THE HOW-TO MAGAZINE
F E B R UA RY 2021 | S I G N S H O P.CO M
LED FORMS LETTERS & LOGOS
DIGITAL SIGNAGE: STATE-OF-THE-ART INSTALLS
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Contents FEBRUARY 2021
UNDER THE RADAR
By David Hickey Sign code changes can sometimes happen without notice.
Cover Photo: Albrecht Sign Company (Fridley, MN).
Trends for the coming year (digital signage, for example) are at the forefront this month as Editor Jeff Wooten looks at how some things are shaping up.
IN THE INDUSTRY
New York City train station re-opens with dynamic digital integration, YESCO restores nine signs in Reno’s Neon Line District, and Still Creek Press hit the high notes with floor vinyl at the opera.
The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.
Forty-eight panels of vinyl on the wall! Amanda Brown shows how Warwick Printing solved a tricky install at one liquor store.
16 20 23 26
A GRAND TOUR OF DIGITAL SIGNage
By Jeff Wooten The story of Springfield is enhanced thanks to a new LED display.
By Ashley Bray A sign company finds success designing and installing fleet graphics.
THE FORM OF LED LETTERS
By Kenan Hanhan European LED-illuminated sign spec for North America.
By Jeff Wooten A state-of-the-art retrofit for a classic theatre.
FORTY YEARS STRONG
By Roger Whittle Persona, Inc., experiences a fortieth year like no other. February 2021
Sign Builder Illustrated
February 2021, Vol. 35, No. 307 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation
President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Group Publisher Gary Lynch 88 Pine Street, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10005 Office: 212-620-7247; Cell 646-637-5206
Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7, Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Ashley Bray 212-620-7220 email@example.com Contributing Writers Amanda Brown, Kenan Hanhan, David Hickey, Roger Whittle
Art Director Nicole Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Antona Graphic Designer Hillary Coleman
Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers
Circulation Director Maureen Cooney firstname.lastname@example.org
ADVERTISING SALES Sales Manager David Harkey 212-620-7223 email@example.com
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 Gary Lynch at 212-620-7247 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Endless Possibilities of ADA Signage Don’t sacrifice your branding and interior design to comply with ADA signage standards. Novacryl® allows your creativity to flow free and make your ideas possible: Novacryl® has the most diverse range of substrates available and allows for unlimited design while being environmentally responsible. Wayfinding Signage, Braille Signs, and ADA compliant signs, in general, can all use Novacryl® Photopolymer to improve sign design. Whether you are an architect looking for new signage material solutions, a designer that is exploring new creative options, or a sign fabricator looking for signage profitability, Nova Polymers is your single source for innovative, environmentally conscious photopolymer signage equipment, material, and software solutions. read more at novapolymers.com
BY JEFF WOOTEN
Note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, all events listed below are subject to change. Please check each show’s Web site for any cancellations or reschedulings that may have taken place after our issue went to press.
MARCH 2021 MARCH 23-25:
LabelExpo/Brand Print Americas 2021 is rescheduled to commence at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. (brandprint-americas.com)
APRIL 2021 APRIL 7-9:
The International Sign Association wil be going online this year with ISA Sign Expo 2021 — Virtual, an event that will allow a broader segment of the industry to participate in the show. (signexpo.org/Virtual2021)
An extremely early look at possible trends.
Sign Builder Illustrated
EMC regulations. An interesting development in this field has been how markets for digital integration have had to course-correct. Keep in mind that while sign businesses remained essential during the pandemic, some segments of their customers might not have. You’ll learn over the following pages how content and messaging on these displays are being diversified and refocused. As resolutions get higher and prices get lower, it will be interesting not only to see if digital signage becomes more accepted by end-users but also at sign shops. Is this a product offering that has benefitted your shop? Or is it a technology you would like to implement in your services? Do regulations have you wary? Feel free to let me know your opinions here. As for another trend, unfortunately it doesn’t take a PhD in fortune telling to see that the pandemic will continue to be a factor over the coming months. It was just announced that April’s ISA International Sign Expo 2021 will instead now be a fully virtual event this year. (Note: See the “Agenda” section to the right, for more details.) But hopefully conversations about treatments and vaccines can lead to a more engaging Q3 and Q4.
JEFF WOOTEN Editor, email@example.com
JULY 2021 JULY 21-24:
The Mid-South Sign Association’s SignConnexion event will be occurring at the Ross Bridge Golf Resort in Birmingham, Alabama. (midsouthsign.org)
OCTOBER 2021 OCTOBER 6-8:
PRINTING United Alliance, which brings together the largest and most diverse audience in the printing industry, is scheduled to take place in Orlando, Florida. (printingunited.com)
The 2021 LightFair architectural and commercial lighting conference and tradeshow, which will be incorporating new safety protocols and specific mitigration measures, will be occurring at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, New York. (lightfair.com) Photo: SNA Displays.
eedless to say, the first couple of weeks of 2021 already feel like a full year mentally in itself, so I already feel like a bit of a hopeless wanderer trying to correctly predict what hot trends will develop over the next eleven months. (At this point last year, who really foresaw the effects of 2020?) A lot of attention is going to be focused on the development of the new BidenHarris administration and its effect on sign businesses (both positive and negative). A recent ISA Webinar forecasted pretty safe probabilities such as increased regulations, an upturn in OSHA activities, a focus on greener issues and products, addressing trade issues that affect the prices of steel and aluminum, and a push for youth development in the workforce development (which elicited an ironic, humorous observation from me, not a political judgment). More details here will be addressed starting next issue. I do think digital signage will be an interesting trend to watch in 2021. According to a Fortune Business Insights report, the digital signage global market size in 2018 was $19.7 billion (USD) with the North American market making up 42 percent of that figure. They predict an increase to a global tally of $35.9 billion by 2026 with North America seeing a big slice of this electronic pie. We have several articles on the digital signage front this month—interior enhancements, outdoor installations, and
IN THE INDUSTRY
NYC’s Moynihan Train Hall Re-opens with Dynamic
URCHASE, NEW YORK— Emerging as the new era of commuter travel in New York, the completely renovated Moynihan Train Hall opened for passengers in late December. The $1.6 billion project transformed the more-than-100-year-old James A. Farley Building into a worldclass transportation hub that increases the existing Penn Station rail complex’s concourse space by 50 percent. (Note: The 255,000-square-foot transit hub is part of a mixed-use development that crosses 8th Avenue into the historic James A. Farley Post Office Building.) Gone is the overcrowded, unremarkable experience of the past—today’s experience is bright, welcoming, spacious, 6
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and thoroughly innovative. The new train station, a tangible link to New York’s grand history, features a modern digital passenger experience courtesy of ANC, an experience design and execution company. Partnering with Empire State Development Corporation, ANC’s role as lead integrator in the project has created a dynamic digital media network aimed at improving passenger connectivity and comfort. ANC completed its work in two phases. Phase I featured deployment of more than 1,700 square feet of 4mm LED throughout the train hall. It includes digital screens in a range of sizes; LCD kiosks; and a unique trapezoid-shaped
display in the north entrance stairwell. Ceiling box screens alongside glass lighting fins in the east bay simulate the sky. The displays have live video capabilities and regularly feature important updates for passengers, along with New York-centric visuals to promote travel and create a more relaxing commuter environment. Phase II deployment integrated 150 assets including LCD and fine-pitch LED displays unique to national transit stations to ensure a variety of passenger information from multiple transit entities are easy to find. The physical build-out over two phases creates a digital experience unlike any other transit environment while ensuring passengers are immersed in a true signshop.com
All Photos: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr.
DIGITAL INTEGRATION NTEGRATION
RENO SIGN RESTORATIONS
The renovated Moynihan Train Hall includes a digital passenger experience.
ALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—YESCO, a one-hundred-year-old sign company in Salt Lake City, recently designed, fabricated, and installed nine historic neon signs along the historic West Fourth Street corridor in Reno’s Neon Line District. Reno’s Neon Line District is an urban, multi-year, mixed-use, master-planning effort in downtown Reno, Nevada. The centerpiece of the district is the half-mile-long installation of historic neon tribute signage combined with an LED-lit knee wall and monumental art sculptures. Eight of the nine signs on Reno’s Neon Line are tribute signs and were designed and fabricated to look like the originals in a tribute to Reno’s history. YESCO’s installation marks the end of phase two of Reno’s Neon Line as planned by Jacobs Entertainment. The third and final phase will be completed mid-2021. This neon sign project took YESCO more than 2,071 man-hours to complete. YESCO worked over 208 hours to install the tape lighting portion of the project. “It’s gratifying to know that our work will be viewed by visitors for years to come,” said YESCO Senior Vi ce Presi d e n t Jef f Yo u n g . (https://bit.ly/3rxdIwp)
TODAY’S EXPERIENCE [AT THE TRAIN STATION] IS BRIGHT, WELCOMING, SPACIOUS, AND THOROUGHLY INNOVATIVE. New York experience. The train station now features live video capability and real-time transit updates through its complete digital network. Additionally ANC’s content management system, LiveSync, combines information from three different transit providers (the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Long Island Rail Road, and Amtrak) to display complex train times and information for each transit authority across the digital network. ANC’s thoughtful procurement and placement of digital technology, along with the artful and elegant use of projection and lighting to mimic a skylit serenity, combine to create a sense of ease for passengers. signshop.com
“The completion of this gorgeous new train hall would be a special accomplishment at any time, but it’s an extraordinary accomplishment today because we’re at a place where no one ever envisioned being,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a speech at the grand reopening. “We built this as a statement of who we are and who we aspire to be. Is it grand? Yes. Is it bold? Yes, because that is the spirit of New York, and that is the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children, and to future generations. “As dark as 2020 has been, this new hall will bring the light, literally and figuratively, for everyone who visits this great city.” (https://bit.ly/2LpS6Bf) February 2021
Sign Builder Illustrated
IN THE INDUSTRY MACTAC HONORS K-9 HERO
STILL CREEK PRESS HITS THE HIGH NOTES AT THE OPERA
RAMPTON, ONTARIO—Vancouver-based full-service commercial print company Still Creek Press recently helped students from the University of British Colombia (UBC) in Canada stage and perform an opera virtually for audiences at home. The UBC Opera programme puts on shows for the local community each year, but these had to be put on hold in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with indoor entertainment venues in Vancouver forced to temporarily close. Not to be deterred by the restrictions on audience attendance, UBC Opera decided to stage a number of virtual events on November 30; students performed opera at the University’s venue, and the show was streamed live to audiences watching at home. Still Creek Press’s role was to produce floor graphics resembling a dirt road for the stage to help deliver the full opera experience. The production was filmed from several levels and views, meaning the graphics had to be visible and look realistic from all angles. Still Creek Press Wide-Format Manager Bruce Lee explains, “Essentially, we started with an empty stage. We were
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tasked with installing floor graphics that looked stunning and could be easily removed at the end of the performance. As stages are brightly lit, we also needed a material with a matte finish.” The company output graphics onto Drytac SpotOn Floor 200 film covering an area of 70-by-90 feet. Nine rolls of the Drytac film were required to complete the project, and the graphics were printed in four days/nights on a Roland SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640 large format device. Installation of the floor graphics required collaboration. “We weren’t the only crew there working on the stage, and this meant keeping our distance from other crews and equipment,” says Lee. “Once a section was completed, we had to switch sides with the other crew or wait until they were done with their part.” What would usually have taken a team of installers two days to install only took Still Creek Press five hours, which Lee credits to using Drytac SpotOn Floor 200. “It [was] super-easy to apply. We were able to get our part of the production done well before time, which meant those working around us had more time to finish their projects,” he says. “It looked great under the lighting!”
TOW, OHIO—Employees at the Mactac facilit y in Columbus, Indiana came together to honor and thank the heroes of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, which serves and protects the employees of Mactac’s Indiana location. After learning of the recent passing of Diesel, a K-9 deputy who was part of a life-saving traffic stop for Mactac employee Nikki Gibson, Mactac donated a large, painted por trait of K-9 Diesel to the Bartholomew County Sheriff ’s Office. Gibson, along with Columbus plant manager Ryan Smith and HR manager Carl Holt, presented the portrait to the Sheriff’s Office on December 18. The portrait was also featured in an honorary ceremony in which U.S. Representative Greg Pence presented the Congressional Record honoring K-9 Officer Diesel. Bartholomew County Deputy Matt Bush, Diesel’s partner, said, “I am blown away by the support that the community has given and that an encounter I had with a person made an impact. It shows that what we do matters.” Sheriff Matt Myers added, “The thoughtfulness and empathy of Bartholomew County residents like Nikki Gibson lifts us up every single day.” (https://bit.ly/3iez9On)
Together, we will get there.
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SIGN SHOW DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES EFI Launches a Significant Upgrade to its PrintSmith Vision MIS Software The new version 5 release of EFI™ PrintSmith™ Vision MIS software—part of the EFI Quick Print Suite business and production management tools—delivers optimized performance and enhanced flexibility for small commercial and quick print businesses. This is the first 100 percent HTML version of PrintSmith Vision, replacing legacy systems based on Adobe Flash technology. The new MIS offering can run as an EFI Cloud-managed solution to provide business owners with peace of mind knowing that business-critical customer information is secure, with maximum uptime and availability. Users benefit from a faster screen response. PrintSmith Vision 5 has been optimized for remote management and operation. New FastTrack HTML5 modules in the software give managers and operators the flexibility to manage key tasks on the go without the need for complex cross-training. PrintSmith Vision 5 also enables endto-end job tracking and automatic notifications to reduce or eliminate spending time finding job statuses and answering customer inquiries. efi.com
DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES INX International Enhances its Technical Services Offerings INX International Ink Co., has increased its all-encompassing slate of Technical Services that are available to commercial and package printing customers. This expansion bodes well for those looking to take advantage of training and education, improvement in pressroom productivity, and other significant measures. INX has knowledgeable ink experts who can help commercial and package printers navigate issues specifically related to ink. INX’s structured mindset focuses on increased efficiencies and throughput, waste reduction, quality improvements, and lower applied costs. This includes quality improvement processes and practices and troubleshooting support. INX also offers G7 Certification assistance. INX not only has certified IDEAlliance G7 experts on staff, but the allotment of resources available and approach in offering color management best practices sets INX apart from other ink manufacturers. inxinternational.com
PROMOTIONAL SIGNAGE Enter the New, Revolutionary Virtual Showroom from Showdown Displays Showdown Displays ®, a global leader in wide format, portable, lightweight, and temporary promotional signage and displays, has announced the creation and introduction of its exclusive, interactive virtual showroom. The brand-new Showdown Displays ® Virtual Showroom is an innovative virtual environment that provides an interactive and informative user experience. The showroom uses a Web-based platform, allowing it to be shared across multiple locations and geographies all while supporting an unlimited number of active users. In the current global environment, where travel and in-person events have become increasingly complicated, Showdown Displays proudly says that its Virtual Showroom enables its products to travel to their customers, as well as their customers’ customers. This exclusive solution provides a digital platform on which customers can present, educate, demonstrate, and inform their teams and their customers of the many-use cases and business solutions that are available for signage and displays. (888) 276-7469; showdowndisplays.com
Sign Builder Illustrated
SIGN SHOW DIGITAL SIGNS/EMC/VIDEO DISPLAYS
