Sign Builder Illustrated April 2019

Page 1

The How-To Magazine

A p ril 2019 | signs h o m





custom ride: wrapping a hoverboard

Event signage:

banners and backdrops



See the Manitex A62 live!

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Restart Your Business in 2019! Is 2019 the year to convert your business to an industry leader? Paying Too Much For Supplies?

How long has it been since you updated your Marketing Materials?

Who Do You Call for Technology Support?

Who Helps Train Your Employees?

How Updated is Your Website? Who Helps Manage Your Profit?

Visit us at ISA Booth #4153

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CONVERTING TO FASTSIGNS: Mark Jameson • 214-346-5679 • Text “CONVERT” to 214-273-1715

Contents APRIL 2019

Vol. 33

No. 286

How-To Columns

22 28



By Jim Hingst Prepping and priming aluminum composite material.


By John Hackley How sacred cows disrupt throughput and opportunity.

JOB COSTING, PART TWO 32 By Jim Hingst The formula for figuring out a fair price.



12 66 68


When times get overwhelming, Editor Jeff Wooten relays solutions to keep sign makers motivated.


Massive LED display provides an epic experience, an LED light show at the Vegas Eiffel Tower, and installing the world’s largest digital billboard.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

Are robotics coming for your job? David Hickey plugs in some answers.


40 48 54 56 58

48 2

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April 2019

60 64


By Ashley Bray McDonald’s® is lovin’ their new LED display.


By Ben Barr A trio of factors that influence digital signage size.


By Dennis Spahr Three questions to ask when considering channel letters.


By SBi Staff New graphics for Cookie Cart bakery hit the sweet spot.


By Jim Cirigliano “I need to wrap this…hoverboard?”


By SBi Staff Custom sign company recreates historic military park signage.


By Jaime Herand and Jenny Prado The roles of vinyl and fabrics in tradeshow and event graphics.

​Cover Photo: Infinity Sound.


April 2019, Vol. 33, No. 286 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. Publisher Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7247 ; Fax: 212-633-1863


Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220 Contributing Writers Ben Barr, Jim Cirigliano, John Hackley, Jaime Herand, David Hickey, Jim Hingst, Jenny Prado, Lori Shridhare, Dennis Spahr


Art Director Nicole D’Antona Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand


Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers Digital Ad Operations Associate Kevin Fuhrmann


Circulation Director Maureen Cooney Circulation Analyst Brandy Wilson

advertising sales

Publisher/Mid-West & West Coast Sales Arthur J. Sutley 212-620-7247 Associate Publisher/East Coast Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233 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

April 2019

Actual output depends on mode, environment, media and proper printer maintenance.


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Learn more at Exceed Your Vision is a registered logomark of Seiko Epson Corporation. All other product and brand names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Epson disclaims any and all rights in these marks. Copyright 2019 Epson America, Inc. *Print times are based upon print engine speeds only. Total throughput depends upon front-end driver/RIP, fi le size, printing resolution, ink coverage, network speed, etc.

Editor’s Column


By Jeff Wooten

April 2019 APRIL 23-26: The annual ISA International Sign Expo 2019 takes place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (

May 2019 MAY 19-23:

LIGHTFAIR International, the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow and conference, sets up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (

The Motivating Factor Do you want to change your role?


Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

June 2019

custom projects? Or are you more focused on putting others ahead of self by helping area businesses and local governments understand the importance of signage? Or does it just boil down to that mortgage bill or college fund staring back angrily in your face? The last thing you want is to feel tired and stale (if you harbor these feelings). So Clear’s advice is, well, crystal-clear. I also could argue that taking a break from your tried-and-true could be a gamechanger. If your motivation is money, why not focus on your artistic side instead? Or service to the community? Or vice versa? Life shouldn’t be a plug-and-play algebra formula. Do you stay steady or do you move in new directions? Even if you’re not overwhelmed, I think it’s still important to mix things up and keep everything fresh. Yes, you get to do that! I need to correct an item featured in last month’s Editor’s Column. I posted the incorrect time for the inaugural ISASBi “WLI – The Female Leader: Passion, Empowerment, and Confidence” session at ISA Sign Expo on Friday, April 26. The correct time for this seminar is actually 8:00 a.m. I apologize for spreading this bit of misinformation and hope to see you there—at the correct time.

Jeff Wooten Editor,

JUNE 6-7:

The Midwest Sign Association’s Summer Meeting & Golf event takes place at the Soaring Eagle Casino Resort located in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. (

JUNE 6-8:

Experience the 2019 SEGD Conference, a gathering of the experiential graphic design community, which will be held this year in scenic Austin, Texas. (

JUNE 27-30:

The Texas Sign Association’s Sixty-sixth annual Conference occurs at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. (

July 2019 JULY 24-28:

Photo: Shutterstock/ Delpixel.


love the piece of advice that author James Clear dispenses in his recent book Atomic Habits. He states to change “have” to “get” when discussing your daily goals. In other words, instead of saying, “I have to make another sales call,” use “I get to make another sales call.” Or “I get to go to work today.” The last thing anyone wants in a professional career are feelings of hum-drum, same-old-same-old, or non-accomplishment. Sure, every once in a while, work life can seem like it follows a load, print, repeat pattern, but this shouldn’t be a more-often-than-not situation. Lately I’ve being noticing an increasing number of opinion pieces and commentaries with a common theme referring to our current period of time as the “Exhausted Age.” They cite that social media has allowed people to see and critique everything in our lives at all times and that smartphones keep us eternally tethered to work emails and requests. And the threat of workers having to “work a little harder” to fend off the incoming automation invasion probably doesn’t help matters either. (Note: See “Shop Talk” on page 68 for more about this.). Whether this feeling is something real or even new is debatable. I think it all boils down to a feeling of personal satisfaction and achieving goals. So what is it that most motivates you to do the job that you do in your shop? Are you someone who’s driven more by monetary reward? Or are you somebody enthused by the creativity afforded with

Mid South Sign Association’s MSSA SignConnexion 2019 takes place at the Ross Bridge Golf Resort in Birmingham, Alabama. (

In The Industry The LED display measures 23 feet high-by-42 feet wide.

Massive LED Display

Provides an Epic Experience


ntario, California—The Epic is a state-of-the-art recreation and lifestyle center that opened this past September in Grand Prairie, Texas (a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth). The 120,000-plussquare-foot facility has changed the face of recreation centers—it includes not just fitness equipment, walking trails, and indoor tracks but also amenities like a digital library, an Internet radio station, a recording studio, a film-editing bay, culinary classes, and a pub and lounge area, as well as an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor waterpark all co-existing on the 170-acre property. 8

Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

The City of Grand Prairie and HKS Architects have succeeded in creating an extraordinary guest experience, but with so much going on at The Epic, they knew they were also going to need an outdoor LED video display big enough to not only attract guests’ attention but also provide them with a compelling entrance experience. The desired system also needed to withstand the bright Texas sun, adjust its brightness dependent to the time of day, integrated into the campus digital signage system, and be easily front-serviced. “It was important for us to be able to showcase the film, radio, recording, and

live music events on our property, as well as highlight what we have to offer,” says Amanda Alms, general manager of The Epic. Accomplished AV integrator Infinity Sound, also located in Grand Prairie, was retained to make this a reality. In turn, they selected a 10mm IntelligentM2 LED display from California-based Optec Display, Inc. The modular system forms an LED display measuring approximately 23 feet high-by-42 feet wide that’s mounted onto the recreational building’s exterior wall along the walkway adjacent to the Waterpark. This solution brings an

