update can take on a life of its own. Recently her town went through a process of developing codes to allow electronic message centers (EMCs). More pulled together a committee that included input from Mark Jones, branch manager at local sign company Fluoresco Services. Jones, in turn, asked International Sign Association’s James Carpentier to join the meeting. The committee also included representatives from local churches (driving the desire for EMC) as well as representatives from local observatories (concerned about lights affecting the night sky). When the conversations turned to topics like nits and lumens, “there was a lot of terminology that I was not familiar with,” More said. “I was really glad to have [Carpentier] help us through those technical issues.” The committee came up with a sign code proposal that pleased the competing interests. Done deal, right? 16

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Well not quite. Despite the committee’s agreement, the planning commission sent it back for more work. Carpentier brought in the ISA-developed publication Night-time Brightness Level Recommendations for On-Premise Electronic Message Centers and an actual EMC to show how certain light levels would look and how they would be measured. The planning commission unanimously approved the EMC changes, but the town’s council was confused by the technical and contradictory testimony at their public hearing. The committee went back to work. When it returned to the commission, the plan had gained additional support from two large shopping center developers who also wanted EMCs passed. “It finally got adopted, but it took forever,” said More. Jones notes that having the option of EMCs in Sahuarita, a relatively small town, could impact his company. He sees the potential for a ripple effect. “Other surrounding cities see how Sahuarita was able to make it happen and the benefits that businesses and church-

es gain,” he says. “I think there will be questions of, ‘Why can’t we try to get something like that?’ It really gets the ball rolling.” The EMC change is just the beginning in Sahuarita. More’s next step will be looking at the entire sign code to ensure that it is compliant with the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Reed v. the Town of Gilbert. “This was a quick little minor code amendment, not the full-blown Reed,” she said. “I know I’m going to be counting on ISA’s team of experts for help. “To have reasonable people you can talk to and work with, even if you have differences of opinion, was helpful to me.” This is just one story of one community that tackled a slice of its sign code and now is taking on the entire thing. The Reed case has touched virtually every single jurisdiction in the United States—estimated to number about 38,000 by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s 38,000 opportunities to improve upon existing sign codes. That’s where you come in. The ISA monitors local media across the U.S. and Canada, attempting to find out about proposed code changes early in the process. But we need sign, graphics, and visual communications companies to help us stay on top of these changes—and the earlier, the better. As you hear about proposed changes, please let us know. While we can’t always make an in-person trip to work with a committee, we can provide a number of resources to help. As you can see from the Sahuarita example, this is a proven process. Our expertise is needed—and often welcomed. To let us know of proposed sign code changes or to ask questions, contact David Hickey is vice president, Government Affairs, at ISA (

Photo: Optec Displays, Inc.

A town teams up with ISA on EMC code changes.

We’ve Got A New Booth!





Sign Builder Illustrated is the “how-to magazine” of the sign industry. Each issue includes SBI’s signature “how-to” columns and features with detailed, step-by-step instructions covering a wide range of signage. SBI’s website (, newsletters, Buyer’s Guide, and digital edition keep you updated with timely news, recent projects, and upcoming industry events.





The Digital Signage Revenue Stream


he digital sign industry has experienced steady growth over the last few years, and if your shop isn’t offering this dynamic solution, you could be missing out. For one, the demand from customers is there. So too is digital signage’s proven ability to get a message across. “In a time of such diversified pulls for attention—people swapping from cable broadcast TV to online viewing, satellite radio/digital music, social media— on-premise signage is the strongest and most effective way to communicate who you are to the community,” says Deacon Wardlow, sales, Vantage LED (vantageled. com). “Sign shops just need to remind


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March 2017

their customers the people they want to reach pass by their business every day. “And the best way to reach them is to use on-premise digital signage to get the word out.” And the benefits aren’t all on the enduser’s side. As Bill Kurtzer, president of Gallery Digital Signage (gallerydigitalsignage. com), a division of national audio-visual technology company Vcom IMC, sees it, sign shops stand to benefit from selling digital signage in three main ways: 1. Expansion. Sign shops can offer digital signs as a new product to existing customers, acquire new customers through the offering, and even use it to

enter different vertical markets. Either way, growth is assured. 2. Revenue. Aside from selling the actual screens themselves, digital signage offers many opportunities for revenue generation, including content creation, the fabrication of enclosures or wraps around a screen, and installation and maintenance work. 3. Position. “There’s been a shift toward digital,” says Kurtzer, and those companies who offer digital signage will be aligning themselves with the future and what’s to come. Partners in Profit How does a shop enter the digital sign

Photo: Craig Minielly/Aura Photographics; Pattison Sign Group.

How you can start selling digital signs.

market to take advantage of these benefits? The answer: By partnering with a manufacturer. “It’s important to have a seamless relationship with our sign customers,” says Michael Schmidt, vice president of Sales – Outdoor at Optec Displays, Inc. ( “Helping them sell digital signage is a strategic win for us, the sign shops and their customers, and the industry.” A good digital sign manufacturer will act as a partner to a sign shop by educating them and the customer, aiding in the sales process, and providing marketing materials (often co-branded). “The more they know, the more

competent they’re going to appear and feel,” says Wardlow. “The more competent they appear to the customer, the more competent that customer is about working with that person versus anyone else.” And sign shops don’t need to know every single detail to achieve that competency either. “They’ve got to have an understanding of what they’re selling that’s beyond the basics,” says Wardlow. “Because that’s what’s going to differentiate you. “That’s the extra added value that you bring to the conversation that your competitors aren’t.” If a shop is selling interior digital signage, Wardlow recommends a deeper understanding. “Interior displays require specialized understanding of cable runs and additional equipment behind the signage, which makes it work,” says Wardlow. “Manufacturing partners can advise.” If a shop is frequently involved in interior digital signage, Duncan says creating a sales engineer position that focuses on handling networking, identifying any obstacles, and taking care of project management and backend details may be beneficial. In addition to offering training and resources, some manufacturers take on the educational role and travel with sign shops to talk with customers. Gallery Digital utilizes the connections of its manufacturers’ rep, Yorston & Associates, to work closely with sign companies and their customers. “Our goal is to enable and assist the sign companies in multiple ways—sales support, design and sales support, technical and install support,” says Kurtzer. “We will actually travel with Yorston and our sign companies to the customers where we believe there’s an opportunity for growth.” All manufacturers acknowledge that one of the best ways to promote digital signage is by having it at your shop— whether it’s signage on the shop building, within the shop, or on a trailer. Seeing is believing for many customers, and demo units are crucial in this sense. “Plenty of sign companies promote digital signage outside their facility, ei-