Improved Pixel Pitch for LG Transparent Color LED Film Digital Signage Display LAT140 Transparent Color LED Film digital signage display from LG Business Solutions USA elevates spaces with vivid, flexible signage that can turn virtually any window or glass surface into a canvas for content. First introduced as a 24mm pixel pitch model, the new 14mm version nearly quadruples the number of pixels in the same space and doubles the brightness, generating an incredibly vibrant viewing experience that attracts the attention of passersby while also displaying a variety of content options (ranging from bold text to head-turning animations and images). LG LAT140 Transparent Color LED film is self-adhesive, so it can be easily attached to surfaces of existing window glass. The size and layout of the film can also be customized to fit into the installation area. Expansion requires merely adding more film horizontally or vertically or cutting them to size in parallel with the bezel. lg-informationdisplay.com
Laser Research Optics Introduces New Economy CO2 Lenses Laser Research Optics, a company that manufactures factory direct replacement fiber laser and CO2 laser optics,, has announced the availability of a new line of lowcost CO2 laser lenses for low-power engraving and marking lasers. Laser Research Economy CO2 Engraving Lenses are 0.75-inch diameter with 2.00-inch focal lengths, which are drop-in field replacements offered in plain or mounted versions. These lenses are available from stock with overnight delivery for use in Epilog®, Trotec®, and Universal® Laser Systems. For applications requiring a strong coating to handle dirtier environments (such as acrylic cutting), Laser Research Economy CO2 Engraving Lenses are offered in a Premium Line with coatings to 10.6 microns. Besides the 2.00-inch focal length, the company says that other focal lengths will be introduced soon. laserresearch.net
LETTERS Gemini’s 2021 Catalog Suite Features a Refreshed Design and a Myriad of New Products Gemini, a family-owned company that manufactures dimensional letters, logos, plaques, and custom plastic sheet extrusion, has released their 2021 edition catalog with a dramatic new look, numerous product additions, and updated features for ease-of-use. Available in both print and enhanced digital formats, the 2021 edition catalog is segmented into three volumes by product category to provide improved navigation with faster and simplified solution finding. The three-volume catalog includes Letters & Logos, Plaques & Plates, and Illuminated Letters and Logos. Greater ease of use is a highlight of the new catalog, including access to simplified pricing tables and Gemini’s TrueQuote online quoting and ordering tool that provides ondemand wholesale pricing and order status tracking exclusively for Gemini partners. Digital catalog users can access ordering tools and technical product support directly via links from the catalogs themselves—making the 2021 catalog the most powerful and functional in the company’s fifty-plus-year history. The print catalog edition is available now. Registered Gemini partners were schedule to receive this version by the end of last year, while the new digital editions may be accessed through the company’s partner portal. geminisignage.com
Sign Builder Illustrated
SIGN SHOW AWNINGS & VINYL-COATED FABRICS
Fisher Textiles Introduces a Full Lineup of Home Furnishing Fabric Media
New FOME-COR Foam Boards Collection
Fisher Textiles, a leading supplier of fabrics for digital printing, introduces a n ew p r i n ta b l e fabric line that is i d e a l fo r i n te r i o r and exterior home décor. These durable fabrics are long lasting and suitable for soft textile applications including window treatments, table linens, and upholstery; wall art including canvas gallery wraps and wallpaper; and floor décor including rugs and mats. All are either 100 percent Polyester or Poly blends, stocked in a variety of textures and weights. Blankets-On-Demand (pictured), a subcategory of this fabric line, are perfect for promotional blankets and includes fully finished plush flannel and polar fleece blankets. The finishing is a self-edge folded/bordered edge with a twin needle coverseam. Finished sizes for sublimation printing are 30-by-40 inches, 50-by-60 inches, and 60-by-80 inches. Blankets-On-Demand are sold by the case and are also available in unfinished roll good form ranging from sixty-one to sixty-three inches wide. 800/554-8886; fishertextiles.com
Following its acquisition of the EnCore® Products and Elmer’s® foam boards division from Newell Brands, Inc., 3A Composites USA has announced its newly integrated FOME-COR ® Collection. This collection offers a variety of products with premium, bright-white, double clay-coated facers that are ideal for screen printing and direct digital printing applications, as well as products with high-quality, uncoated facers that provide flat, smooth surfaces for mounting graphics in framing applications. The FOME-COR Collection includes: FOME-COR – The Original Graphic Arts Foam Board (uniquely embossable to create 3-D effects in displays), FOME-COR WITH ENCORE TECHNOLOGY, FOME-COR SINGLESTEP® (eliminates the need for hot melt tissue stock in the mounting process), FOME-COR JETMOUNT (ideal for freesta n d i n g d i splays, signage, and framing), and FOME-COR QUICKSTIK (eliminates the need for pressure-sensitive adhesive stock). 3acompositesUSA. com/display
WHOLESALE SIGNS & GRAPHICS "Save Time and Worry Less" with Mimaki USA's New Customer Focused Program Mimaki USA, a leading provider of wide format inkjet printers and cutters, is proud to announce the launch of Print On - Select, a new customer focused program made possible by the company’s partnership with North Star Leasing Company. Large format printers across the nation are as specialized as the businesses that purchase them. Whether they have a small t-shirt business in their home or a large fleet graphic business in a warehouse, purchasing a large format printer is one of the biggest and most time-consuming investments that is made. Consumers routinely ask for faster, easier ways to make purchases of large and small products alike. The sign and graphics industry is no different, and Mimaki USA believes that, by simplifying the purchasing process, Print On - Select provides a less complicated process that will save them time and money—time and money that is better served reinvested into their business. Today's consumer readily utilizes the Internet to make purchasing decisions. Self-education and low-pressure purchases are expected. Print On – Select customers will find this buying experience very familiar as they will initiate the purchase through Mimaki’s Web site (shopping at their own pace and purchasing when ready). All Print On – Select packages include one Mimaki printer, a monthly allotment of ink (ink type and quantity specific to the package chosen), five years of Mimaki Signature Warranties (one-year Total Care and four years Parts Plus), and a five-year fixed cost of ownership with one simple payment. The process is as easy as saying “1-2-3!” Select a printer, select an ink option, and click “Apply Now.” www.Mimakiusa.com/print-on
Sign Builder Illustrated
HELPING YOUR SHOP
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 (signshop. com), newsletters, Buyer’s Guide, and digital edition keep you updated with timely news, recent projects, and upcoming industry events.
Sign Builder Illustrated
ENGRAVING BYBY REGULATIONS ASHLEY DAVIDBRAY HICKEY
Under the Radar
hile much of the world stopped in 2020, one thing did not: sign code updates. In some cases, while everyone was distracted and businesses were struggling to survive, sign code changes occurred under the radar, which has led to some troublesome results. Some of these communities are finally responding to the five-year-old Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert. This court ruling required virtually every municipality in the United States to explore whether their sign codes were compliant with this landmark court ruling, which prohibits distinctions based on speech. Often as they dig into this issue, they look at a few other things while they’re “under the hood.” And sometimes, without expert in-
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put, they come up with some pretty crazy ideas. That’s why it is so important that ISA (or one of our Affiliates) be involved, to ensure that our industry’s voices are heard—and so are our end users. One example are the significant restrictions on sign location, among other things, proposed by the South Salt Lake, Utah planning commission. The commission has developed these changes without seeking input from the sign and graphics industry or the local business community. International Sign Assocation member company YESCO, a one hundredyear-old sign company based in Salt Lake City, found out about the proposed changes and reached out to our association for help. In a coordinated effort, while ISA’s
advocacy team explored the proposal and pointed out deficiencies in the proposal to city planners, YESCO reached out to business owners to make them aware of the situation. YESCO provided 300 signatures from businesses that opposed the proposed changes in just a few days. That was enough to sway the commission, which tabled code changes until it could get more input; as a result, this gave ISA a chance to further analyze their proposed revisions to offer more reasonable solutions. There are legitimate reasons that the city needed to tweak its existing sign code, which hadn’t been updated for eighteen years. It also needed to conform to recent changes in state law. But it’s important that we have a seat at the table before or as these discussignshop.com
Photo (Salt Lake City): Shutterstock/ f11photo.