It was important for us that the display was userfriendly so we can run it on an ongoing, daily basis. added visual element to events and advertisements for recreation center programs, The Epic Waterpark, and the City of Grand Prairie. It features 10,000 nits ultra-high brightness and louvered tiles that help shade the sun and increase the image contrast. Infinity Sound worked closely with Alms to install the colorful, clarityfilled display, as well as provide their knowledge in order to get everything up and running. During the site survey, Infinity Sound found that The Epic’s architectural concrete wall wasn’t designed to support the entire weight of the display, so they

evaluated the wall with the architect and the structural engineer. “We learned we had to provide deeper penetrations through the wall to other structural members further inside the building. That’s ultimately from where we mounted the frame,” says Tom Jones, the engineering manager at Infinity Sound who oversaw the design, engineering, and technical implementation of this project. Optec shipped each one-by-two-foot LED module of the Intelligent-M2 LED display to Infinity Sound. “It essentially came to us in eight blocks where they pre-assembled as

many of the LED panels as they could,” says Jones. “So instead of us having to assemble a hundred LED panels onsite, we were just putting together eight of the larger pre-assembled panel modules. This helped move the on-site installation a little faster since we didn’t have to go one-by-one for every single LED panel.” The display, which includes a sound system, shows live and recorded video and TV as well as other animated content and special messages (such as amber alerts and storm warnings). Its 60fps and high 3840Hz refresh rate provide smooth video playback. Optec’s Intelligent-M2 display is adaptable to Epic’s digital signage software and is easily operated from The Epic’s central control room or from a remote location. “It was important for us that the display had to be user-friendly so we can run it on an ongoing, daily basis,” says Alms. “Parks and recreation professionals aren’t always technologysavvy, and we have to be prepared as our staff grows and eventually move into other positions.” The large format display provides guests with an entry experience that can be seen from across the grand lawn and large outdoor parking lot. It runs from 5:45am to 10:30pm every day and highlights the walkway in-between The Epic facility and the indoor waterpark, meaning its messages and content can reach thousands of people a day. “The color and clarity have been very good,” says Alms. The Epic adhered to basic city ordinances for sound with the display. “We have the sound set on a low setting where visitors can hear it off the parking lot,” says Alms. “We could easily blast through the parking lot and into the apartments next door, but we’re not going to do that. It’s important for us to be good neighbors to everyone around us, and we’ve been able to do that even with it operating during early morning hours.” In the future, The Epic is looking into getting more creative with the display, particularly its video components. “Currently we have a video playing every fifteen minutes,” says Alms, “So we’re looking to add more video-type commercials to the display that highlight some of our internal aspects, as well as spotlighting potential sponsors.” —SBi Staff April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated


In The Industry World’s Largest Digital Billboard of 2018

D LED Light Show at

Vegas Eiffel Tower


as Vegas, Nevada—Full-service custom sign company Vision Sign, Inc., recently celebrated the debut of the enhanced Eiffel Tower illumination with Caesars Entertainment at the Paris Las Vegas hotel. Inspired by the original landmark in Paris, France, Vision Sign designed, engineered, and installed a $1.7 million-dollar renovation in LEDs to kick off the resort and casino’s twentieth anniversary with a choreographed light show. The spectacular show, visible from all points on The Las Vegas Strip, runs every thirty minutes each night (from sunset to midnight) and includes synchronized, customizable LEDs. Vision Sign renovated the tower, standing 540 feet tall, with 300 color washing Traxon ProPoint Wall Washer luminaires and more than 800 Traxon ProPoint Pixel luminaires from OSRAM SYLVANIA. The programmable RGBW (red, green, blue, and white) lights are individually controlled via an e:cue DMX control system that allows for robust customization for on-going light shows or special events such as holidays or sporting events. The lightshow spans 161,280 square feet and lasts approxi10

Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

mately five minutes. Vision Sign partnered with Caesars to design various animated concepts for the Eiffel Tower light show. Vision Sign selected OSRAM’s Traxon Technologies, along with its e:cue lighting controls, for its ability to deliver unparalleled color consistency and ease of use when updating and synchronizing music and light. In addition, Traxon provides the technical expert support required for such a complex and dynamic installation. Traxon and e:cue’s products also provide a significant energy savings with the team expecting to reduce power by nearly 50 percent from the previous fixtures. Since its beginning in Reno, Nevada, in 1937, Caesars Entertainment has grown through development of new resorts, expansions, and acquisitions and its portfolio of subsidiaries now operate forty-seven casinos in thirteen U.S. states and five countries. Caesars Entertainment is committed to environmental sustainability and energy conservation and recognizes the importance of being a responsible steward of the environment. To view a video highlight of this project, visit

anville, Illinois—Watchfire Signs capped off the year by manufacturing the largest digital billboard of 2018 for bMedia Group in Puerto Rico. The billboard measures 56-by119 feet. At just under 7,000 square feet, the board’s size is the equivalent of about 2.5 semi trucks in length and is six feet wider than an NBA basketball court. The billboard is unique because it was built using a linked cabinet design, giving bMedia Group the option to repurpose it into twelve se p a ra te d i g i ta l b u l l et i n s, i f desired. The Centro Internacional de Mercadeo billboard is located in the heavily trafficked area between San Juan and Dorado and boasts a daily traffic count of 350,000 vehicles. Watchfire’s exclusive MX Class billboard was used on this project, which includes a one-of-akind financial guarantee on tenyear brightness, ten-year uniformity, and a ten-year parts and labor warranty. “Spectacular-sized digital billboards are becoming very popular across North America, providing advertisers with exciting opportunities,” said Darrin Friskney, vice president of Watchfire Signs.

SIMPLE FOR Agilight’s new SignRayz® ULTRA Series has a simplified product line with you in mind. Now, choose from one of our 5 SKUs for your LED signage illumination/lighting needs.





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• 70 lm/Module • 0.66 W/Module • Sign Depth Starting at 3.0”/75 mm


Corporate Headquarters San Antonio, Texas, USA New York, NY & Garfield, NJ, USA • Hong Kong • Shanghai & ShenZhen, China Singapore • Dubai, UAE • Amsterdam, Netherlands • Sydney, Australia (+1) 210.360.1444

Sign Show VINYL/vinyl films Creating Dynamic Window Graphic Promotions Using Mactac’s PrintVinyl Materials

vinyl/VINYL FILMS ORAFOL Americas: New, Go-to Semi-Rigid Decal Material ORAFOL Americas Inc., is pleased to announce the availability of ORAJET® 3258 Semi-Rigid Calendered film. Available in Matte and Gloss, this film is designed specifically for short-term general signage, contour-cut decals, and point-of-purchase displays. Soon to become your go-to decal material of choice, ORAJET Series 3258 is the perfect film for those moments when you don't want to use an over-laminate or an application tape but still need the stability and ease of installation that a 6-mil film provides. This film features a grey, solvent-based, permanent adhesive and is backed by a 90# silicone-coated paper release liner. Compatible with latex, solvent, eco-solvent, and UV-curable printers, ORAJET 3258 Semi-Rigid Calendered film is available in one hundred-yard length rolls with thirtyinch, fifty-four-inch, and sixty-inch widths. Recommended laminates for this film are ORAGUARD® Series 210 and 215.

IMAGin PrintVinyl JT899R by Mactac® is a 3.9-mil gloss clear, soft-calendared PVC film designed for UV- and solventbased inkjet printing. Featuring indoor durability of up to four years, it is coated on one side with a clear, removable, acrylic, pressure-sensitive adhesive. JT899R is a great choice for general-purpose indoor and short-term outdoor advertising and promotion on windows and other flat or slightly curved surfaces. For years, Boston Properties, one of the largest owners, managers, and developers of Class A office properties in the U.S., has partnered with Springfield, Virginia-based Signs By Tomorrow, a well-known, reputable sign company, to creatively advertise properties available for lease through eye-catching, building-front window graphics in the Washington, D.C. area. Signs By Tomorrow reverse-prints the graphics on its M u to h Va l u eJ e t 1624 printer and applies them to the interior side of the glass windows, protecting the graphics from outdoor elements.

SERVICE TRUCKS/CRANES Manitex’s A62 Series Platform Provides Quite a Setup for Sign Installations and Maintenance The A62 series platform from Manitex is a different type of aerial service product in that it has reduced dimensions and a unique, quick setup speed. Thanks to its ease of use, the A62 is particularly suitable for overhead and road lighting maintenance, as well as sign installations. It is installed on a Class 5 commercial chassis with a minimum GVW of 16,000 pounds. Equipped with a telescopic arm that can reach a maximum work height of sixty-five feet, the A62 can reach heights of over six stories high and has a thirty-eight-foot working radius. The boom has an operating range of -15° to +75° and is fitted with self-lubricating, lowfriction material boom sliders. The “X” pattern outriggers allow the A62 to setup in a single parking space. The 67-by-28-by-43-inch operator basket is made out of aluminum. A safety pedal is installed to detect if the operator is positioned correctly. This device allows aerial working only if the operator is in the control position. Hydraulic controls can regulate several different maneuvers at the same time, while four independent levers separately control the four stabilizers located on each side of the machine. (877) 314-3390;


Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

Bold has no boundaries. From vehicles, to windows, to walls and floors—every surface is a chance for your customers’ brands to get the attention they deserve. 3M Graphics & Signage product portfolio gives you the tools you need so you and your clients can stand out.