ther on their building or on their pylon sign,” says Schmidt. “Others prefer to have demonstration units on a small trailer. This allows them to bring the digital signage directly to their customer’s location.” Shops even have the option of renting or borrowing these demo units from manufacturers, which eliminates the need to invest in their own digital system. Watchfire Signs also has demo vehicles equipped with full-size electronic displays that sales people can take on customer visits with a sign company. Finding Customers So you have a manufacturing partner, marketing materials, demo units, and the technical know-how. Now how do you find a customer to wow? The good news is that just about anyone with a business or an organization with a message to get out can benefit from digital signage. “What has amazed me has been the spread of our industry into really every kind of business that we can imagine,” says John Kunze, director of Sign Division Sales at Watchfire Signs ( “Everybody can see how this technology can help them.” Sign shops can turn to banks, schools, churches, corporate environments, grocery stores, auto body shops, and more. Anywhere with a wait time, such as restaurants and doctor’s offices, are great opportunities for digital signage, as well. Shops shouldn’t be afraid to combine both indoor and outdoor digital signage for maximum effect in businesses where it makes sense. “Restaurants are an ideal industry to implement interior and exterior digital signage,” says Schmidt. “Restaurants rely on patrons’ impulse decisions, and LED digital signs grab people’s attention and drive hungry people to the establishment. “An LED message center inside the restaurant could run live stock quotes, news headlines, jokes, or even live Tweets to the business’ Twitter account, for example. Making patrons’ meals enjoyable helps ensure they come back the next time they’re hungry.” Digital signage is rarely constrained by signage type either—pylons, monuMarch 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


Want Vs. Need No matter the sign type or the business,

a digital sign’s function should pivot on what a customer needs. “A needs analysis is incredibly helpful,” says Wardlow. “Most manufacturers should have one available, which gives sign salespeople a list of questions to ask to clarify what the client needs to achieve their goal with digital signage.” But remember what a customer wants doesn’t always line up with what they actually need. “Sometimes people have what they think they want and what they really need, and they’re two different things, says Wardlow. “And that’s where we have to really educate people.” Value Over Price This is inherently the biggest challenge of selling digital signage—educating the customer on what they need, as well as the real value of digital signage. “It’s really about the advertising and communication value the sign brings. That’s the biggest thing that the end


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Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017

Photo: Burton Signworks, Inc.

ments, directories, wall signs, etc. are all ripe for conversion to digital. “Engineering has come a long way and so really, anywhere an end-user wants to effectively communicate and interact with their customers is now feasible,” says Schmidt. An important thing to remember, however, is that the proposed sign should be in the way of traffic—whether that’s foot traffic or cars on the road. “Our job is to talk to moving traffic,” says Kunze. “We’ve got to make sure we can do that effectively.” Kunze says they often do a traffic analysis for customers to give them an idea of how much traffic they have outside their business, the demographic of that traffic, etc. This data helps customers better understand who they’ll be reaching and what a digital sign can and should do for them.

Digital signs can be sold to any business with a message to get across.

Photo: Watchfire Signs.

user needs to hear from his sign company, and also one that we can help teach the sign company how to deliver,” says Kunze. “We offer some business development tools as well—sales training you might call it.” So much talk about digital signage revolves around price, which is the wrong focus. “You’ve got to change the conversation from price to value,” says Wardlow. “You wouldn’t be having the conversation if they weren’t interested in it. So price is a problem, but there’s always ways to get around price.” The ROI shouldn’t even be the primary discussion, as that will come from an effective digital sign branding. “Essentially if you’re having a conversation about the brand, about the value, and what their objective is, the return on investment naturally follows from all that,” says Wardlow. “You’re going to get more people coming in, which gets you more business, more investors, more

Digital signs should be in the way of traffic.

charitable contributions, more people in the church, or whatever your focus is.” In addition to the ROI, a customer will also benefit from reduced costs. “There’s cost savings from potential print and potential labor savings from manpower changes,” says Kurtzer.

It’s clear digital signage contributes not only to the bottom line of your customers but also your shop. “[Digital signage] is an avenue [sign makers] should pursue,” recommends Kunze. “The market is there for them to grow their business.”

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March 2017

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Sign Builder Illustrated



Getting to the

(Foam) Core of the Matter

Building better signs with this lightweight, cost-effective material.


onuments, if designed and built well, can be a distinctive piece of signage for the end-user. They can also be a distinctive offering for the sign shop willing to venture into this field. However the idea of using stone, concrete, and brick for the build and install can seem an intimidating prospect for some shops; the good news is that the appearance of these features can be replicated with less weight and at less cost. 22

Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017

Foam-Core Projects Located in San Jose, California, Signs Unlimited ( has been designing, fabricating, and installing monument signage since 1991. However Owner Kevin Kavianian has seen quite an uptick in these types of projects over the past decade. Signs Unlimited has been finding plenty of success using HDU, EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam-core, and synthetic stucco materials here. (Note:

Synthetic stucco is a sprayed-on finish that gives the appearance of concrete.) From an architectural design standpoint, Kavianian has found that foamcore/synthetic stucco monuments offer much more flexibility. “Contours and very-custom designs can more easily be accommodated with foam monuments than with metal structures,� he explains. Kavianian says that, with foam-core, you can produce substantial-looking masonry, concrete, stone, or brick

signs that are far more cost-effective than using these actual materials. “The monument’s weight is another big factor especially, as signs have to be loaded and transported to the installation site,” says Kavianian, noting that that, thanks to EPS foam (and HDU), installation is much more economical and straightforward, which results in huge savings in the cost of the project. The shop frequently collaborates with Peachtree City Foamcraft (foamcraft. info) on monument builds, recently exemplified in a trio of projects for property management clients in California:

All Photos: Signs Unlimited.

Timber Cove. This particular project presented a unique challenge from the onset. The property initially had been using a main wood sign that was partially built on natural redwood tree trunks; however this sign piece had been removed, and the owners were looking for an updated version of this sign that was more resistant to rot and termites. The shop recognized that EPS foamcore was one of the only viable options in this scenario, so they worked closely with Peachtree City Foamcraft to design the monument sign elements to make sure they were in sync with the manufacturing requirements of this unique-looking sign. “We had to use an old, rough logo lifted straight from the client’s letterhead to create a design that would mimic the older look of the previous sign,” says Kavianian. This finished vertical panel pieces were router-carved to resemble redwood and painted with 100 percent latex enamel. “We also used deep and heavy concrete footing to properly secure the monument,” says Kavianian, “since foam-core is nowhere near the weight of redwood.” Woodbridge. The owners of this townhouse complex desired an upgrade of an already-existing post-and-panel sign. “The property management company wanted a more traditional look for the new monument here, as opposed to a modern design that is more popular in the neighboring Silicon Valley area,” says Kavianian. The decision to use foam-core was based on the fact that this material allowed Signs Unlimited to create a more