Sign code changes can sometimes happen without notice.
sions are occurring. Through the years, ISA has worked with hundreds of local communities. We understand the current trends and can educate planners and other local officials on what’s possible.
and that they provide a tremendous boost to their local businesses, they’re more receptive to crafting more business-friendly codes and regulations. And yet, sometimes, something like Utah will slip through the cracks. That’s
BY DAVID HICKEY
can work with local officials and local member sign companies to make sure that regulators understand the importance of signs and graphics to the businesses that operate there. To help this process, please share any
ISA HAS WORKED WITH HUNDREDS OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES. WE UNDERSTAND THE CURRENT TRENDS AND CAN EDUCATE PLANNERS AND OTHER LOCAL OFFICIALS ON WHAT’S POSSIBLE. For instance, many communities want to outright ban electronic message centers without fully understanding their capabilities—and their economic impact. As we help them understand that these signs are dimmable, for instance,
where we need you to be our—and our industry’s—eyes and ears on the ground. If you know of a local community that is considering revising its sign code, or in the midst of working on it (or even just needs to improve it), please immediately contact ISA, so that our Advocacy team
sign code revisions you’re aware that are happening in your community with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. David Hickey is the vice president of Government Affairs at the International Sign Association (ISA).
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FEATURESIGNAGE DIGITAL NAME BY JEFF AUTHOR WOOTEN
A GRAND TOUR OF
he city of Springfield, Illinois is not only the state capital of Illinois but is also home to destinations and attractions related to the most famous resident of this city in its history—sites like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, to name a few related to our nation’s sixteenth president. But did you know that the city is also home to the Illinois State museum? Or how about a couple of amusement parks, as well as semi-pro hockey and football teams? Or how about the History Comes Alive season, several prominent Route 66 destinations, historic-based walking tours, and area winery/brewery trails? The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (SCVB) is an important component in being able to get the word out to 16
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tourists and residents alike about these aforementioned attractions—promoting destinations and special events as well as even getting the word out about area businesses and restaurants. In fact, the SCVB recently relocated to a brand-new Visitors Center complete with a dynamic interior digital display enhancing its environment and promoting area attractions. Renovating the Visitor Experience For years, the SCVB had been operating out of a shared administrative-type office. At this non-descript location, people would drop by and simply pick up information about tourism opportunities and events going on in the city. But nearly two years ago, the SCVB decided it was time to gain more exposure about the goings-on in the area and decided to open a new, immersive, stand-
alone Visitors Center that would be more welcoming and more audience-friendly. The new SCVB Visitors Center is located in the completely renovated Lincoln-Herndon Law Office. This building stands across the street from the Old State Capitol and is famously known as the place where President Abraham Lincoln actually practiced law 170 years ago. However, at the onset of this relocation project, the building was in serious need of repair and refurbishment in order to welcome locals and tourists as a Visitors Center. Accomplishing this involved a pretty thorough effort on the part of the SCVB and their hired construction crews. “We pretty much did a 0-to-100 gutand-remodel inside this historic location, just to be able to get it up-to-date and accessible for visitors,” says Jeff Berg, tourism manager for the SCVB. signshop.com
All Photos: Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The story of Springfield is enhanced thanks to a new LED display.
However the SCVB knew that it was going to require more than just an internal renovation of the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office building in order to draw and keep visitors inside. They wanted to use the new venue to provide a fully immersive visual experience of the area that would motivate tourists to extend their stay in the city. The gutted-out-and-rebuilt location now features comfortable seating, convenient access to brochures, and various travel experts able to provide guidance. And it’s a very bright, very festive atmosphere inside. Wall graphics featuring a bevy of Springfield-related persons of interest, activities, and destinations, as well wall-mounted, LED-edge lit frame posters for attractions and events, adorn the lobby. And, as mentioned earlier, the capping crown jewel is mounted prominently to one of the lobby walls—a complementary, full-color, 4-by-10-foot 3mm Watchfire Signs digital message center that displays tourism videos, frequently changing event messages, and vital information. Bringing on a Sign Company The SCVB brought onboard Ace Sign Company, also based out of Springfield, to make this immersive environmental graphics experience a reality. Ace Sign Company is a full-service, family-owned and family-operated manufacturer and graphics company that produces and installs lots of work in the state of Illinois, as well as ships signage across the nation (and even internationally for some franchises in need). They are currently celebrating their eightieth anniversary in business, and today, they have a team of about sixty-five employees at their facility. The City of Springfield had hired Ace Sign Company for a lot of prior signage work in the area, so they were an easy choice to complete this transformative project for the SCVB Visitors Center. “We handled building, printing, and installing the wall coverings, the lighted poster frames, and the wayfinding signage,” says Scott Bringuet, chief experience officer of Ace Sign Company (as well as a fourth-generation family member). “We also conceptualized the signshop.com
Watchfire indoor display and incorporated it into the graphics during the early discussion phase.” Ace Sign Company had quite an advantage in being able to specify a digital display to work for this project, as the company has actually been a Watchfire dealer for as long as the LED manufacturer has been in business (stretching back to having a relationship with the company when they were producing Time-O-Matic monochromatic timeand-temperature message boards). Bringuet recognized that digital signage would be a great way for the SCVB to promote various tourism destinations while attracting people to the new Visitors Center. “[The SCVB] wanted to use it in a more impactful way than a traditional display,” says Bringuet, noting that size and brightness played a role in the type of unit finally selected. “There is a lot of sunlight that shines into the Visitors Center lobby, so it was important that the display be fully visible at all times.” The sign company showed Berg and other SCVB officials a sample of the LED display that they had in mind and demonstrated to them how it could easily display video, photos, and messages. “At first, we were considering a large LCD, but as soon as I saw how beautiful the images looked on the display that [Bringuet] showed us and how easy it was to program, I knew this is what we wanted,” says Berg, noting that another benefit was that they could divide the sign screen up into content zones. Bringuet says that while outdoor LED displays have long proven to be a “powerhouse” for his company, he has noticed an increase in interior installations as more manufacturers adapt their display offerings to offer indoor-attractive technology. He cites the SCVB Visitors Center as another example of this mindset. Setting Up the Display The main lobby of the Visitors Center is a 120-by-50-foot room with wood floors and very old construction. Since the SCVB Visitors Center is located in a historical building that the tourism organization leases from the Department of Natural Resources, there were some
regulations they had to follow on their end when it came to the restoration of a historic building. Fortunately there were no restrictions regarding to use of a digital sign on the premises since it was going to be inside, and Ace Sign Company had a lot of flexibility on their end. “The Visitors Center is in the heart of historic downtown Springfield, but we were able to integrate the new technology into that space with all its history,” says Bringuet. The biggest challenge for Ace Sign Company was working around construction personnel painting walls and moving in furniture. Installation was handled over two separate phases and took place shortly before the opening of the new Visitors Center. The wall graphics were installed first, and this was followed shortly thereafter by the digital display (which was built by Watchfire and shipped to Ace Sign Company, all during a six-week period). “Basically we first printed a four-foottall band of wall coverings on self-adhesive fabric and applied them around the entire space,” says Bringuet. “Then we overlaid the LED-backlit poster frames over them on one wall. “Then, once the display arrived shortly thereafter, we mounted it directly on top of the graphic band on the other wall, with wiring and power supplies located behind it.” Getting the Information Out There Not only is the four-by-ten-foot display easily viewed inside the Visitors Center, but it can also be seen from the street outside—and it has captured the attention of the general public, local residents, and the SCVB’s hospitality partners. “Whether you’re walking by or driving by, you can see that the display really ‘pops!’” says Berg. “It announces our presence on the block, and I consider this a big win!” Content featured on the Watchfire digital sign is updated regularly so as to remain current. “We were really attracted to digital sign technology because it allowed us to program content for it only, as well as lets us be able to upload any changes quickly,” says Berg.