Get inspired. Visit us at ISA booth #4235

Sign Show ROUTERS/ENGRAVERS Trotec Materials are Now Available on Amazon Trotec Laser Inc., is now offering products from its materials line on The company’s online Web shop will remain indefinitely as the most comprehensive source for purchasing Trotec materials, however, customers can now enjoy the convenience of this additional purchasing option. Trotec’s materials line includes more than 2,000 high-quality, competitively priced materials—including laminates, acrylic sheets, wood panels, and laserable paper designed for laser and rotary engraving. Products are available in several colors and with a range of surface finishes, for a wide variety of applications, including indoor and outdoor signage, illuminated displays, ADA signage, print-and-cut applications, and more. Several of these products are now available on Amazon, including the TroGlass acrylic product line, all varieties of wood panels, and select laminates from the TroLase product line. The addition of the materials business unit has enabled Trotec to provide its customers with a complete range of support for their businesses— including laser equipment, materials, and expertise—in a convenient and unique single-source solution. The company’s Web shop, in addition to providing convenient online purchasing, offers support and convenience geared toward customers and businesses currently using a laser—including applications support, volume discounts, and tips and tricks for improving laser-processing results.


Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

Sign Show VINYL/vinyl FILMS S-One Launches 2019 Culture Book Featuring Its Print Innovations To kick off its year-long twenty-fifth anniversary, S-One Holdings Corporation has published their 2019 Culture Book. The book is a celebration of the teams that make up S-One and its subsidiary companies, as well as its customers, partners, and communities. The theme of the forty-eight-page publication is the S-One vision: Develop. Connect. Innovate. Articles include team passions, strengths, and learning-based initiatives, community involvement projects, and a look back at the past quarter of a century and the innovations S-One has brought to market that forever changed the print industry through its companies: LexJet, Brand Management Group, ABAQA, Utopia Digital Technologies, and S-One Labels & Packaging. As pioneers of innovative print technology, S-One tapped some industry pros to bring cutting-edge elements to this publication. On the cover, they use HP SmartStream Mosaic software to create individually unique covers that were digitally printed on HP Indigo. The company also asked its printer, Bennett Graphics, to add Scodix digital embellishment on their “S” logo. S-One Holdings also harnessed the power of augmented reality and created a new smartphone app, S-OneAR (available on iOS and Android), to bring videos to life right on the pages of the book. See the first page of a print copy for download instructions so you can delve deeper into their stories.

Quality products and trusted solutions since 1852 Stimpson has shipped over 150 billion parts including Eyelets, Grommets, Washers, Hole Plugs, Snap Fasteners, Vents, Clamps, Ferrules and many additional metal products. Grommets & Washers: Quality sheet metal, rolled

Hole Plugs: Standard, electrical knock-out, tubing,

rim, self-piercing, and oblong grommets as well as

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plain, teeth, neck, and spur washers. Many alloys and finishes available in stock. Eyelets: Stimpson GS®, tag, polybag, envelope,

Snap Sets: Available in brass, nickel, dull black, and

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stainless steel, with screw studs or standard posts.


Visit Booth #4606 ISA International Expo

Phone (877) 765-0748 StimpsonCo |

1515 S.W. 13th Court Pompano Beach, FL 33069


April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated


Sign Show ACRYLICS/PLASTICS Introducing Duets Ultimates, Gemini’s Most Durable Engraving Substrate Ever Gemini’s Duets® Ultimates™, a new class of impact-modified, matte-finish acrylic sheet material designed for ultimate durability in the toughest environments, is the most durable rotary engraving substrate ever produced for the Duets line. It features a heavy-duty, engineered polymer top cap offering increased abrasion resistance and damage protection. Duets Ultimates is available in 1/16-inch (1.6mm) thickness in 16 color combinations, with 1/8-inch (3mm) thick material available soon in five of the most widely applied color combinations. The rotary-only material is available in full sheets of 24-by-49 inches (610mm-by-1244mm). According to Duets by Gemini Product Manager Ron Gatz, Duets Ultimates is the ideal solution for robust, rotary-engraved signage in harsh indoor and outdoor conditions, especially in areas of high traffic and contact (ranging from industrial labeling and factory environments to public areas where signs are often subjected to frequent wear, vandalism, or other damage). “The non-glare matte finish offers improved visibility,” he says. “And the material provides a high degree of UV stability and weatherability, making Duets Ultimates an excellent choice for conditions that punish less rugged engraving substrates.”


Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

Sign Show SOFTWARE-design/print/router/estimating Summa Releases GoProduce Software for Workflow Optimization Summa nv, a leading company of high-end cutting plotters and finishing systems, has developed a new in-house software platform to support its product range: GoSuite. The first software module within this GoSuite platform is called GoProduce. The software is bound to facilitate the operator’s work on the F Series flatbed and secure optimum rentability at the customer, partner, and installer production sites. Flatbed cutters are the customer’s hardware of choice when they need to get to market fast. With this speed ever-increasing, the software needs to be up to par to make sure the hardware can keep a more than steady pace at the smallest error margin. With the F Series as the fastest growing series in the Summa range, Summa selected this series as the first one to be accompanied with software to match. Instead of optimizing or tailoring existing solutions, Summa opted to develop the new software platform entirely in-house. GoProduce offers flexible and tailored import of files; an extensive material database, which is able to automatically select the ideal tool and its settings based on the material; integrated tutorials for direct support; registration of square or round marks, supporting all RIPs and PDF formats; and more. The software was designed to be plug-and-play specifically, without any need for hardware installation. Users simply install the drivers, activate their subscription online, and start operating. Summa has a free thirty-day trial available for existing F Series users.




• High-energy magnetic sheeting has twice the strength of regular 15 mil, and half the weight of 30 mil used for vehicle signs

• Prints brilliant color and clarity with UV, solvent, eco-solvent, and latex ink systems

• Ideal for vehicle graphics, POP displays, wall coverings and applications where lightweight printable magnetic sheeting is needed


Learn more at or 800.525.3536 See us at Booth #3646

Your Best Source in the Magnetic Field

April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated


Sign Show SOFTWARE-DESIGN/PRINT/ROUTER/ESTIMATING CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2019 Powers Professional Graphic Design on Windows, Mac, and the Web CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite has dramatically expanded its product line with a powerful new version for Windows as well as an all-new graphic design software suite built specifically for macOS. Designed from the ground up to make the most of each unique platform, both packages also include the new™, which allows designers to show off and annotate their work on the go or quickly create new projects from virtually anywhere. Finally users have a true professional design contender available on their platform of choice, empowering the creation of bold, attention-grabbing graphics with pixel-perfect precision. Graphics professionals—and those aspiring to be—now have access to world-class vector graphics software, professional photo editing, unsurpassed output capabilities, and AI-powered drawing tools. With CorelDRAW. app, . Whether they have a passion for pixels, an obsession with output, or a love of layout, users can take control of their individual creative journey and dare to design differently. Completely redesigned, the new Objects Docker (pictured ) offers direct control over the structure of a document and quick access to its components to speed up any project. Apply, modify, and experiment with NonDestructive Effects on both vectors and bitmaps, all without altering the source object or image in CorelDRAW. Deliver professional results with a wide range of new, professionally designed templates presented in the enhanced “New from template” dialog. Customize templates with ease to produce unique designs. •

Come See Us At ISA Booth 3447


Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

Sign Show DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES Mimaki USA Opens New Los Angeles Technology Center Mimaki USA, a global industry leader of wide format inkjet printers and cutters, has opened a new Technology Center located in Gardena, a suburb of Los Angeles. The celebration featured a ribbon cutting and traditional Japanese Kagami Biraki ceremony. Mimaki Engineering Chairman Akira Ikeda, Mimaki USA President Naoya Kawagoshi, and Mayor Albert Robles attended along with more than 200 employees and guests. The new 28,446-square-foot center houses Mimaki’s entire product portfolio, representing the sign graphics, textile & apparel, industrial products, and 3D markets. Unique to this location, visitors can experience a new Textile & Apparel Lab with dye-sublimation and direct-totextile printers as well as a finishing room with laminators and cutters. The center will host a variety of events, including live solution demonstrations, application open houses, dealer technician certification courses, software training and more. The technology center is located approximately 20 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at 150 West Walnut St., Ste. 100, in Gardena, California. This center replaces the Torrance, California facility, where Mimaki has b e e n si n ce F e b r u a r y 2004.