traditional-looking yet still-substantial structure than is typically done with aluminum cabinet-type monuments. The property logo was digitally produced and installed on the monument using flat panels within the indented area designed for this purpose. Mountain Springs. This sign for a manufactured home property in California won First Place in the “Freestanding Sign, External or Non-illuminated” category in the 2016 USSC Sign Design Contest. “The client wanted a sign that was in line with the ‘Mountain Springs’ theme,” says Kavianian, “however they did not want images of a mountain on a rectangular-looking monument. “They wanted something that would simulate actual mountain tops with a stream or river.” Instead of foam-core, Signs Unlimited used high-density urethane to come up

with a suitable design and create the type of surface that would help visualize an actual mountain and stream. While it’s impossible to replicate “real wood” through sandblasting, Peachtree City Foamcraft used a cutting-edge CNC router to achieve the effect of creating the illustion of “rough wood.” (Note: Foam-core panels are cut using a hot-wire cutter/router.) By using modern technology, Peachtree City Foamcraft was able to simulate the appearance of a sandblasted sign or a traditional wood sign without the need for a blasting booth. Not only is this more environmentally friendly, but it allowed them the opportunity to produce a more consistent product. Signs Unlimited mounted the monument panel using painted pressure-treated redwood posts that were carved out to receive the foam-core monument panel. Property management added external-illumination spotlights at its base.

with eps foam-core, you can produce substantial-looking masonry, concrete, stone, or brick designs that are lighter and far more cost-effective.

EPS foam-core can be used to replicate brick, stone, and even concrete.

March 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


The Power of Project Partnering

ADA & Wayfinding


Put the resources of Clarke Systems to work for you by partnering with us to win important ADA & wayfinding sign programs in your region. And, teaming up with us means support for: • Meetings & Presentations • Bid Review & Estimating • Design & Planning • Document Creation • Project Management

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Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017

Woodbridge: The vinyl property logo was attached to flat panels.

About Signs Unlimited Signs Unlimited was established back in 1991 designing, manufacturing, and installing a wide variety of signs and graphics—ranging from internal architectural signs to large externally illuminated signs—for businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today the company provides a complete repertoire of high-quality, competitively priced sign solutions and services for its clients, which include small, local businesses all the way up to large, multi-national corporations. Kevin Kavianian purchased Signs Unlimited over a decade ago, after spending twenty-seven years in Silicon Valley working in electrical engineering, high-tech marketing, and product management careers. “I was eager to start a new chapter in my professional life,” he says, “and sign-making was very attractive to me.” Signs Unlimited is a fully independent member of Signworld (signworld. org), a nationwide family of sign companies. This affiliation proved very beneficial to Kavianian. “[It] enables us to provide installation support and services across the entire country, which simplifies sign projects for companies with multiple locations,” he says. Another thing that all the owners of Signs Unlimited have done since opening their doors over twenty-five years

Foam-core Elements Kavianian has come across quite a few essential factors to keep in mind when considering monument signs during the planning process: • “The design will dictate how the monument will be fabricated and installed.” • “Is the monument going to be single- or multi-tenant?” • “Are there going to be any property management allowances and master sign programs involved?” • “Consider the necessary city permit work. This will dictate how big the sign can be and where it can be placed, especially if at street corners.”

ago is ensure that their employees are cross-trained. This means that each one can perform the duties of others, whenever the need arises. Although Signs Unlimited can fabricate most of their sign orders in-house, Kavianian tells his customers that, should they require any specialized

rication process, they also have access to many qualified experts, partners, and affiliates (such as Peachtree) in order to get the sign made and installed, essentially acting as a “one-stop shop.” Working with Foam-Core Options for decorating EPS foam/synthetic stucco monuments vary and can include dimensional lettering/logos, digital print graphics mounted onto panels, and factory-embossed and painted faces. “This choice is really up to the client,” says Kavianian. “It also has to do with their logo or the graphics that they want to add to the monument.” He warns that, generally, the more text, copy, etc., one includes in the design, the more busy and unreadable the monument sign will become. “Of course the size of the logo and the text will have to be reduced to accommodate the contents,” he says, “and doing so reduces visibility based on where the sign is located and the

viewing distance.” Kavianian recommends only using what re-enforces the client’s brand and whatever else they want to communicate to the viewer such as name/logo, business type, or location. Kavianian states that contour-cut vinyl graphics cannot be directly installed onto foam monuments, due to the nature of the material’s surface. “We typically mount the printed vinyl onto aluminum panels that match the background color of the monument,” he says. When it comes to illuminating the monument, Kavianian finds that most clients use external lighting, like spotlights. But Mike Fetter of Peachtree explains that LED lighting can also be added into a sign. “We can customize ventilation for the lighting (or the LED message center) to accommodate the interior/exterior structure,” he says. As far as the types of paints ideal for use with EPS foam-core/synthetic stucco, Kavianian says that Peachtree uses

Timber Cove: This sign was routed to resemble the redwood posts.

latex enamels and paints to meet their. design goals. “And then they will addd Poly-Armor™ hard coating for added durable protection.” (Note: This product enables foam-core signs to withstand 175-miles-per-hour winds.)

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March 2017

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Sign Builder Illustrated

February March 2017 2017

Located at the intersection of art and signage.


magine how dangerous life would be without a crossing signal. Thousands of pounds of moving, motorized equipment don’t mesh well with fragile human anatomy. The system is remarkable when you stop and think about it. There is a lot of beauty to appreciate in a crossing signal, and that is the idea Therese Lahaie, a professional artist in Emeryville, California, was trying to show with her public art project, Crossing Signal Mosaic. In my mind, Lahaie’s Crossing Signal Mosaic represents the underlying beauty of communication at a busy metropolitan intersection where heavy vehicle traffic meets dozens of pedestrians. Lahaie brought my company, Sign Effectz, Inc., in on the project through a referral I had received from Ned Kahn, an artist we had recently served on the Wind Palms kinetic sculptures project.

Photo: All Photos: TopSign Value Effectz, Fabrics. Inc.