Sign Builder Illustrated
The interior of the SCVB Visitors Center creates an immersive experience about the area and includes a digital sign, vinyl wall graphics, and LED-backlit poster frames.
Ace Sign Company’s IT department, with some help from Watchfire Signs, trained Berg on how to generate and program content for the digital display. The SCVB initially worked with an advertising agency to create and upload content, but Berg has since smoothly taken over the process so that content generation and scheduling is now done in-house. “I will be the first to admit that, although I am probably not pushing the technical boundaries with it that I could be, I do now have someone onsite assisting me with this,” he says, “and we are increasing its content.” The SCVB currently runs a standard video about Springfield on the display, as well as an overview of upcoming special events. They also use content to promote other venues or businesses that visitors might not have thought about when making the decision to visit the city. Certain content runs during normal Visitors Center hours until five o’clock, while different looping messages and greetings take over until eight o’clock at night before shutting off. “We found that visitors really enjoy sitting down and watching the display loop through the photos, videos, and messages that we’ve programmed for it,” 18
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said Berg. “The digital sign really brings the Springfield story to life.” The new Visitors Center found itself on track to serve 15,000 to 20,000 visitors during its first year open (in 2019), a 700 percent increase from previous years. However last year brought new challenges—in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic. This hasn’t stopped the Visitors Center from being able to effectively use their digital sign. Berg says that featured content turned away from tourist-driven and instead toward situation-driven. “During the early phases of the pandemic, we were still closed, so our messaging was a caring message about the community and promoting that travel awaits,” says Berg. “That really made a lot of people give feedback to us.” And while sites and attractions opened back up last summer, they closed again this past holiday season due to state orders. Restaurants in the area also had to discontinue indoor seating. However the SCVB was still able to use the digital display to get the word out about these actions. Visitors, locals, and other government officials all appreciated the messaging programmed on the digital sign that pro-
A close-up view of one of the illuminated poster frames mounted in the lobby.
vided information about where restaurants and businesses stood in operation at the time and displayed holiday greetings that proved encouraging. Meanwhile Berg has plans to optimize every capability of the digital sign in the future (particularly when tourism gets back up and running), including posting social media comments and live streaming via Facebook Live from area events. For sign shops, this is another such example of how they can get involved offering digital displays (particularly when it comes to complementing said technology with elements like vinyl graphics). This Visitors Center environmental graphics project proved successful because of the integration of technology, having the right players aligned in terms of marketing and IT, and then having the SCVB streamline the process. “There was a great alignment of manufacturer, marketing, and the tourism department,” says Bringuet. “I was always a huge fan of our wallmounted digital display, although it was one of the higher price points in our remodel budget,” says Berg. “It was just something that really expresses emotion better than some other solutions that might have been cheaper.” signshop.com
Tubelite Enterprises and Denco Merge to Create National Distributor Tubelite and Denco Sales, two super regional leaders in the wholesale distribution of equipment and supplies used by visual communications providers (sign manufacturers, digital and screen printers, vehicle wrap companies, and the window film industry) have announced their strategic merger to create a national supplier to the U.S. sign market. As the sign industry continues to consolidate, both family-owned companies are excited to join together to create a national footprint that builds on the strengths they provide to their customers. Denco Sales was founded in 1953 and currently operates eight
locations in the western United States, with branches in Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon plus three locations in California; Tubelite was founded in 1925 and currently operates ten locations in eight states including Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, and Arizona. Greg McCarter, president of Tubelite, and Ken Von Wald, president of Denco, have regularly talked about how strong the organization would be if they brought their east coast and west coast businesses together, and they are excited about being able to do this now.
Their respective leadership teams will be active and continue to be engaged in running the merged company. The combined company will be uniquely positioned to provide superior customer service and broaden the channels and customers it serves through increased scale, expanded product offerings, and employment of digital initiatives. “We believe that together we have the most knowledgeable teams in our industry and will be able to provide the customer service that our customers crave,” said McCarter. For more information, visit dencosales.com and tubelite.com. —Press Release
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FEATURE GRAPHICS VEHICLE NAME BY ASHLEY AUTHORBRAY
ased in Mesa, Arizona, 2CT Media, LLC was started in 2009 by Christopher DeRamos Sr., and his sons, Christian and Tyler. The “2CT” stands for “two Chris’ and a Tyler.” Although Christopher Sr., passed away in 2015, his sons continue to carry on the family business. The company now has nine full-time employees, plus a network of independent contractors and installers around the country. Its primary focus is de-
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veloping high-quality solutions to help clients maximize their brand impact through experience center décor, customized compliance signage, interior/ exterior signage, and more. But fleet graphics are where 2CT Media really shines. The company prides itself on providing fleet branding with minimal disruption to the client’s operations. This requires working to understand and align with the client’s fleet and employee
A sign company finds success designing and installing fleet graphics. scheduling to deploy branding in a way that maximizes uptime. One client 2CT Media has been frequently working with since May 2019 is Yellowstone Landscaping. One of the fastest growing commercial landscaping firms, the company has forty-two branches in ten states and headquarters in Bunnell, Florida. Yellowstone Landscaping’s fleet includes 3,200 vehicles ranging from small cars, pickup trucks, and utility vans to box signshop.com
All Photos: Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
To date, 2CT Media has wrapped more than 600 vehicles for Yellowstone Landscaping.
trucks, large tree trucks, water trucks, dump trucks, arbor trucks, and cranes. Part of Yellowstone Landscaping’s growth comes from frequent acquisitions, so it relies on 2CT Media to handle converting fleet assets of any acquired companies to match its brand standards. To date, 2CT Media has handled branding for more than 600 of Yellowstone Landscaping’s vehicles. “This is a source of pride for our team,” says Christian DeRamos, foundsignshop.com
ing partner, managing member, 2CT Media, in a press release. “We now aid in all of their fleet conversions and all of their new vehicle purchases. We continuously work with them to streamline their brand image, standardizing their vehicle prints to limit iterations.” Jobs forYellowstone Landscaping range from one truck (which can be turned around in a few days) to the largest project so far consisting of 221 vehicles. “Our 221-vehicle project took twentyfive working days from quote approval to final install, ten days of production, and six working days of removal and installation in two sessions (five days for the bulk, one day for stragglers two weeks later),” says DeRamos. Normal projects typically average around thirty-five vehicles at a time, which takes about thirty to forty-five days to complete. “Our process typically starts with walking their fleet, building a fleet list, and quoting the project. Most of the time, this can happen in one trip, other times multiple. From initial walk to quote approval and scheduling, it’s typically about fourteen days,” explains DeRamos. “From that point, depending on the size of the fleet, production ranges from three to fourteen days; we have standardized their graphics so production is expedited. “Installation and removal are actually pretty rapid with our teams, the average being three to five days (depending on vehicle availability).” Due to Yellowstone Landscaping’s frequent acquisitions, 2CT Media often has to rebrand vehicles with out-of-thenorm graphics that include aspects like unusual base colors. “Because we always start with a fleet walk and list building event, we document everything and part of our quoting process is discussing the logistics and fine-tuning the artwork,” says DeRamos. “We have standardized their designs and layouts so rapidly making changes to color schemes is rather easy for us.” When it comes to designing fleet graphics for Yellowstone Landscape, DeRamos says creating a unified customer experience is paramount.