DYE SUBLIMATION Graphics One Launches a New Desktop Dye Sub Kit Graphics One, the distribution arm of Prism Inks, has announced the availability of GO SubliMate LS (letter size), a new dye sublimation kit for use with the EPSON® ET-2750. GO SubliMate LS is the first dye sublimation kit developed for the EPSON ET-2750 and is a follow-on to the very successful launch of GO SubliMate TS (tabloid size) for the EPSON® ET-7750, the first dye sub ink set for desktop printers featuring neon ink. The GO SubliMate LS Kit includes four 140 mls bottles of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black SubliMate Dye Sub ink, GO SubliMate Dye Sub Paper, and ICC profiles as a bundle. The kit has an eighteen-month shelf life, outstanding UV light fastness, and the highest quality dye sub ink available. The GO SubliMate LS Dye Sub Kit is available immediately through the network of Graphics One channel partners.

DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES Software Helps Simplify Workflow, Layout, and Color Management for imagePROGRAF PRO Series Printers Streamlining the printing process for commercial, professional, as well as prosumer photographers alike, Canon U.S.A., Inc., has launched the Professional Print & Layout (PPL) software for the imagePROGRAF PRO large format series of inkjet printers. The PPL software simplifies functions essential for photo printing, with features such as customizable layout settings, preview, and color management. PPL can be accessed as a plug-in from such software programs as Canon Digital Photo Professional, Adobe® Photoshop®, Adobe® Lightroom or as a stand-alone program. The intuitive interface allows for quick and easy navigation of printer, layout, and color management settings to help improve productivity. The easy, drag-and-drop method allows users to input images directly into template layouts, providing photographers with more freedom to easily create and visualize final print jobs. Create and save custom template designs, such as one ideal for wedding packages, to easily use previously reliable printing and color settings. Minimize media waste with the nesting capability that lays out images in predetermined templates meant to help reduce white space and, in turn, potentially result in cost savings.

April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated



Semi-Rigid Calendered Digital Media Designed for short-term general signage, contour-cut decals and POP displays. Series 3258 features a grey, solvent-based, permanent adhesive and available in 6-mil white gloss or matte finish. (Laminate not required.)


ORACALÂŽ 970ra Premium Special Effect Cast

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Painting ACM Panels Prepping and priming aluminum composite material.


luminum composite material (ACM) panels are lightweight, durable, and easy to fabricate. You can back-route, bend, and join these panels, as well as easily mount them using a variety of extrusions. Today economical versions of aluminum composite panels are available for sign applications, such as Dibond®, Omegabond®, and Polymetal™. Comprised of a thermoplastic core of either polyethylene or polyurethane, these panels are covered on either side with a coated aluminum skin. The aluminum is typically between .01-inch and .012inch, which is about half the thickness of the construction-grade material, which is faced with .020-inch aluminum. One big advantage of an ACM panel over other substrates, such as MDO, is that it’s easier to paint. You also don’t need to fill the edges prior to painting, and, in many cases, you can paint the panels without a primer after prepping 22

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the surface with isopropyl alcohol and scuffing it with a Scotch-Brite® pad. With the right surface preparation and primer, you can hand-paint or pinstripe aluminum composite panels with a wide range of other paint systems—lettering enamels such as 1-Shot or Ronan Paints, latex house paints, lacquers, urethanes, epoxies, water-borne airbrush paints, and acrylic and oil-based paints for fine art applications. Surface Preparation Before you scuff and prime an ACM panel, first remove the surface protection film and clean the surface. If you don’t clean the substrate before scuffing or sanding, you can drive the contaminants into the surface, which can compromise the adhesion of the primer or paint. Remove the clear surface protection film that typically covers the aluminum composite panel. This low-density polyethylene masking, coated with a very low-

tack adhesive, should remove easily. Before sanding or scuffing the surface of the panel, clean the substrate with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) instead of 90 percent (as the higher concentration evaporates too fast). Dry the surface with a lint-free cloth while the IPA is wet. After the alcohol evaporates, it’s too late. As soon as the rag becomes dirty, discard it and get a new, clean, lint-free rag. Continue cleaning until you can wipe the surface and no longer observe any dirt on your rag. Until then, the substrate is still contaminated. Failure to clean the surface could drive any residual contaminants into the coating on the panel as you are sanding. This could compromise the adhesion of the primer or paint. If a sheet has been laying around your shop, you may need to first wipe the surface with a mild wax-and-grease remover or Xylene. In prepping the surface, don’t use an oily solvent, such as

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mineral spirits or turpentine. As important as it is to clean the substrate, you also need to keep your hands clean. Frequently washing your hands prevents your skin oils from contaminating the surface of the panel. After using the wax-and-grease remover, a second cleaning with IPA will remove any residual film that the solvent cleaner will leave. Don’t clean the surface with a glass cleaner containing silicone, such as Windex®. Any silicone left on the substrate can inhibit primer or paint adhesion. Scuffing the Surface After initially cleaning the surface, you can block sand the surface with 320-grit sandpaper. This provides a nice, smooth finish for either a primer or top coat. It’s possible to sand a surface to the point that it’s too smooth. For this reason, don’t use sandpaper finer than 500grit. Paint needs enough tooth to mechanically lock into the primer. Instead of using sandpaper, you can rough up the surface with a painter’s maroon (red) 3M Scotch-Brite pad. The automotive-grade pads are available in colors other than maroon. Each color signifies a different grit range. For sign painting applications, two grades of pads that you should have in your shop are the maroon and the gray pads. The 7447 general purpose maroon (red) pads are equivalent to 320- to 400grit. Use these pads to scuff the gloss or semi-gloss surface of the panel until every 24

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shiny area is dull. If you prime the substrate, use the gray pads to scuff the primer before painting. This ensures good intercoat adhesion. The 7448 gray pads are equivalent to 600- to 800-grit sandpaper. The key to properly scuffing the surface of an ACM panel is to abrade it so it no longer has either a glossy or semigloss finish. Dulling the surface of the panel will give it enough tooth to ensure that the paint or primer adheres well. When you sand the surface, make sure that you do not wear through the coating on the aluminum to the bare metal. After scuffing the surface, clean it with IPA to remove any residue. Using lint-free paper towels, continue to clean the panel until no residue show on the toweling. A good practice when cleaning is to have a rag in each hand—one wet with isopropyl alcohol and the other dry to mop up the alcohol and contaminants. After sanding or abrading the substrate, never use an air hose to blow off any residue. First the force of the compressed air could blow contaminants into the surface of the panel, which could affect adhesion of the primer or paint. Secondly blowing the dust off the panel sends it airborne. Not only could you or your employees breathe in paint dust, but it takes several hours for the dust to settle. If you paint the panel while the dust is in the air, the dust will likely settle on your paint job. You can also use the gray pads to scuff a painted surface prior to clear coating.

Unless you are clear coating a metallic paint, these fine scratches will not be visible through the clear coat. The tooth that the scratches give to the painted panel allows the clear coat to grip the surface, preventing sagging on vertical surfaces. Are Primers Necessary? Some ACM panels can be painted directly without the need for primers. Many sign painters have used aluminum composite panels as substrates for pinstriping panels. Airbrush artists have also used these panels for painting. Scuffing the panels using a maroon Scotch-Brite pad is recommended before airbrushing. Before painting on any substrate, you should read any pertinent technical bulletins from the panel and paint manufacturers. While this literature will familiarize you with the proper procedures in decorating the surface, your responsibility as a manufacturer is to qualify the compatibility of all materials used. That means conducting your own tests. The most important tests to conduct are adhesion tests. These tests range from a simple thumbnail test, in which you use your thumb nail to scratch the paint or primer from the surface to a cross-hatch test. A cross-hatch test checks the adhesion of the coating to the substrate. You can also use this test to evaluate the intercoat adhesion between two layers of coatings, such as the adhesion between the primer and paint.



The cross-hatch test consists of lightly scoring the printed ink sample or paint sample eleven times with an X-Acto® knife and then scoring the ink again the same number of times over the first set of lines at a 90° angle, forming a grid. The cross-hatch pattern of parallel lines should be approximately 1/8-inch apart. After cutting the lines, use a plastic squeegee to burnish an aggressive tape, such as 3M Brand #600 clear tape, over the scored cutlines. The tape is then pulled off 180 degrees against itself, in one quick motion. If any of the paint comes off, the adhesion of the ink to the substrate is insufficient. Coatings, which have not formed a strong bond, are prone to peeling.

When priming with a brush, use one with synthetic bristles. Thin coatings applied in multiple directions are much better than applying heavy coats. One feature of this primer that you should like is that it levels out very nice-

ly. Nevertheless you should always apply a second coat of primer. If the surface isn’t as smooth as you’d like it, lightly sand between coats using 320-grit sandpaper or scuff with a gray Scotch-Brite pad.