Waiting to Cross Lahaie designed this art project for a new condominium in Emeryville. The entire system is roughly 15-by-40 feet long and contains thirty-two custom cabinets that project images on a LuciteLux® diffuser lens. What was “in the box” was the core challenge for her and for Sign Effectz. How it got hung in the entryway of the condominium complex was a calculated formula to determine loads and hardware requirements. Some key elements came from our consultant Frank Berry. Because of the California location (which is prone to earthquakes), we had to consider seismic factors, and Berry is very good at teasing those out and helping determine the right structure. To kick off the design, I built a CAD model, incorporating a number of LED light sources. It consisted of six segmented zones in the box, each with an aluminum

panel and a laser-cut image. The LED light is placed behind the opaque sheet, similar to how a reverse projector works. Each cabinet was a different size, allowing us the zones. Lahaie’s vision was to have a halo glow around the perimeter of the cabinet. At this point, I set out to build a plan for it. We made prototype GOBOs with projection lenses for her to evaluate. GOBOs are often seen at malls or sporting events; they project images onto walls or the floor with dramatic effect. We implemented project management right out of the gates, which was comprised of weekly phone calls to determine what was working and what wasn’t. The challenge at this stage was to get the images as large as she wanted. We considered several options, ultimately landing on the idea of dot pixel image. Lahaie handpunched each image with a mallet (as opposed to using our CNC plotter). As an artist, she appreciated being directly involved in the fabrication of the project. In the end, she chose to illuminate twenty-four boxes. (Note: Others were left as architectural elements.) Several of these boxes contain countdown timers similar to the ones you may see at an actual crossing signal location. Lahaie did hand layouts of perforated aluminum, opaque material, etc., which created an array of light dots. Our role was to provide her with the tools to make this happen. She ran with it, which is what great artists do—they experiment with these tools to create their desired outcome. Proceed with Caution After roughly two years of design, fabrication, and local approvals, the mosaic was installed. We created the entire “unit” at out shop, so the installation would go off without a hitch.

March 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


Using scaffolding and ladders, Sign Effectz installed the mural.

We had an extensive series of shop drawings to ensure that what we fabricated in the shop accurately represented Lahaie’s vision. Numerous decoders, power supplies, LEDs, countdown timers, etc., meant that the wiring schematic was quite elab-

orate. Essentially it was modular, allowing us the ability to connect patch cables as needed. You couldn’t ask for a better system, and it worked beautifully. In total, the installation panned out extremely well. I wish I could say the same for the logistics!

Look Out for Obstacles in the Road The Sign Effectz team in Milwaukee assembled everything from nuts-and-bolts to complete wiring harnesses along with an extensive series of program testing. They then broke it down and packaged it so that the appropriate product was accessible at the right time to match the installation plan. We crated it and shipped it to Emeryville, then hopped on a plane to meet it there. However, the crates got lost in Utah and then somehow got stuck in Fresno. (At least they didn’t land on the opposite coast!) As problem solving is second nature to our team, we rented a truck, and with some added windshield time, we retrieved the crates in Fresno to avoid delaying the installation. Almost There to the Other Side The site installation took place over a staircase at the entrance of the building. To our advantage, the scaffolding was

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Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017

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With more than one hundred control points, the programming of the mosaic can be compared to conducting an orchestra. left in place by the drywallers that had just completed tightening up the exterior of the building. We performed the entire install off this scaffolding and ladders positioned three stories up. We shipped supporting brackets out several months earlier to have them preinstalled. We were happy to see that the contractor had installed them perfectly. The mounting frame assembly process was similar to putting together an inverted dock or peer. If any of you remember the toy erector set, envision it on a large scale. It was essentially a frame structure installed in the ceiling with bolts, nuts,

The wiring schematic of the mural was quite elaborate.

and screws fastening it together. Also we attached a junction box, electrical wiring, harnesses, patch cables, etc. You get the point—truckloads of wiring! The mosaic was connected to a power supply and controller in the building’s utility room, roughly seventy-five feet away. (We called it the “umbilical cord.”) The system has several access options. If needed, the mosaic could be programmed with a computer in the utility room by direct connection. But it can also be connected via Wi-Fi, which enabled Lahaie to be outside in front of the sculpture when programming the mosaic. This benefit allowed for viewing

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Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017

during the programming process. David West, from Wunder, is a lighting and controls consultant in Huntsville, California and served as a great addition to our team. The system is so subtle that you can’t even see it, which means it doesn’t take away from the aesthetics of the mosaic. Before we left California, we ran the mosaic through rigorous test cycles. These tests were performed for the building owner, construction management, Lahaie, and ultimately, our peace of mind. It performed beautifully and passed with flying colors. Another surprising tidbit of info is that the sculpture is so large that it has its own sprinkler system. This is a requirement to prevent the mosaic from interfering with the building’s sprinkler system. Made It: Award-winning Outcome! With more than one hundred control points, the programming of the mosaic can be compared to conducting an orchestra. Any production on such a large scale can be hugely challenging. How does one organize the lights to change in unison at any given time and any given color in any given sequence? In my mind, so many options could lead to decision paralysis. Lahaie did a phenomenal job. The end-result is a masterful symphony of lights, shapes, colors, etc. I’m sure the public release of the mosaic was a great source of pride and sense of accomplishment for her. In fact, Crossing Signal Mosaic won the LuciteLux “Just Imagine Award” for public art. These awards celebrate designers who embrace the originality of working with and creating light sculptures using LuciteLux acrylic. I may be a little biased, but I’m not surprised Lahaie won this award; she has the talents and creativity of the best of maestros. Adam Brown is president of Sign Effectz, Inc. ( in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

For a look inside the process, check out:


Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017



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Feature Name PYLONS By JEFF Author WOOTEN

Honoring the past to create a new kind of theatre showtime.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017

Marquee Attraction

Photos (This Spread): Empire Architectural.


s more businesses, these days, move away from malls and return to downtowns, there has been a resurgence in historic theatre restorations, particularly when it comes to marquees. Eric Larsen and his company, Empire Architectural ( of Midland, Michigan, recently designed and fabricated the most “architecturally detailed” theatre marquee ever built—an upgrade for the Temple Theatre. Their work here featured a recreation of its original wood-carved blade (its tip towering sixty-four feet above the pavement), a unique three-tier marquee with light bulbs chasing up the track to the top of the crown, 700 flashing LED bulbs and strip lighting, and dual 6-by-18-foot Daktronics EMC displays (replacing hand-placed letters). The Temple Theatre is a long-time fixture in downtown Saginaw, Michigan. This 2,500-seat facility opened back in 1927, and today, it is a refurbished one-theatre-fits-all venue that hosts a variety of events (concerts, ballets, classic movie screenings, etc.). The theatre marquee has experienced quite a history. The original iteration featured a “trolley car” (box marquee) design, but this was removed in 1960, along with the blade portion, due to a woodpecker infestation. (Talk about the need for bird deterrent!) It was replaced with an at-the-time “modern” wedge marquee. (Note: The wedge design was more popular then, thanks to the increase in automobiles and traffic flowing faster.) Owners contacted Larsen soon after he received the International Sign Association’s Historic/Traditional Award for his renovation work at the State Theatre in Bay City, Michigan. They yearned to return their marquee to the thrilling days of yesteryear as an architectural wonder harkening back to its original, ornate hand-carved design.