“Their vehicles are designed to bring focus to who they are and a simple ‘what they do’ statement. They don’t even use a contact method because they know the prevalence of Internet searching,” says DeRamos. When designing fleet graphics of any kind, DeRamos says simple, maximum impact is key. “We subscribe to the idea that fleet graphics serve one purpose: identification and exposure,” he says. “Focus on your brand exposure number one, limit the visual confusion of excessive elements and words, and only use imagery to accent or highlight your message while avoiding actual photographs. Use bold colors that complement each other but still offer significant contrast so that it can pass the black-and-white or squint test. “Remember vehicle graphics are to be designed to be viewed in motion at high speeds, and you generally only have five to seven seconds to get your message across. If you design your graphics to be viewed in a parking lot, you will miss 90 percent of your potential exposure!” DeRamos advises that it’s also good practice to set expectations at the start of a job. “Gathering accurate information, setting up expectations internally and with the client, and developing/executing a sound logistics plan—these three things will define failure or success in any project. Close behind is having a trust factor between our company and our clients; this can lead to issues and unintended hindrances,” he says. “Remember vehicle graphics are revenue generators. Knowing your client’s ROI versus cost and life is a good aid in setting expectations.” Expectations, especially of budget and performance, also play a role in planning and executing the installations, along with material and vehicle surface considerations. “Look for a solution that can exceed your client’s expected lifespan by 50 percent or spend time educating and setting realistic expectations for your clients,” says DeRamos. Durability and lifespan for graphics is
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The wraps on Yellowstone Landscaping’s vehicles bring focus to who they are and a simple “what they do” statement.
a bit more complicated for Yellowstone Landcaping’s fleet since its vehicles span across ten states and face a variety of
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harsh environments. “Testing, experience, and a strong relationship with our suppliers and
manufacturers are key to making the right choices for us. We heavily rely on our manufacturing partners like Avery Dennison for their recommendations. Leaning heavily on their advice and experience is a clear recipe for success,” explains DeRamos, who says 2CT Media frequently uses Avery Dennison MPI 2105 Easy Apply RS film paired with the DOL 1060Z overlaminate for its durability and ease of install. DeRamos also provides a variety of helpful techniques for installing fleet graphics. He says: • The biggest thing that helped us is to design the graphics with as many aids in mind as to reduce time on the vehicle. • If your cut graphics have a lot of curves, add level lines or bodyline marks. • If you are doing full wraps, break your panels in such a way that your team can rapidly line up to bodylines repeatedly. • If you have text in your graphic’s crossing panels, don’t be afraid to use them as overlays.
By KENAN HANHAN
Profile 11 faux neon letters.
THE FORM OF
LED letters Photo: Albrecht Sign Company (Fridley, MN).
Explaining European LED-illuminated sign spec for North America.
he rapid advancement of LEDillumination technology over the course of the past two decades has allowed for incredible innovation within the signage industry, especially in Europe. From LED-illuminated letterforms milled from translucent cast block acrylic to trim-less fabricated aluminum letters that have seamless “infinity” edges (face flush to returns), designers love the opportunity these technologies offer to stretch the possibilities of typographic and experiential graphic design intent.
And in the post-COVID world, where e-commerce, online banking, and workfrom-home practices are trending everywhere, it is all the more important than in any time in history for brick-and-mortar retail stores, banks, and branded office environments to offer more than just a place to transact but rather pivot to additionally offer an intimate environment to experience. This is why many retailers are going more and more toward small pop-up retail store concepts that precisely offer that intimate experience.
Leveraging the latest in low-profile, trim-less, LED-illuminated signage that looks like jewelry when viewed close up is a big part of that placemaking trend. Yet when we look at the European technology platforms that lead innovation in this space, the landscape can be very daunting to understand. That’s because European illuminated signage technologies that are now increasingly being called out within signage design standards are based upon German nomenclature that can be very confusing. For example, how does one differenti-
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ate a Profile 5S face-lit letterform (fabricated aluminum letter without trim), from Profile 5 (fabricated aluminum letter with trim), Profile 8 (fabricated acrylic letter), or Profile 11 (cast block acrylic with embedded LEDs)? The following summary will describe the most common European LEDilluminated signage standards of which North American designers and fabricators should be aware. Profile 3: Halo-lit Fabricated Aluminum or Stainless Steel Letterform. Profile 3 is simply a halo-illuminated letterform that is fabricated from a thick-gauge stainless steel or aluminum. LEDs should be pointed toward the inside of the face for the best halo effect, avoiding the reflection of diodes on the mounting surface. Common configurations include traditional halo-lit with stand-offs or flushmounted to the mounting surface with a partial side-lit return toward the back of the letter. Profile 5: Trim-capped Aluminum Channel Letters. Designers don’t like trim that serves the functional purpose to attach the face of the sign to the returns, while covering up any potential illumination leakage points. These days, there are plenty of trim-less fabrication alternatives
that eliminate the need for unsightly trim. That said, this is still the most common letter form in the world. European trim cap has an “F” profile for improved form versus American “P” profiled trim cap. Profile 5S: Trim-less Aluminum Channel Letters. This is a great letter form for achieving a trim-less, clean-designed look that balances economy with design intent. Fabricators often “step route” the acrylic face with edges that extend beyond the aluminum “can” to prevent light leakage in colder climates (in particular, where the acrylic face and aluminum returns expand and contract at different rates). But European technology, when properly applied, avoids the need for this trade-off so returns are truly flush to the face. For outdoor applications, weep holes vent light toward the back of the letter, hiding weep holes during the day and preventing light leakage at night. Profile 8: Combination Face- and Halo-Lit Fabricated Acrylic Letterform. Profile 8 fabricated acrylic letters with face and returns made of translucent acrylic are a great economic solution for maximum radiance at an economic price point. Designed for longer viewing distances,
Profile 8 is probably the most common commercial signage standard for big box retail stores in Europe and is increasingly becoming more common in North America for retail storefront signage applications in airports and shopping malls in particular. Make sure cast acrylic is used rather than extruded acrylic, in order to optimize light diffusion quality. An overlay of translucent vinyl in a variety of color palettes (or printed vinyl for an exact PANTONE® match) can result in a stunning look. Profile 11: Cast Block Acrylic Letterform with Individually Embedded LEDs. For precision illumination in premium branded environments, signs are often viewed up close. In that context, there is nothing that beats the “Cadillac” European letterform, Profile 11, milled from translucent cast block acrylic with individually embedded and resin-sealed LEDs. While Profile 11 is often the highest price point signage solution, there is no other technology that can convey precision and high quality when viewed up close for letters less than three inches tall. These letters are practically like jewelry. This is also one of the most versatile LED-illuminated letterforms, with multiple lighting configurations (face-, halo-,
Photo (R7 Lofts): Imaginality Designs (Golden Valley, MN).
Profile 5s trim-less aluminum channel letters.
An example of Profile 5 trim-capped aluminum channel letters. 24
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side-lit, and partial side-lit configurations or any of these combinations). In addition, Profile 11 (if manufactured by a reputable wholesale letter manufacturer) should be IP 68 watersubmersible. Finally, because this letterform is completely sealed with the highest quality LEDs to properly manage heat diffusion, it is low maintenance. There is no static electricity-generated dust and debris that can enter the letterform, making it completely maintenance-free. Additionally why do designers love this letterform? Because with face-lit letter strokes and serifs as narrow as only 1mm wide, face-lit letter heights down to 1-inch, face-lit depths down to 20mm (just over 1/2-inch), and halo-lit depths down to 10mm deep (just over 1/4-inch), this letterform simply stretches the possibilities of design. The Profile 11 letterform platform includes faux neon, which is trending in a big way in North America, for good rea-
Profile 3 halo-lit fabricated aluminum or stainless steel letterform.
Profile 8 combination face- and halo-lit fabricated acrylic letterform.
son. The reasons are simple: Five to ten times lower power consumption versus legacy neon; environmentally friendly: and no noxious gases released into the environment during the production process or in the field. There is minimal maintenance: virtually no breakage and lower maintenance because faux neon letterforms are completely sealed (as mentioned earlier, IP 68 water submersible), which means that water, dust, and debris cannot penetrate faux neon elements.