Primers Many old-timers would use Rust-Oleum XIM UMA® Bonder Primer when repainting the slick surface of porcelain signs. Sign makers and artists also use this primer for aluminum composite panels. XIM UMA is a fast-drying, waterbased, low-VOC primer suitable for either indoor or outdoor applications and is a great primer for hard-to-stick-to surfaces. After priming the ACM substrate with two coats of XIM UMA Bonder Primer, you can apply a finish coating using latex paint, waterborne airbrush paint, lettering enamels, lacquers, epoxies, or urethanes. Before using XIM UMA or any other primer or paint, thoroughly mix it before application to ensure that all of the ingredients are uniformly dispersed within the mixture. If you’re mixing a gallon of primer, some professional painters will pour the primer between two paint buckets after scraping the bottom of the paint can of any of the solids that had settled. If you use XIM UMA to prime the ACM panel, you can coat the surface with either a brush or roller. (Note: This primer is also available in a rattle can.) If you decide to use a roller, you’ll achieve a much smoother finish using a foam roller versus the type of roller that you’d use to paint drywall. 26

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To aid the primer in leveling out, you can also add a paint extender to the mixture. To thin UMA, add two ounces of XIM Latex X-Tender per gallon. This primer is usually dry to the touch after an hour and can be recoated after

three hours. Drying times for any primer or paint will vary depending on ambient temperature and relative humidity. Allow at least twenty-four hours for the primer to dry before lightly sanding the surface and painting. When temperatures

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are below 70°F and humidity above 50 percent, allow more time for drying. Some professional painters advise against adding anything to a primer. As a rule of thumb, primers are generally loaded with the maximum amount of pigment. Attempting to tint a primer changes the ratio of pigment to binder. If you feel that you need to tint the primer so you can easily see what you have and have not coated, use a universal colorant according the manufacturer’s instructions. Painting the Graphics XIM UMA dries to a really hard finish. Before applying a top coat, you can scuff the primed surface with a gray ScotchBrite pad. After scuffing, clean the surface with IPA. On the Tiki Bar sign project shown on page 24, I coated the surface with a background color. Depending on the paint used and your shop temperature, it will dry enough to handle in about five hours. After the background paint fully cures, you can lay out your job and start painting the graphics. If you plan to paint a second coat for the background color, you can lightly sand between the coats. This produces a smoother finish, minimizes an orange peel finish, and promotes good intercoat adhesion. Before applying the second coat, allow the first coat to dry for at least twenty-four hours. Using 320-grit wet/dry sandpaper with a rubber sanding block, you can wet sand the surface by hand. The water helps lubricate the sandpaper so that it easily slides over the surface of the paint. The water also prevents the paint from balling up and clogging the sandpaper. For this project, I hand lettered the copy. You can also use a computer-cut paint mask for this part of the job. The lettering enamel will tack up in about twenty minutes. At this time, you should remove the masking with care, making sure that no part of the mask touches the wet paint. Don’t wait for the paint to dry or you could tear up some of your newly painted lettering. April 2019

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How To


Changing Closely Held Beliefs How sacred cows disrupt throughput and opportunity.


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procedures tell the real story. How’s it working for you now? Maybe it’s time for a shift. Changing even one closely held belief could pave the way to exciting new avenues of profit and opportunity. Unfortunately getting ownership to change is extremely difficult. Old rules die hard, and most people will want to continue using those timeworn rules they were taught when times were much different. In the sign industry, the sacred cows are the untouchable protocols and polices that companies cherish most. Whether self-inflicted or imposed by someone else, they’ve been part of the company for so long that no one knows their true origins. And because they’re sometimes perceived as the “heart and soul” of the company or system, they’re never challenged. Sacred cows are easy to identify: simply challenge the status quo. You’ll hear it vehemently defended by someone insisting, “We’ve always done it this way!”

or “This is the essence of our company!” or my personal favorite—“We don’t change very fast around here.” If they said, “It can’t be done!” you’ve found a smoking gun that will lead you to a sacred cow. And sacred cows, although they are hard to change, yield the most profit when they are topped. Sacred Cows Everywhere Herds of sacred cows are running around everywhere! Here are just a few that I’ve witnessed in the signage industry. • “We only sell what we can make in our facility.” • “Only the owner can write and approve estimates.” • “Orders cannot be released without a client signature.” • “Projects start when all documents are received.” • “We’re too busy.” There is so much room for eliminating unnecessary “old ways” in business.

Photo: Shutterstock/ fizkes


n my role as a business “efficiency” expert, what I see in almost every business, regardless of industry, is not some great new technology innovation to be implemented; instead it’s old beliefs and outdated protocols, rules, and polices referred to as “sacred cows.” And it is these sacred cows that are disrupting throughput and opportunity. Defined by Wikipedia, a sacred cow is an idiom based on the popular understanding of the elevated place of cows in Hinduism. A figurative sacred cow is a figure of speech for something considered immune from question or criticism (especially unreasonably so), and for this article, I’m focusing on how these figurative sacred cows relate to business and what they suggest about a company’s leadership and culture. So does your company behave in a manner that supports your beliefs and values? Really? Are you sure? Whatever it is, your rules, policies, and

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Just think how much better things could be if the burden of these handcuffs and inefficient processes were removed and improved. As Einstein said, “The best design is the simplest one that works.” It’s amazing where new profitable approaches will come from—if you’re open to them. Looking outside the industry is a great way to get inspired. Automotive giant Henry Ford revolutionized the world with the assembly line concept—an idea he got by touring a Chicago slaughterhouse. Even when he was one of the world’s richest and most powerful men, Ford was always looking outside his industry for new ideas, and so should you. Going outside the company for information and benchmarking against other companies can be extremely unpopular, especially with middle managers. It disrupts the status quo and threatens change

and, in-turn, their so-called security. Although most people are afraid of change, it can work wonders if they can push through the comfort zone. Why You Can’t See Them Blind spots are a common phenomenon that helps perpetuate sacred cows. In physiology, they are places in the field of vision where the brain overrules the eyes. There must be plenty of them within the signage community since the inability to see things clearly are certainly evident among some of the shop owners I know. (Sorry, guys, it’s true.) I’ve seen owners with beliefs so strong that their brains actually fail to register what their eyes are seeing. When their pre-conceived notions are challenged by new evidence, they just can’t see it. In some ways, a sacred cow is really ego playing a role in suppressing innovation


and keeping people from success. The results are that things never change. Outsiders such as business consultants and advisors offer new insights that people within can’t. With a fresh set of eyes, they can see the situation from a totally different perspective. The good news is that once these sacred cows are identified, they offer the greatest opportunities for improvement. This is where big rewards are—turning sacred cows into cash cows.

John Hackley leads strategic growth, guides partnership development, and serves as CEO of Oculus Business Coaching, a company that provides consultation and coaching programs designed to help manufacturers implement systemic solutions. For more information, call (510) 7606959 or visit


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April 2019


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Job Costing, Part Two


n visiting sign shops across the country, one of the most common questions that I have been asked are what other shops are charging for labor. One shop might charge $50 an hour, while another charges $60 per hour. Using an average rate may not be accurate for your shop, because the overhead for your shop will be much different than the overhead for a competitor’s shop. The productivity rate for two shops can also vary greatly. The better question is how you can calculate an accurate rate for your shop? In allocating overhead to direct labor hours as your cost driver (Note: see last month’s column), here’s a simple way to calculate your hourly shop rate: • Add up your shop and administrative costs (overhead) for a particular period, such as a year. You can easily find past costs from the financial documents that your accountant creates for you, such as an income statement (P&L).


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• Calculate the number of direct labor hours for the same period. This should be easy, if you use labor tickets. • Divide your overhead by the number of direct labor hours. For example, if your overhead during a month is $6,000, divide that by the hours charged directly to jobs (120). This will equal a $50 an hour shop rate. You can also use your history of past overhead expenditures and direct labor hour to determine your shop rate, but the shortcoming of using past data is that it may not be indicative of future expenses and direct labor. To compensate for anticipated changes, you may wish to use this historical information as a reference point. You can forecast future costs and direct labor for the upcoming year, and based on your projections, you can adjust your shop rate. Activity-based Costing A shortcoming of applying overhead to

direct labor is that a disproportionately high amount of overhead may be applied to low-skilled manual labor jobs. The result of using an averaged burdened shop rate for all types of jobs is that you could price yourself out of the market for labor-intensive projects. On the other hand, projects that are run on very expensive equipment, but requiring much less labor, may be underpriced. You might be winning many of these contracts but may not be covering a realistic share of the overhead. To correct for the shortcomings of applying an averaged burdened labor rate, you may want to consider allocating overhead costs based on specific job activities within your shop. This means that you will need to establish different burdened rates for each type of function or department within your shop. In other words, you could establish difContinued on page 36

Photo: Shutterstock/ Zadorozhnyi Viktor.