Somewhere in Time For Larsen, owner and lead designer at Empire Architectural, theatre marquees are his passion. He has even modeled his business to specialize in build of historic theatre marquees (and other unique signs and sculptures). “These are chances for me to create ‘art’ while bringing back the old-school ways of our industry,” he says. Working his way, since hand-lettering at the age of twelve, through different sign companies as a designer, fabricator, installer, salesman, and service technician, Larsen also became entranced with architecture—particularly stonemason cathedrals. He self-taught himself the technology and mathematics behind how these structures were built and developed an affinity for historic theatre marquees. Today Larsen is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres, so he gets to see first-hand many of the stunning theatres across the country. “My love for the sign industry has merged with theatre marquees,” he says. “I want to build more than just ‘boxes on sticks.’”

sistories, and Shrine Temples are built with certain measurements and angles,” he says. “Once I had gotten a few building measurements, I could decipher the measurements used in the original blade.” Larsen recognized that the blade was probably based on a design aspect from the Peterborough Cathedral West Façade built from 1180-1238. “From there, I just let my imagination go and came up with the finished design,” he explains. Watching Larsen come up with sign ideas is a work of art in itself. He will often sit in a theatre during his initial visit to get a feel for the environment. “I look at all the fine details of plaster work and the elements unique to each theatre I visit,” he says. “I hear the history of each one and see the passion in the eyes of the people doing the restorations. “I get a great sense of joy knowing that these theatres again will see a future while keeping their past in place.” Larsen remains an artist at heart, so he always carries a sketchpad and pencils

Back to the Future The updated Temple Theatre marquee design is straight from Larsen’s vision. While owners desired to bring back the original blade, they wanted to keep the wedge shape of the lower marquee as well. So Larsen went to the library and perused pictures and postcards of the original marquee, as well as original hand-drawn newspaper ads featuring it. “Decorative spirals, ball ornaments, and closed spires, along with a rounded bull nose center section, not only pay tribute to the original 1927 marquee, but also the 1960 version,” he says. The blade is as close to the original as Larsen could figure out. The building was originally built for the Elf Khurafeh Shriners (of which he is also a member). “Freemason Lodges, Scottish Rite Con-

The new marquee features the wedge and blade sign.

March 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


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Photo: Signs by Benchmark.

with him during initial site surveys and hand-sketches any ideas. “An idea might wake me up in the middle of the night, or I could be out at dinner and look at a fork a certain way and be inspired,” he laughs. He will then create a conceptual drawing via CorelDRAW and recreate it with watercolors or a colored pencil-and-ink drawing for the client to review. Time After Time Marquee renovations can require months of prep work. Electrical can sometimes not be up to code, or roofing and support structures can be bad. “Since you’re putting a lot of weight on the side of a building, engineering is key,” says Larsen. To determine the appropriate weight, Larsen took detailed measurements of everything—the structure, the support structure, and the marquee. “Once you know the weights of certain materials and how much material is going up there, you can pretty much guess this final figure very accurately,” he says. Fabrication took nine months. “Marquees aren’t just building an extruded aluminum box and throwing lighting inside it,” he says. “They’re pieces of art.” Since his visions aren’t fully realized on a flat sheet of paper, Larsen builds scaled dimensional models first to show his clients and his fabricators. “I tell my team to think in three dimensions,” he says. Collaboration also proved key here. Empire Architectural used wholesaler World Wide Sign Systems for the tougher dimensional pieces. “I’ve used them many times before,” says Larsen. “Sometimes my ideas will leave them scratching their heads, but after a few conversations, they’re able to come up with solutions.” The main focus for the Temple Theatre was the architectural accents borrowed from the original blade. “I didn’t want to use wood, because of the past woodpecker issue,” says Larsen, “and fiberglass was too heavy for the existing structure.” Larsen opted to use lighter EPS foam. “You can shape it any way you want,” he says. “And once you put a protective coating over it, not much will damage it.” Larsen sent drawings and color layouts of what he wanted to accomplish to foam-core supplier Signs By

mark, giving them free reign on internal support and places of attachment. “The accent attachment would determine the support structure within the blade itself,” he says, “yet I needed to keep the design elements.” Signs By Benchmark achieved an internal support structure for each element and, at the same time, came up

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project. Signs By Benchmark and World Wide Sign Systems regularly sent Larsen photos, drawings, and schematics of where they were in the process. “Communication with [Larsen] was crucial to ensure that part of his vision and the level of detail on the original artwork was brought to life,” agrees Brandi O’Farrell, project coordinator at Signs By Benchmark. Meanwhile the marquee features an old-school chase system with three-on and two-off in opposite directions. Great Lakes Sign Products provided the moreenergy-efficient LED bulbs and chase system that replaced the original neon. “The blade features a three-level chase that I designed just to give this a little more ‘pop,’” says Larsen. “The bulbs are actually stacked in a stair-like design so that, as you walk around the marquee, you get a different chase effect.” The two Daktronics EMCs were built and shipped to Empire Architectural before they started building the lower mar-

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Sign Builder Illustrated

March 2017

Photo: Signs by Benchmark.

Architectural accents were made from EPS foam.

with attachment points that fit well with Larsen’s original vision. The key was breaking down the smaller accents to make them manageable to construct. “Many of the pieces were constructed in layers or sculpted to best match the original prints,” says Jamie Kakacek, designer/estimator at Signs By Benchmark, noting that there was a lot of communication between Empire Architectural and World Wide Sign Systems to define a mounting process that would work for all the fabricators on the project. The design called for a vibrant color palette. “Because of this, we used automotive paints because of their UV stability,” says Kakacek, noting a majority of it was hand-painted while certain areas were spray-painted. Signs By Benchmark packaged and shipped numerous accent pieces inside crates to World Wide Sign Systems so everything could be pre-fitted in their shop, prior to installation. Communication was essential on this

Photo: Empire Architectural.

quee. “Doing this helped us determine the correct angle of the lower marquee, as it projects off of the building,” says Larsen. About Time The removal of the old marquee and installation of the new one was accomplished with tight pre-planning—right down to where the crane trucks were to be placed during the process. The removal crew consisted of fourteen people, two cranes, two scissor lifts, one dump, and a trailer. Everything was set up to go as soon as the last show at the theatre ended at five o’clock. They finished at one o’clock in the morning. The installation crew arrived at seven the following morning. Three semi-trucks arrived with the marquee sections just after the crane trucks were set up. “We then placed the first beam to support the blade and off we went,” says Larsen. Installers wired everything electricalrelated at once. “The removal crew kept

the power right at the wall when they took the old marquee down,” explains Larsen. “Then they had electricians come in and run power from the wall back to the box and separated them into six different circuits. “We basically ran each one of the circuits to put together portions of the marquee.” Empire Architectural placed crane trucks in strategic positions to avoid wasting a lot of time. “We had to put the marquee parts on the south side of the building while the marquee itself was on the east side of the building,” says Larsen. “So we had to basically plan off-loading the marquee into the parking lot and then figure out how we were going to swing the pieces from there over to the marquee site to put them up.” It took about seven days to install the refurbished marquee and blade, which was in place just in time for the start of the theatre’s next scheduled show.