And last but certainly not the least, faux neon simply presents a cleaner, crisper look that designers and brand owners love. That is why American institutions like Krispy Kreme (“Hot Signage Now,” December 2020), DePaul University, Westmoreland Casino, and the Solhem Group of Companies are moving to faux neon. Kenan Hanhan, MBA, is the co-founder and president of Provis Graphic, LLC (ProvisGraphic.com), a company with U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Sign Builder Illustrated
FEATURE NAME INSTALLATION BY JEFF AUTHOR WOOTEN
MARQUEE ATTRACTION T
he Embassy Theatre has been a mainstay in the downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana cityscape ever since its opening back in 1928. It has transitioned from an old-time movie palace to a live performance arts center. Seventeen years ago, the venue received a marquee overhaul/upgrade to celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary with the switch out from a classic letter board to a full-color digital sign. However, a few months ago, technical issues started plaguing the operation of 26
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this key communication tool for the Embassy Theatre. The tri-faced electronic signage was malfunctioning on a regular basis, with one side eventually stopping to work completely. This was proving a problem as a 2020 traffic study conducted in the area found that 450,000 vehicles pass by the Embassy Theatre building every month. Owners knew it was time for an upgrade (especially as digital solutions have since evolved and improved). This past December, The Baldus Com-
pany installed a new and improved, threesided 50-by-4-foot marquee electronic message center for the Embassy Theatre. This 6mm Watchfire Signs display plays host to a program of highest resolution, polished messaging and has added to the further beautification of this long-time downtown structure. The Baldus Company also happens to be located in Fort Wayne and is well aware of the historical significance of the Embassy Theatre, as they have also been a notable fixture themselves in the downsignshop.com
Photos: The Baldus Company.
A state-of-the-art retrofit for a classic theatre.
town area for seventy-one years now. Owned and operated today by brothers George and Hugh Baldus, The Baldus Company has long designed and produced displays, graphics, and signage systems (“Moving to Higher Ground,” December 2013). They have also been constantly growing and adapting to meet the needs of the evolving marketplace— including bringing onboard digital sign projects for several years now. The Baldus Company has worked exclusively with Watchfire Signs since 2005, installing 223 Watchfire electronic message center displays over this time. “We have gained a great understanding of the value of ‘real-time media at the curb,’” explains Hugh. “The right type of company/organization, enough drive-by traffic, and a willingness to invest in advertising add up to increased foot traffic and/or awareness for our clients. That effect justifies the investment in an EMC and often more than pays for it. “We have also retrofitted dozens of EMCs to broadband wireless to overcome the shortcomings of radio communication and allow multiple users to manage content from any location.” According to Hugh, the “ancient” digital sign unit that the Embassy Theatre was using was suffering almost constant outages. “This led to frustration and embarrassment about how their marquee looked,” he says. Another negative was that the resolution of the previous marquee sign was very low; its 35mm pitch was leading to poor reproduction of the visuals that they were trying to present on it. Also it had approximately 15,000 pixels, while the new Watchfire 6mm sign features over 442,000 pixels. “The new sign’s brightness and resolution is absolutely astounding,” says Hugh. The Baldus Company exercised extra care and concern when it came to the transport of the new three-face display from Watchfire in Danville, Illinois to their facility in downtown Fort Wayne to the jobsite nearby. “We used a crane to handle the cabinets during each move,” says Hugh. “We also carefully calculated the angles from face-to-face for the three sections of the sign so that it fit perfectly signshop.com
into this almost-century-old marquee. Watchfire manufactured the cabinets to match those two angles to assure a precision fit.” The Baldus Company worked with the City of Fort Wayne to manage both street and sidewalk traffic on this busy downtown corridor. “Because of rush hour conditions, we were limited to working hours from 9:00am to 3:00pm,” says Hugh. Installation of the new Watchfire digital display combined the use of a telehandler, a scissor lift, a bucket truck, and (to dislodge and remove the existing sign from the marquee structure) a crane. “Each piece was repositioned as we installed each of the three faces, starting at the center,” says Hugh. Manpower was used on both the front and back of the then-existing sign to systematically remove fasteners, strap the sign to a telehandler, and then safely lower it to the ground. “To maximize safety, we also tethered the sign to the crane as a backup to the telehandler,” says Hugh, noting that they responsibly recycled the old sign at a local facility. Since the Watchfire sign cabinets feature a sturdy continuous bolt rail around the perimeter, this allowed Baldus Company installers to be flexible given differing jobsite conditions and securely mechanically affix the sign to the substructure where available (as opposed to welded connections). “There was sufficient steel structure within the sign to install the sign with stainless steel bolts to the steel beams within the opening in the marquee,” says Hugh. “Because we had specified a custom cabinet size relative to the face size of the display and the available opening, there was very little need to trim panels post installation.” To cover the cost of implementing this new visual communication system, Robert and Pamela Bechert generously donated to the project. (Note: Embassy Theatre officials are still seeking additional donations to cover all costs.) A dedication ceremony recognizing the generosity of the Bechert family and other donors, as well as all those who worked on the project, was held inside
the historic facility in early January and was covered by several local television stations and newspapers and even attended by the mayor of Fort Wayne. “[Everyone] proceeded to watch the three blank screens come to life with dynamic promotional messaging, controlled by a laptop using Cloud-based software and a broadband connection to communicate with the sign,” says Hugh. Content being featured on the new marquee display includes upcoming events, community support, promotion of selected charities, and information about COVID-related safety measures. “Fort Wayne’s downtown is on a twodecade winning streak, as efforts to improve and grow the heart of our city are bearing fruit,” says Hugh. “We cherish our role in these revitalization efforts, especially for such a landmark institution. Through our partnership with the Embassy Theatre and Watchfire Signs, over 8,000,000 people a year will see the digital marquee, be informed, and be invited to enjoy their activities. “As COVID-19 limitations are lifted, the Embassy Theatre is poised for the future, in no small part due to the latest in sign technology.”
The Baldus Company readies to remove the old digital sign from the marquee.
Sign Builder Illustrated
FEATURE SIGN SHOP NAME BY ROGER AUTHORWHITTLE
FORTY YEARS STRONG ince its founding in 1980, Persona, Inc., has grown into one of the largest and most-respected sign companies in the United States. As the business wrapped up its fortieth anniversary last year, it found itself as the nation’s top producer of signs for the hospitality and restaurant industries and fourth-largest overall. Wherever you travel in the United States, you will undoubtedly see a sign manufactured by Persona. “We’re proud to be one of the top sign companies in the country,” said Mike Peterson, president of Persona, “but it doesn’t just happen. It is the result of hard work by our professional, dedicated staff and our entire team constantly focusing on the needs of the customer. “Every person at Persona is committed to serving our customers, and our success in doing so is what earned us our
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place as a top sign manufacturer.” Persona annually performs around 8,000 new sign installations each year. When Dennis Holien founded the company, he chose the name “Persona” to stress the importance of people and their impact on a company—namely the employees and customers of Persona. He wanted his company to be the standard for excellence in customer and employee experience. It was his goal that customers enjoy the highest levels of service, quality, and value resulting in long-standing relationships. And he saw Persona’s employees flourishing in an environment of respect, collaboration, and opportunity. The result is an organization that is growing, profitable, and enduring. The Origins of Persona Persona began in 1980 with a single
site in west Watertown, South Dakota near the Watertown Regional Airport. Its first expansion came in 1994 when it opened a facility in Madison, South Dakota, specially equipped for channel letter production. Then, early in 2001, Persona opened a second production facility in Watertown, known as Persona West. The 27,277-square-foot plant operates as a face-decoration and distortion-form screening facility. In 2004, Persona Madison outgrew that original building and moved into the current 80,000-square-foot plant with updated machinery and a larger production team. Persona established a lighting division in 2012 to supply customers with “green responsible,” energy-efficient LED lighting solutions for parking lots and safety. Five years later, Persona also opened an signshop.com
All Photos: Persona, Inc.