The formula for figuring out a fair price.



Continued from page 32 ferent rates for different types of printers, as well as different rates for weeding and masking computer cut vinyl. Allocation of your expenses could be based on the investment in a particular job station in relation to the overall investment in you shop. A more accurate (yet much more complex) method of cost allocation is to assign shop and administrative costs to individual departments within your shop. Developing a complicated estimating system such as this requires more time to construct, implement, and maintain. For most sign shops, this is impractical. For larger manufacturers, with distinct departments (each of which have distinct production overhead costs), activity-based costing is often necessary. The basic departments in graphics manufacturing include design and production art, printing, finishing, and shipping. An activity-based costing system requires that you divide expenses into two categories. To the primary category, you could assign general expenses that apply to your shop as a whole. You could divide these primary expenses to the different departments within manufacturing based on the square footage utilized by that department. The next step is to identify those costs that are unique to that department. In a print shop, these costs include the expenses associated with the equipment used specifically in a department. In the print department, these include costs for printing hardware; in finishing, the equipment costs include plotters, die cutters, and laminators. After adding up the primary and secondary costs for each department for a specific time period, the costs are divided by the number of direct hours charged in that department for the same time period. Now you can see how complicated this method for cost allocation is. The advantage is that you assign a more realistic and accurate amount of overhead for a particular activity. More precise allocation of overhead ensures that it is less likely that you will lose 36

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money, as well as less likely that you will leave money on the table. It also means that you are less likely to overcharge and price yourself out of the market. The risk, though, is that anytime a system becomes more complex, you in-

crease the odds that a mistake can occur. Tracking Overhead Your shop overhead will either increase or decrease over time, especially if your business is rapidly growing.



As your shop sells more, your variable costs will increase. Utility costs will typically increase, as well as will your expenditures for shop and office supplies and salaries for new personnel. Discretionary spending on advertising

and travel and entertainment often also rises as the good times roll and occasionally can get out of control. The good news is that these discretionary expenses are the easiest to cut when the need arises. As shop and administrative increase,



you need to track your overhead expenditures and how it affects your shop rate. Here is an actual example of how changes in overhead and direct labor hours affected the hourly shop rate for one print provider during the first three years of operation: Year One: $600,000 annual overhead divided by 12,000 direct labor hours equals $50 hourly labor cost. Year Two: $800,000 annual overhead divided by 18,000 direct labor hours equals $44.45 hourly labor cost. Year Three: $1,020,000 annual overhead divided by 28,800 direct labor hours equals $35.42 hourly labor cost. In estimating labor hours for any job, you want to separate it into the various activities or cost pools involved in its production. For a digital printer, these discrete activities might include: design and production art, sheeting (of vinyl material), printing, laminating, plotter cutting, and packing and shipping. The second step in costing the job is to estimate how much time is required for each activity. By totaling the number of hours for the different activities and multiplying the total by the shop rate, you have calculated your labor cost for the job. If you are producing a number of the same graphic, divide the total by the number of units produced. Pricing It is important to remember that costing and pricing are different. Estimating your costs in producing a job just covers your expenses for the project. Just as you and your employees deserve a paycheck, your business, as a separate entity, needs to realize a return on investment, regardless of whether you are the sole owner or you have investors. Costing provides you with the foundation for determining a competitive selling price. After you estimate your costs, you can calculate your selling price— one that provides your business with an acceptable profit and allows you to remain profitable in your market. Remember that there is a difference between the estimated cost (which just covers your direct and indirect costs) April 2019

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and your selling price. The easiest way to establish a selling price is to calculate all of your direct costs along with an allocated portion of your overhead and add in a percentage for profit. Suppose, for example, that you would like your business to add 25 percent profit to your costs on the job. To do that you divide $486.60 in costs by .75 to achieve a selling price of $648.80. Job Closeout As a sign maker, you understand better than any outsider what your direct and indirect costs are. Based on your experience, you have the ability to develop costing standards particular to your business. After you complete your jobs, you need to compare your estimates with your actual costs from a selection of key projects in a closeout session with your key employees. From that comparison, you can review the

variances and reevaluate your standards. For an accurate comparison, you must maintain good records on material pulled for a job and production hours charged to specific activities, such as design and production art, machine set up, printing, laminating, and plotter cutting. A careful comparison between the estimate and actuals will reveal any shortcomings in estimating standards or production planning. The closeout process should also uncover any deficiencies in purchasing practices and production problems. Periodically you should also recalculate how any changes in your overhead costs and production volume affects your hourly shop rate. Conducting regular job closeout sessions gives you an opportunity to uncover any variances between your estimates and the actual material used and actual

recorded labor in production. If major discrepancies are revealed, you need to determine the source of the inaccuracies. If you are not recording material used, you need to institute some type of tracking system (such as using a materials requisition sheet). From your time cards you will also need to compare the actual number of hours charged to a job versus your estimated labor. If more material or labor was used than projected, you need to determine if there was a problem encountered or if your estimate was instead unrealistic. From your review of the job, you may determine that you need to make changes to your estimating procedures (such as adjusting your scrap rate or modifying your labor standards). On the other hand, if your estimate was reasonable, the job closeout may reveal problems in manufacturing.

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McDonald’s is lovin’ their new LED display.


All Photos: North Shore Neon Sign Company.


ith the recent installation of a 9,200-squarefoot LED digital display for McDonald’s® on the iconic BowTie Building at 1530 Broadway in New York City, North Shore Neon Sign Company can now lay claim to the five largest screens in Times Square. The McDonald’s display comes in as the third largest. “It’s just a continuation of us being able to do the biggest projects that New York can throw at us,” says Patrick Dooley, vice president of North Shore Neon Sign Company. North Shore has been working in the metro New York area for over sixty years. The full-service, third generation familyowned sign company has done everything from signage for car dealerships, retail outlets, and banks to the mega LED displays of the signage spectaculars in Times Square. In fact, you may remember our story about North Shore’s work on the Marriott Marquis display (“A Signage Spectacular,” February 2015). McDonald’s is no stranger to North Shore’s work as the two companies have a professional relationship that spans twenty years. In that time, North Shore has installed signs for a variety of McDonald’s locations in the New York metro area as well as manufactured and installed custom signage and storefront façades for the restaurants. Drawing on those two decades of experience—and thanks to the facilitation of North Shore Vice President Michael Colamussi, who has worked with McDonald’s over the last twenty years—McDonald’s tasked North Shore with upgrading the billboard on its new Times Square restaurant to digital. Having engineered and built the original 100-ton sign structure in 2016, North Shore was very familiar with the site. “We were contracted by the building to remove and replace the traditional ‘stick built’ static billboard as part of a complete building upgrade,” says Dooley. “We convinced the team that it would be in their best long-term interest to build the structure to one day be able to strucContinued on page 44 April 2019

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Continued from page 41 turally receive an LED display. We had no idea that it would only need to wait twoand-a-half years to see that happen. “McDonald’s, knowing that this option was available to them, negotiated a lease for the rights to the structure and made the investment in going digital, understanding they would not only generate foot traffic for the new store but also get a return on their investment through the potential advertising revenue.” In order to get the existing structure ready for the LED display, North Shore completed a technical survey to ensure new vertical steel that was installed would be plumb and level. “We were working from the existing primary structure that was in place for the sign, and then we needed to take those still existing dimensions and create a sign to fit around them,” explains Dooley. Adding to the challenge was a slight bend, or radius, in the sign. “When the most recent static structure was configured for that roof, they used all of the restrictions based on setback, height above roofline, etc., and found out the placement area where the sign could go,” says Dooley. “Then they did some line-of-sight studies to represent where the greatest potential exposure was from all angles within Times Square. So they 44

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felt that they could generate greater visual exposure by going a little east up there on the roof. And in order to accomplish it, they did that in a radius.” North Shore’s steel shop created shop drawings and fabricated all of the vertical steel added to the existing structure.