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Tricks of the

Trade(show) f you can create innovative concepts, design the system, fabricate it, and finally, install a tradeshow experience, you can take on just about any large format display project. In considering all the components of a spectacular tradeshow exhibit, the composite becomes more than a series of banners, fabrics, graphics, panels, posts, and signage—it transforms into a unified experience, one that you hope will make an impact on every visitor. Once a company can succeed in this market, the sky’s the limit, and other projects—such as wall displays, banners, and poster graphics—become simpler to execute (though still require the same level of creativity) in comparison to the complexity of producing tradeshow graphics. Among the hundreds, if not thousands of businesses and suppliers in the tradeshow industry, there are still the small “artisan” design shops that keep the innovation high and the ideas fresh. One such company is Raleigh, North Carolina-based Point Concepts (, which identifies itself on its home page as Brandcrafted (“your brand” + “our one-of-a-kind handiwork”). Founded by Dan Schwab, president and lead designer (also known as the company’s head tinkerer and “figure-outer”), Point Concepts dedicates about half of its work to tradeshow design, forty percent to environmental graphics and corporate environments, and the rest to


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museum display graphics. As the sole proprietor of Point Concepts, Schwab manages nine staff members—five of which hold design degrees. The 8,500-square-foot facility allows his staff plenty of room to both stretch their creative imaginations and exercise a hands-on approach to fabricating and constructing large displays. “Designing and building tradeshow exhibits is what our business was founded upon,” says Schwab, “so we know we’ve done the job right when our products bring you marketing success. With our full-service capabilities, we can handle any type of construction in-house. We understand the shipping, weight, and labor issues faced with any fabrication project.” Serving mainly mid-sized clients who are mostly local to Raleigh and Research Triangle Park (which encompasses the University of North Carolina and surrounding tech companies), on any given day, Point Concepts might be producing frontand back-mounted graphics, backlit graphics, custom-printed wallpaper, and dimensional signage. Each year, they ship their graphics to over two hundred shows all around the country. Point Concepts views themselves as designers first and builders second. “If the design is not right, no level of craftsmanship, after the fact, will make it right. Listen, design, deliver…this is our mantra,” says Schwab. “Our goal, from the beginning, has been to try to understand what our customer wants

All Photos: Point Concepts.

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Graphics and Design: “Brandcrafted” In his twenty-five years in the business, Point Concepts President Dan Schwab has developed his own approach to environmental graphics and sign design, all based on the premise of “Brandcrafted”: • Your brand is your corporate identity. It’s your reputation and your credibility. It represents who you are as a company. Your brand is essential to the work we do. • When you become our client, we become students of your brand. We dive in. We ask questions. We listen—intently. As we begin working, your

brand becomes part of our blueprint. • From the starting point to the finishing touch, your brand stays front and center. • Instead of oversimplifying or overcomplicating our process, we figure there are a few key things you need to know about the way we work. • We work with intention. All of our craftsmanship is done with purpose. We employ strategy, innovation, and creativity but never at the expense of accomplishing the purpose of the project.

to accomplish. “We ask an enormous amount of questions to understand their business. It’s only then that we can provide a truly valid solution.” Schwab continues, “It is even more important, when designing brand messaging, that we know our customer’s needs almost as much as they do.” Finding the right medium is critical to sound design. When it comes to films and laminates, Point Concepts typically works with 3M, but the company also uses others such as Orafol and Avery, which they have found are less expensive options for printing on transparent vinyl. They work with Lexjet for back-mounted graphics, as well. They’ve also turned to Displayflex for a durable laminate finish and Fixon double-sided adhesive for back mounting. Their substrates include acrylic, Dibond®, Sintra®, polystyrene, MDF, sublimatable acrylic, and wallpaper media.

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On where the future is headed for large format graphics and tradeshow designs, Schwab believes, “Fabric graphics have become one of the dominant solutions in retail, and I see this continuing to increase. Several of their large format display projects show the range of clients who have turned to Point Concepts for a branded approach to environmental design. In designing and constructing a 20-by-30-foot tradeshow booth for one of Point’s longstanding clients, MTS (a sensor manufacturer in North Carolina), innovating and on-your-feet thinking helped to transform MTS’s smaller exhibit display (10-by-20 feet) to fit a larger space for a special conference that the company attends every three years. “We designed a booth that repurposed their 10-by-20 into a conference room and then rented MTS the rest of the components to fill the booth,” says Schwab. “The challenge was to make the whole exhibit look like it was not a combination of two different systems.” (Note: All of the graphics were printed on 3M vinyl with matte laminate.) For global tech innovator Redhat in Raleigh, Point took a simple, but highly creative approach to interactivity: create a tradeshow display with surface areas that could be colored with markers. Designed for the well-attended annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, the 20-by-20-foot exhibit utilized 3M vinyl with matte laminate and dimensional logos that were laser-cut by Gemini. “It was a huge success, and the booth stayed packed with visitors,” explains Schwab. “People colored all over the booth, the bean bags, and even the carpet.” Projects that move outside of the tradeshow industry utilize the same creative principles as any environmental graphics should but can expand in scope and size, depending on the configuration of the pace. For example, Point Concepts created a unique concept for another Raleigh-based tech company, Citrix, that involved thousands of keyboard keys, producing a series of ads for Terminals 1 and 2 in the Raleigh-Durham

tional Airport. “All it took was 13,899 keyboard keys, a few shades of grey, a giant grid, and all-hands-on-deck to build the custom, hand-crafted installations,” explains Schwab. A balance of projects—for both nonprofit and for-profit—helps keep the excitement in the air among the company’s creative team. Turning to sports history, Point Concepts designed a museum exhibit honoring baseball legend Buck Leonard, a beloved native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “In an effort to honor the legend and share his story, the city planned for a custom-designed exhibit, which would feature authentic artifacts of historical significance pertaining to his life,” says Schwab. “We were thrilled when our proposal for the design, fabrication, and installation was chosen, and we are proud of the exhibit and its value to the Imperial Centre of Rocky Mount.” In creating a donor wall for the YMCA in Danville, Virginia, the goal was to display the names of those who donated to the organization on a 20-by-

18-foot wall. Working with a mix of clear ORAFOL and 3M vinyls with matte laminate graphics, the wall serves a dual purpose of paying homage to the donors as well as showcasing the history of the building site (which once housed a mill). “The trickiest part of the design was that the majority of the wall was too high to be used for the donor portion,” says Schwab, “ and the only mill picture that needed to be enlarged to nearly twenty feet was a low-resolution image at only 949kb.” To solve this, the team incrementally enlarged and slightly blurred the file until they reached the final size. Because the image was part of the background, as well as translucent, this approach was a success. In situations like this, it’s imperative to create a solution that will make an impact since the graphics will dominate the space. “Custom wallpaper changes an environment,” says Schwab, “whereas a sign may only enhance an environment or serve a particular function.” March 2017