Persona, Inc., experiences a fortieth year like no other.
office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to house the growing lighting division. Reimaging Campaigns Provide Big Boost Persona launched nationwide reimaging campaigns in the early 2000s for brands like Marriott, Choice, and Wyndham. Companies often update or refresh their brand’s image, including new logos. That requires new signage across the company. Persona continues to produce thousands of signs each year for the U.S. hospitality market. In 2010, Persona earned designation as an approved supplier for the McDonald’s Corporation. Persona expanded its expertise in signage and drive-thru components specific to the industry and continues to increase the number of its Quick Serve Restaurants and fast-casual corporate and individual franchisee customers each year. Persona is one of just two authorized manufacturers of McDonald’s famed Golden Arches—one of the world’s most recognizable symbols—that adorn more than 14,000 restaurants in the United States. In 2014, always striving to be the technological leader in the industry, Persona invested in state-of-the-art digital print capabilities to offer customers the highest image quality in seamless sign faces. The company has continued to upgrade its printing capabilities with the latest technology. Persona now has four high-tech printers that can seamlessly and quickly produce huge sign faces up to sixteen feet wide, reducing costs and production time. Today, in addition to hotels and restaurants, Persona serves convenience stores, retailers, gas stations, banks, and just about any market you can name. Persona works closely with more than 200 national brands—including some of the most recognizable companies in the world—to produce an average of 7,000 sign projects each year. Commitment to Quality The steady growth from a start-up to an industry leader was made possible by Persona’s commitment to quality. The company strives to deliver the best, investing in people and equipment signshop.com
to produce signage of every type: channel letters, wall signs, pylon signs, monument signs, directionals, drive-thru components, and digital message centers. Persona puts forty years of sign building experience to work for its customers, ensuring they get the best, most cost-effective interior and exterior signage and LED lighting to benefit and grow their business. The company proudly works on projects that include: new signs; new faces for old signs; conversions from neon and other light sources to LED; and re-imaging and re-branding. “We have to be a learning organization—always striving to be the best, always looking to improve. That is how we will maintain customer focus in the marketplace,” said Greg Kulesa, president of Persona’s parent company Anza. Surviving COVID Complications That focus helped Persona stay strong during the company’s fortieth anniversary year, which was unlike any other due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses the company serves. Kulesa said the pandemic necessitated a change in strategy while maintaining a focus on the customers. “2020 has served as a good lesson in planning for the future,” he said. “If we’ve learned anything from this year, it’s that change is a constant and that, as a company, we must stay nimble. We also must look outside our company and be in tune
with our customers so we can drive the change the market is asking for.” Early in the pandemic, Persona kept its focus on the customers and developed a plan to help struggling businesses. Persona’s plan allowed customers to complete their sign projects while retaining vital capital for operating expenses. The plan offered low interest rates, friendly terms, options for deferred payments, and no vendor deposits. The company worked with its lenders to offer customers an easy and convenient way to work through the effects COVID-19 was having on their business. “The early months of the pandemic were difficult,” Peterson said, “and by keeping in tune with our customers, we were able to help them focus on the future. It always comes back to helping the customers.” Adjusting in the middle of the pandemic was nothing new for Persona. There were other economic downturns in the forty years since Persona began, and by remaining nimble and adjusting to those situations, the company kept growing. “Persona relentlessly focuses on serving the customer,” Peterson said. “The values that Dennis instilled in the company enabled Persona to grow and become a leader in the industry. We hire the best people, give them the best tools and the best technology, and always emphasize customer service. “That’s a solid recipe for success.”
Persona continues to produce thousands of signs each year for the U.S. hospitality market, including for many hotels and restaurants. February 2021
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The WOW Factor During Persona’s early years, management assembled twenty-one fundamental business principles that embodied the values Holien wanted in the company. These principles became known as “Dennyisms.” Over the years, those twenty-one principles have been boiled down to five core company values: • “Wow the customer.” • “People are our most important asset.” • “Do the right thing.” • “Be the best, not necessarily the biggest.” • “Pursue continual improvement.” “The secret is not just having those values written down,” Peterson said. “You have to live those values every day and put them to use in everything you do.” With its four facilities, Persona boasts more than 170,000 square feet of manufacturing space and employs nearly 300 people in production and support roles. Persona’s location—known for a strong, Midwestern value system and
an equally strong work ethic—serves the company well. But Persona does more than just manufacture signs. It’s a full-service company that manages projects from beginning to end, thanks to its staff of salespeople, designers, engineers, project managers, printers, metal workers, welders, fabricators, drafters, estimators, installers, marketers, IT technicians, packagers and maintenance personnel. Persona is also sought as a consultant, helping companies review, refine, and polish their branding and signage programs. “While change seems to be a constant, the one thing we will never change is the values the company was founded on, starting with our commitment to employing the best and brightest people and putting them in positions that best fit their abilities,” said Kulesa. “The company’s past success is a result of the excellent people we employ and the culture they have adopted to serve the customer.
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“People are our most important asset. A lot of things will change going forward, but our focus and commitment to the people aspect of our business—customers and employees—will never change.”
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1/22/21 9:32 AM
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WARWICK PRINTING CO., LTD., LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA BY AMANDA BROWN
Warwick Printing solves a tricky mural install.
arwick Printing is a fullservice printing company that offers their customers quite a stock of vinyl projects—for example, Coroplast and aluminum signs, posters, indoor/outdoor banners, vehicle wraps, floor and window graphics, decals, cut vinyl letters, sandwich boards, and, as shown here, wall murals. Their client, South Country Co-op Liquor in Redcliff, Alberta, Canada, hired them to design, print, and install forty-eight individual wall panels that make up a mural spanning the store. As well as promoting the spirits, beer, and wine on sale, the mural added a personal touch with a “Cheers Redcliff” message. Early on though, they knew this was going to be a bit of a challenging project. Lee Weighill, owner of Warwick Printing,
explains, “The main challenge was figuring out how to reach the seventeen-foot install height with racks up against every wall without having to empty the whole store out. There was not enough space for even the smallest scissor lift or boom lift, and regular A-frame ladders would not get us close enough to the walls in the right position.” The team overcame these problems by using scaffolding and stacking two units to get high enough. “But it was still a twentysix-inch reach to the wall, which made it a little more difficult,” says Weighill. Installation of the forty-eight panels took around eleven hours, including the set-up and tear-down of scaffolding and having to negotiate some fragile obstacles—the bottles themselves. “It was a good day’s work; not one bottle was
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Photo: Warwick Printing.
Forty-eight Panels of Vinyl on the Wall
knocked to the floor!” says Weighill. Before the install took place, Warwick Printing acknowledged that the choice of vinyl was going to be a key component in completing the job on time. In total, Warwick Printing ran over 260 feet of Drytac ReTac Smooth 15 through its HP Latex 360 printer. This 6-mil white polymeric printable PVC film is coated with ReTac ultra-removable adhesive technology on one side, which helped Warwick Printing installers apply, reposition, and (when needed) remove the printed graphics from surfaces such as walls. Based in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, Warwick Printing has evolved from mainly offset press commercial printing to more digital wide format work over the last two years. Diversifying has helped the business reach new customers and survive the difficult trading conditions of the pandemic. “We have fared pretty well so far during COVID-19,” says Weighill. “Overall business was down significantly (as much as 65 percent in the beginning), but we have seen some major gains in our wide format and signage division during the same period. I estimate we have done more volume during the pandemic than we did in the previous year and a half. “We saw an opportunity very early in the pandemic for signage and floor graphics and quickly created marketing materials, so we were ready when business started opening up again. We’ve used dozens of rolls of Drytac FloorTac in the last six months, at one point running our HP Latex printer day and night to print COVID-related floor graphics.” Because of this, Weighill says his shop also picked up a lot of other vinyl business unrelated to COVID. “This, for sure, helped fill the void left in our other areas of our commercial printing,” he says.
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