We had to be dead-on in making sure the structure was plumb and level; otherwise we’d create a systemic problem within the installation. “The tolerances accepted in the original billboard had to be completely removed from the structure because of the tight tolerances inherent in building an LED display,” says Dooley. “We had to determine which existing horizontal rail was

the most far forward, and from there, we developed a shim schedule and built the vertical steel out so the new steel would be perfectly straight up and down. This is an extremely critical step when building large displays because over a large continuous face like this screen, a slight tilt can turn into a difference of multiple feet.” North Shore tapped Daktronics for the digital display, and the company was able to deliver the electronics on time so that the sign company could stay on a very compressed schedule. The 124-foot, 9-inch-wide-by-75foot, 6-inch-high Daktronics display is a DVX-2801-10MN with a 10mm pixel pitch. The challenge with installing this display is that it came in small sixteensquare-foot cabinets, which led to more pieces. “In the past, we’d get cabinets that were significantly larger. With the smaller sections, we had a lot more pieces that we had to assemble in the field—more potential seams, a lot more picks,” says Dooley. “We had to be deadon in making sure that the structure was plumb and level in all directions; otherwise we were going to create a systemic problem within the installation.” Since the billboard was located in busy Times Square, North Shore had to complete a vast majority of the installation— including delivery and installation of the steel—afterhours. North Shore’s SMART






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Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 137 handled the installation of all of the vertical steel as well as the digital display. North Shore used a variety of cranes, which it owns, on the project, including a Skyhook 130 EXHD, 45-ton Demag AC-40, 36-ton National Crane, JLG 1850SJ Ultra Series Telescopic Boom Lift, and JLG 1350SJP Ultra Series Telescopic Boom Lift. North Shore also had to contend with the yearly crane embargo. The embargo runs from about a week before Thanksgiving through the New Year and prohibits the operation of heavy equipment like cranes in areas of New York City that become heavily populated during the holiday season. When they couldn’t use large cranes, North Shore instead employed a variety of installation techniques ranging from mobile cranes and man-lifts set up on the Times Square Plaza to hanging scaffolds with a winch installed on a davit attached to the sign structure. A significant portion of the work was the primary electrical feed. Using their electrical license, North Shore’s Local Union No. 3 IBEW electricians installed 300 feet of large diameter four-inch conduit and pulled the primary electrical feed of 1200A from the basement to the roof of 1530 Broadway. According to Larry Brown, lead electrician at North Shore, they installed electrical panels distributing the service to the individual LED cabinets. Additionally North Shore provided a rooftop-mounted control room, which was comprised of 46

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steel dunnage, an HVAC system, and sufficient electric to power the content management system driving the display. Going through the process of securing the necessary power for the sign could have really slowed down the project, but North Shore’s long-standing relationship with the local utility was key here. “There is a very short supply of electrical current available to midtown Manhattan. They’re using up every ounce of power that they have running down there, so they’re very particular about how the electric is going to be distributed down in that area,” says Brown. “We were able to expedite some aspects of this on the ground level based on our relationships.” All in all, the McDonald’s display was completed on schedule, within budget, and with all parties’ expectations met. What makes this feat even more impressive is that North Shore completed the project without a general contractor. To keep the project on track, North Shore held almost daily meetings and fell back on its employees’ experience. “We have employees who have been working at North Shore for over forty years, and we do thousands of signs every year,” says Dooley. “Between the volume of work and the experience within the company, we have seen everything at least once, and we know how to get things done in the city. There is also a good division of work with an emphasis on teamwork so no one person is relied upon too heavily. Everyone is a profes-

sional and has a strong feeling of personal responsibility for the projects we are hired to complete.” McDonald’s was very pleased with the final product. “We build restaurants not giant rooftop LED structures in the middle of Manhattan,” said Michael Kazarian, U.S. construction manager, McDonald’s Corporation. “Recognizing North Shore could provide all aspects is what gave us the confidence to release not only the physical LED portion but the entire project, and they outperformed my expectations.” In fact, the LED display was so impressive that the McDonald’s marketing team went back to create new and dynamic content that would match with the capabilities of the display and provide unique experiences to guests dining at the restaurant. “They were looking at the board more as an adjunct of the restaurant that they were building below,” says Dooley. “[They didn’t fully realize] the capability of the display and what it could provide to them from an exposure standpoint as well as from an advertising standpoint. And as the process started moving along, I think they started to catch on to what they were actually getting. “To put it in terms of a car comparison, they were expecting a Cadillac but quickly realized they were actually getting a Porsche!” One thing’s for sure—the new LED display will be driving in traffic to McDonald’s for years to come.


52 feet two man basket, jib winch and main winch standard non CDL set up for the sign industry

Wilkie mfg., L.L.C. began building Wilkie aerial ladders and Wilkie remote service cranes in 1972, almost 50 years ago. Service Ladders Remote Control Cranes Cranes Aerial Platforms


WILKIE MFG. L.L.C 2640 NW 2nd Street Oklahoma City, OK 73107 405-235-0920

FeatureSIGNs DIGITAL Name By BEN Author BARR

Three factors that influence digital signage size.


usinesses of all sizes are embracing outdoor digital signage because of its ability to draw in customers with targeted messages. In fact, the U.S. digital signage market is forecast to reach nearly $7 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research, Inc., growing at an annual rate of 6.5 percent. When businesses make the decision to install a digital sign, price often is a top concern. For most businesses, a digital sign is a major investment, so managers want to ensure they purchase the right sign for the least amount of money. 48

Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

As a result, sign companies tend to lead with price instead of value when scoping an installation. This often means specifying a sign that is too small for the site, which puts a dent in performance and results in disappointment. A better approach is to study each location, design the appropriate solution, and prove to customers why your recommendation is best. There are three steps to devising the perfect sign for any location: #1. Chart the Speed of Traffic. For each location, determine how view-

ers will encounter the sign. Will they be on foot, in a car, on public transit? Then chart the speed of these encounters to understand how long a viewer will have to read the sign. The faster the traffic, the shorter amount of time is available for viewers to digest the content on a sign. In general, faster traffic needs larger letters for optimum viewing, and therefore a larger digital sign. Foot traffic and locations where vehicles are stopped at lights provide more viewing time, therefore smaller letters are acceptable and the sign can be a smaller scale.

All Photos: Watchfire Signs.

Size Matters

There are studies on this topic published by groups such as the International Sign Association; however, a good rule of thumb is that 5-inch letters are readable from 250 feet at 20 miles per hour (or slower), 10-inch letters are readable at 30 miles per hour, and 15-inch letters are recommended for highway speeds. It’s easy to see why larger signs are needed to accommodate larger letters. (Note: See “Legibility Chart” above.) #2. Survey the Line of Sight. It’s tempting to specify a sign based on zoning, but surveying the location is a

better way to understand the viewability of a sign. That’s because zoning laws are broad, however, each location is unique. Surveying the site beforehand will uncover obstructions such as trees, telephone lines, and other buildings that can interfere with the readability of a sign. I always visit sites and take photos from multiple locations to demonstrate what viewers see as they approach from different directions. If you can’t take someone with you to drive while you snap pictures, you can attach a roof-mounted camera. It’s also helpful to drive the intended speed

limit to understand how obstructions impact readability as you pass them. There are many tools that can be used to determine readability so you can specify the right size and height for the sign. Many sign companies use Google Maps to drop a pin marker and measure viewing distance. Some employ a balloon test, in which a helium balloon is floated to envision optimal sign height. Another option is to create a plywood sign with lettering, then hoist it to see where readability is best. Having this specific information—and photos to back it up—is invaluable if you plan to ask for a zoning variance, as it gives zoning commissioners a visual look at the site and why the variance is necessary. It also gives business owners a better understanding of why you’re recommending a particular-sized sign. #3. Use Appropriate Content. Many customers don’t understand the impact that content has on the success of digital signs. The trend is to want to over-communicate, yet content needs to be scaled to the amount of time the viewer has to read it and the viewability of the sign. In general, a driver can read a word or image in about one-half to one second. Therefore a simple message containing six words and an image would require about six seconds to read and understand. Animations require even more time for the viewer to read. It’s important to keep in mind that today’s smartphone generation has a short attention span and will respond best to a good image and a few words. Business managers also must be trained to know that what looks good on a computer may not work on a digital sign. Thin script fonts, poor contrast,


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April 2019

low-quality images, and cluttered design may look acceptable on a computer screen but will not render well on a digital sign. The Federal Highway Administration adheres to a practice of keeping signs simple in order to guide the use of fewer words and clear communication, and this is applicable to the on-premise signage market as well. (Note: See photos of Sheller’s Fitness and Brendon’s Catch 23 on page 46 for an example of this.) Putting It All Together Now that you fully understand the location, how customers will view the sign, and the amount of time they have to read content, prepare your case for the appropriately sized digital sign. Ask your customer to provide you with a typical message not to exceed six to ten words and images, then design a message that will fit within the height and width of the digital portion of your recommended sign. Employ a designer to superimpose your suggested sign on photos of the site, showing how the sign looks from different directions. If your customer is insisting on a smaller sign, have the designer superimpose the smaller sign in another batch of photos so you can show the difference side-by-side. Armed with your methodical studies of the site, viewing distance, and traffic speed, you will be well prepared to sell the optimal sign to deliver the best results for your customer.