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Roland Devices Help Make Window Warriors Season One a Success THE FIRST SEASON of the new GSN TV series Window Warriors—a skillbased competition series combining art and commerce— concluded recently, with the winner, Timothy Howe, walking away with the $100,000 grand prize. Throughout the season, the eight designer contestants competing on the show relied in part on Roland DGA’s advanced wide format printers and vinyl cutters to create their elaborate retail window displays (“Roland Devices Featured in Window Warriors,” January 2017). Roland products were integral in assisting each of the Window Warriors contestants—all talented retail window designers—with their

challenges to design and produce highly creative, eye-catching window displays. The show’s contestants were given three days to finish their window displays for each episode, along with access to a “work room” containing the various devices and materials needed to complete each of the projects. Roland DGA supplied two of its advanced wide format digital inkjets (a VersaUV® LEJ-640 hybrid UV printer and a SOLJET® Pro-4 XR-640 eco-solvent printer/cutter), as well as a CAMM-1 GX-640 vinyl cutter, for contestants to use throughout the season. The designers used these machines to produce stunning

he Experience t

backdrops and other detailed graphics for their retail displays. Jill Goularte, an executive producer of Window Warriors, was extremely pleased with the show’s first season. “It was a tremendous success, and Roland played an important role in that,” she said. “The cast couldn’t wait to get their hands on the printers.” Window Warriors was produced for GSN by Michael Levitt Productions, the team behind the network’s most watched original series ever, Skin Wars. For more information and photos related to Window Warriors, visit

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Award-winning Wrap2Wrap installers showcase both the artistry and adaptability of solid-color films.


rap artists Chad Munroe and Jeremy Conner performed before an audience of peers during November’s SEMA 2016 show in Las Vegas, demonstrating artistry with vinyl and squeegees in the grand finale of 3M’s third-annual Wrap2Wrap Battle. The competition invited installers nationwide to enter projects completely wrapped in 3M’s versatile, stretchable Wrap Film Series 1080. Munroe (below, left); owner of Get Graphic (getgraphic. com) in Tonitown, Arkansas; and Conner (below, right), owner of Who Did That!?! ( in Charlotte, North Carolina, submitted entries that were judged the two best-in-class by a panel of industry experts. “3M Wrap2Wrap Battle winners are masters of installation,” says Joe Walton, senior technical service, 3M Commercial Solutions Division. “They are meticulous and know how to use the 1080 product with precision and technique.”

Masters at Work For their showdown in Las Vegas, the pair were challenged to demonstrate their mastery by wrapping a grand piano and pair of Fender Stratocaster guitars with solid-color 1080 films. However there ended up being more collaboration than competition to this day-long event, as neither Munroe nor Conner had ever wrapped an instrument before. “The [morning of this event], Jeremy and I put our heads together, laying out a strategy for what we wanted to do,” says Munroe. Plans called for the wrapped instruments to be played in concert that night by an Eagles cover band at a nearby venue. “Since they were going to be played on stage at the same time, we wanted to make sure the instruments would complement each other, so we chose the same basic colors to work with,” says Munroe. The two guitars still needed to stand out on their own, however. “We wanted everything to look somewhat similar, but each piece had to have its own unique characteristics,” says Conner. The pair meanwhile worked side-byside on the piano. “We were able to work together, and its size and shape, with a lot of flat surfaces, made it the easier one to work with,” says Munroe. Winning Entries In fact, more ambitious projects had earned them their free trip to the Las Vegas showdown. Munroe’s Wrap2Wrap entry was a vintage Shelby Cobra car kit wrapped for a local auto collector (pictured, above).


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“When we took this job, we anticipated it to be one of the most complex installs on any vehicles produced, due to the continuous complex curves in the car’s styling,” he says. “There really wasn’t a single flat surface to that car.” His goal was to give it a fresh-from-thefactory look by incorporating a variety of finishes available in the 1080 film series. The fiberglass body arrived completely stripped and sanded to a smooth primer with a flat clear coat. Munroe’s team—himself, partner and co-owner Jennifer Rennicke, and installer Aaron Hull—wrapped the entire body (including inner doors, trunk, and hood). They used 1080 Matte Blue Metallic as the base coat (similar to the vintage Shelby Blue color), 1080 Gloss Deep Blue Metallic for contrast to the matte finish, and 1080 Brushed Steel. Munroe says the combination delivered a look and texture impossible to achieve with

PING UP VERSATILITY painted fiberglass. “We were able to achieve a seamless single panel down each side without overstretching,” Munroe reports. “The only seams in the finished product were where the car transitioned from one color to the next.” Conner’s winning submission was his own 2003 Audi TT. He had wrapped the car before, but he describes this as his most ambitious and best-looking transformation to date. “My approach was the use of knifeless tri-line tape to make invisible buttjoints between my two primary colors,” he explains, “then using the tri-line once again to add the highlight color to cover the joints and make everything flow nicely between the three colors.” Guitar Challenge The experience gained by working with the contours of those cars aided the pair

when wrapping the guitars at the show. While they agreed on the colors to use, each came up with their own design. “For me, the most challenging part of the project was those guitars because you have such a small surface,” says Munroe. “On something that small, it can be easier to use printed graphics. “With a solid color, you have to be more careful and make sure you completely cover the underlying surface without anything showing through.” Conner says 3M’s 1080 film, combined with its knifeless tape, made it easier to realize their respective designs for the guitars. “We used knifeless tape to create nice lines and a very creative look to the instruments,” says Conner. “With their ControlTac technology, the film doesn’t adhere until we apply it with our squeegee, eliminating pre-adhesion and repeatedly repositioning.

“The Comply feature of 3M’s 1080 film eliminates any worry of having bubbles in your final project as trapped air can simply be pushed out with a fingertip.” Munroe reports the differently designed guitars turned out great. “There were some similarities because of the colors we used,” he says, “but our designs were different. They really worked well together, complementing each other, just like we wanted.” Because they were able to execute the wraps so well, this showcased the best use of wrap films and the many kinds of designs and applications that are possible. “Our industry is far more than just cars, trucks, boats, and motorcycles!” says Conner. “Virtually anything can be wrapped, as shown by the wrapping of the instruments. “The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and the skill and confidence of saying ‘Yeah, I can wrap that!’”

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Mastering The Art of Wrapping On-the-job practice is crucial, states Munroe. “The more wraps you install, the better you’ll get at it, as you can learn something on every project,” he says. A certified 3M installer, Munroe advises others (regardless of level of expertise) to take the training offered by their suppliers. “If you’re new to this, you’re sure to learn something,” he says. “And if

you’ve been doing wraps for a while, at the very least, you’ll know what you’ve been doing right or wrong.” Conner credits the range of materials now available as key. “Back in the day, we would’ve never thought of wrapping an entire car just to change the color,” he says. “Now, with the advances made in vinyl and adhesives, the palate of our creativity is endless! “Custom colors and unique looks of

the future are here now, with no end in sight! Munroe advises to consider more than cost when evaluating cheaper materials. “Sometimes you’ll make up for any savings from using cheaper material on the time that it takes to install that wrap,” he says. Suppliers know their products and can advise on best choices for the job and proper installation. When using 3M Wrap Film Series 1080 in non-traditional ways, start by checking adhesion to make sure the product will stay down and not lift or curl off the substrate, says Walton. Also consider areas where the film will be stretched, as the 1080 film is engineered to stretch up to 130 percent. When wrapping objects with deep concave or contoured areas, Walton recommends relief cuts and overlaps where the film will be stretched beyond that threshold to avoid bruising (discoloration of the film) and potential shrink back.

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March 2017

“In areas of higher stretch, we like to use Primer 94 to promote adhesion, [and] we like to use 3M primer sticks in areas of high stretch or stress areas,” adds Walton. Walton says always keep the three Ps in mind: Prep, Prime, and Post-heat. “We run a car through a wax-free car wash to get the initial dirt and contaminates off,” he says, “then follow up with 3M™ Prep Solvent-70 to remove contaminants like tar and tree sap.” Before applying 1080, he recommends a complete wipe-down with 70/30 isopropyl alcohol (70 percent Isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent water) or rubbing alcohol already mixed at 70/30. “The 30 percent water helps to break up stubborn dirt,” says Walton. “You want that vehicle squeaky clean.” Finally heat should be applied via heat gun to Series 1080 everywhere the film is stretched. “The film needs to be heated to 200ºF to 225ºF for the post-heating process to work correctly,” says Walton.

Screen Print vs. Inkjet: Sticking to Magnets VINYL WRAPs aren’t the only way companies and organizations are branding their message—flexible magnetic strips and sheets remain an “attractive” medium to achieve these goals. They’re ideal for applications where graphics need to be changed out, such as pointof-purchase. “Retail signage is new and a growing part of the magnet world,” says Alice Martin, director of Marketing at Adams Magnetic Products (, “especially in products that change frequently, like season promotions or menu boards.” (Note: Consider how flexible magnets are used on walls, curved poles, and set-up displays.) Direct-printing graphics to flexible

sheets is delivered via screen printing and digital inkjet printing methods. “Screen printing is usually easier to do, since it’s done in sheets,” says Martin, “whereas, a lot of times, inkjet methods are done in rolls. Because of this, with digital inkjet hardware, you have to be aware of head height, so the material doesn’t get stuck on it.” Martin also points out, “Silkscreen is a much heavier ink film, and using solvent screen inks can cause deformation to the printed vinyl.” One of the biggest problems with flexible magnet sheets relates to tension. “If the applied graphics are too tight,” says Martin, “this will cause the sheet to curl. You want magnets to lay flat.”

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Sign Builder Illustrated




SIGNAGE MAGAZINE! Sign Builder Illustrated is the “how-to magazine” of the sign industry. Each issue includes SBI’s signature “how-to” columns and features with detailed, step-by-step instructions covering a wide range of signage. SBI’s website (, newsletters, Buyer’s Guide, and digital edition keep you updated with timely news, recent projects, and upcoming industry events.





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Shop Talk USSC – The BullPen


The Samurai of Our Trade Who keeps handmade art alive and well?


he artists that make up The BullPen, held each year at the USSC Sign World International Show in Atlantic City, New Jersey, are sign professionals dedicated to preserving the handmade art form. Last December, roughly twelve artists participated in The BullPen. Bruce Gough, account executive with Creative Dimensions, Inc., in Cheshire, Connecticut, has been the group’s coordinator for many years. He has seen The BullPen evolve but stay true to a core belief that handmade art has a special place in the sign industry. Phil Ghi, a twenty-five-year veteran of The BullPen and owner of Ghi Sign Service, says, “It’s a part of the sign business we want to keep alive. A lot of originality begins with a pen and brush. It’s the organic feel of doing it by hand that can really drive the creative process. Handcrafting brings uniqueness and a flow of ideas or

discovery that’s hard to get any other way. “Technology, no doubt, has a role in our industry, but there can be limitations when the design process always begins with a monitor.” The results are astonishing. This year, they used a 1963 Chevy Truck as their “canvas” for paying homage to the vintage hand-painted images found on many World War II fighter planes. I have a profound respect for handpainted art and lettering. These guys and gals are the samurai of this art form. They volunteer their time and skills at this event, and our industry needs to create more ways to preserve hand-painted lettering and artwork. Now is a great time to leverage The BullPen. At next year’s show, we plan to ramp things up with efforts like more classes on pinstriping and airbrushing. The group’s greatest impact is on the community. The BullPen has been in-

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564; Agreement #40612608; IMEX Po Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Canada) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 55 Broad St. 26th Floor, New York, NY 10004. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices.

Prices are subject to change.

Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions Print version, Digital version, Both Print & Digital versions: 1 year US/Canada/Mexico $50.00; foreign $99.00. Single Copies are $15.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only.

For Subscriptions, & address changes, Please call (800) 895-4389, (847) 7639686, Fax (847) 763-9544, e-mail, or write to: Sign Builder Illustrated, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 3135, Northbrook, IL 60062-3135.


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volved with charitable organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Marines, the Salvation Army, an autism group, local police departments and high schools, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Several years ago, the mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey bestowed the “key to the city” on The BullPen, in recognition of its charitable work during the convention. Bill Riedel, long-time member of The BullPen and owner of Riedel Signs, was chosen to be the keeper of the key. “Bill has always been the first one in and the last one out,” says Gough. “I appointed Bill as the keeper of the key. I’m sure he will never forget it, especially the standing ovation he received! Besides the birth of his kids, he said it’s the most memorable moment in his life!” The BullPen was started in the early 1990s by Superfrog Signs & Graphics Founder Butch Anton. “He taught classes, and his technique was to combine the use of Krylon® spray paint with hand lettering and/or vinyl,” says USSC Executive Director Nancy Maren. “When he wasn’t teaching, he came down into the hall and set up an area to demonstrate his techniques and skills and answer questions.” The BullPen is proof that craftsmen are still out there and that hand-lettered signs remain an art form appreciated by many. It will be exciting to see what The BullPen creates next year.

It’s our obligation at the USSC to preserve and maintain inspirational artwork like this.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 3135, Northbrook , IL 60062-3135. 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.

March 2017 Sign Builder Illustrated  

This issue features stories on digital signs, sign cabinets, pylons, monuments, large format graphics, EMCs, and more.

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