Ben Barr is the East Region sales director for Watchfire Signs. He presented “How to Justify Sign Size” at the USSC’s Sign Exchange Show held last November in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He can be reached via email at

April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated


USSC Foundation Releases New Sign Height Study & Standards Virtually all sign codes in the United States have regulations establishing the height of freestanding on-premise sign structures. Sign height is an example of content-neutral time, place, and manner regulation of speech (on signs) that is permitted under First Amendment case law and that the U.S. Supreme Court recently discussed in the 2015 Reed v. Gilbert case. There has been a concern for decades that some local sign height regulations do not comply with the needs of the motorist and traffic safety. With this in mind, the USSC Foundation has published a new study on freestanding sign height titled Recommended Mounting Heights for Freestanding On-Premise Signs, Philip M. Garvey and M. Jennifer Klena, Garvey & Associates (2018).

This research was funded by the USSC Foundation and in part by the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry (FASI) in Richey, Florida. The report can be found in the USSCF Research Library at and is free of charge. This new USSCF study presents a new way of looking at freestanding sign height based on science and the needs of the motorist and a new way of determining the correct height. Instead of focusing on so-called “maximum sign height,” the study answers the more appropriate question: What distance from the ground to the bottom of the sign message is needed in order to make the entire sign message visible and legible for motorists? In other words, what is the minimum sign height that is necessary?

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The research suggests a change in focus when dealing with freestanding sign height. Instead of regulating “maximum sign height,” sign regulation should instead accommodate the minimum height necessary for messages on a freestanding sign to be visible and legible for motorists. The focus will be: the distance from grade/ground level to the lowest portion of the sign message. And any arbitrary maximum height that may be in a code will need to accommodate adequate sign visibility and legibility. The USSC Foundation Board of Directors believes this new study will assist sign companies, sign owners, and municipalities in helping to bring science to sign design and regulation. In addition, Garvey and Klena have created an easy-to-use Sign Height Calculator, based on the findings of the new report, which you can access at This new calculator is the first-of-itskind in the sign industry. For further information or any questions, please contact the USSCF at (215) 785-1922 or usscfoundation@

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WE’RE HERE TO ANSWER THE CALL! 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, stepby-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.






Answers 3 Three questions to ask when considering channel letters.

C 54

hannel letters look great, and innovations in recent years have created new opportunities for their use—with more

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April 2019

applications and locations in play than ever before. But there are several factors to consider when planning a sign involving channel letters, and here are three questions in particular you should ask before buying: Question #1. Are you incorporating company colors in the sign? There are two ways to look at this. If the company color is a priority, then that choice likely will influence the materials

used in the sign. In that case, color determines materials. The other way to approach it is to consider materials first, making a choice based on material properties (size constraints, durability, light transmission and diffusion) and cost. The choice of materials may influence the decision on color. For example, if you choose to use a color that isn’t in wide demand—think pink/purple lettering—that can increase

ard acrylic or polycarbonate with no vinyl covering. Those signs typically appear either white or red at night. Doing so keeps the costs down, however it unavoidably limits color choices. Still, if your colors are closely associated with your company, that extra investment may well be worth it.

All Photos: Plaskolite.

Question #2. How big is the sign? This is a more straightforward answer than an actual question. If the letters are taller than three feet, polycarbonate is the best choice. Acrylic letters larger than three feet are difficult to manipulate and transport because they run a higher risk of breaking at that size. Polycarbonate holds up well even with large letters. If the letters are three feet tall or smaller, either acrylic or polycarbonate are viable choices. In these instances, the choice comes down to other properties. Acrylic has become a popular choice due to its light diffusion and transmission properties. As channel letter signs increasingly turn to LED lights in the letters, acrylic’s ability to allow a lot of light to pass through, while simultaneously diffusing that light across the surface, has become a differentiator.

costs. The materials used in the letters is either acrylic or polycarbonate, and the low volume of material needed isn’t going to justify special runs in that color. That means you have to apply a vinyl cover to the letters to get the color you want. That not only increases costs, but it adds another, less durable layer to the sign—a layer that is vulnerable to scratches and tears. If you’re comfortable going with more common colors, you can choose

Question #3. Are you looking for the “wow” factor? We see a lot of signs, but how many do we really notice? If you’re looking for something to stand out from the crowd, there are ways to make it happen. We already discussed some of the non-traditional colors, and there are other options for creating a sign that pops. You might want to consider reverselit channel letters. These letters appear black during the day, but at night, when the lights are on, they have a back-lit glow around the black letters. Another option is using perforated vinyl that is the color of the vinyl during the day but appears white at night, as the light shines through the perforations. Some opt for signs that introduce an old-school look in the channel letters by using neon lights either in the center of the channel or as an outline. These signs do not use a cover over the letters, leav-

ing the neon lights exposed for effect. Of course, that introduces certain complications, but it can create an attentiongrabbing sign. Bonus Question: How deep (or shallow) can you go? There was a time when depth mattered a lot, but the introduction of LED lights ushered in shallower designs. Still it’s a question worth asking. There are some businesses and designers who see channel letters up to six to eight inches deep as a feature rather than a bug. If you have the space—and permission, either from the deed owner or the local zoning body—using depth as a design feature may help with the aforementioned wow factor. Bottom line: It’s easy to forget because innovation moves quickly, but the introduction of LED lights in channel letter signs was a major step forward. It reduced heat, which allowed designers to reduce the depth of the letters. That made light diffusion and transmission even more important as designers sought ways to avoid that pin-lighting effect behind the letters. Today we are seeing additional innovation in materials that will allow even more creative use of light in channel letter signs and other applications. Stay tuned for these results.

Dennis Spahr is director of Sign & Graphics for Plaskolite (, North America’s largest manufacturer of thermoplastic sheet. Based in Columbus, Ohio, he has over thirty years of expertise in acrylic and polycarbonate sheet.

April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated


vinyl case study

A Special BRAND New graphics for Cookie Cart bakery hit the sweet spot.


Sign Builder Illustrated

April 2019

nities across the metro area. So a second location recently opened. Going East The process of finding a second Cookie Cart location was seven years in the making. During the search, the organization heard from teachers, elected officials, and teens that the city of St. Paul would greatly benefit from the program. After exploring many different options, it became clear that the east side of St. Paul was the perfect neighborhood for Cookie Cart’s expanded operations. It is in close proximity to Johnson High School, and a nearby property on Payne Avenue met all the unique requirements for the facility by offering a bakery space, classroom, and office space for the mentors and students, as well as a location that would accommodate for foot traffic. The structure itself is an older building that another buyer may have simply torn down. Cookie Cart, on the other hand, set out to renovate the space. With the assistance of partners like 3M,

the organization was able to repurpose existing resources and turn something old into something new. Several films helped create a bright and fresh extension of the bakery’s overall branding. “3M has been so supportive of our efforts in St. Paul in many ways—through a cash grant, their office and cleaning supplies that support both locations, and the unique and exciting partnership they’ve offered around their film products,” said Matt Halley, executive director of Cookie Cart. Getting the Design Right The Cookie Cart renovations in St. Paul were extensive and carefully planned. There were, of course, updates needed to make the space functional as a bakery, but Cookie Cart also wanted to ensure its vision was carried over from North Minneapolis and that its branding was consistent. Halley explained, “We had a tight construction budget, so the thought was always, ‘Where can we cut

All Photos: Karwoski & Courage.


hirty years ago, Cookie Cart was just a wagon with bicycle wheels, filled with confections homemade by a nun called Sister Jean and the neighborhood kids in North Minneapolis. Sister Jean would invite these kids into her home, helping them with their homework and making cookies together. Then they would take the cart down the street, selling their baked goods to friends and neighbors and, in the process, earning a few extra dollars and putting the rest in a jar for the next week’s cookie production. Fast forward to today, and Cookie Cart is the largest year-round provider of youth employment training in the Twin Cities. The organization gives teens, ranging in ages fifteen to seventeen, the chance to work in a full-blown bakery, as well as receive soft skills training that compliments future job experience. Cookie Cart employs 200 teens a year at its North Minneapolis location, but its goal is to hire even more kids in commu-

es?’ We can’t take out an elevator, but the $15,000 in paint is where we can reduce spending. “However, thanks to 3M’s donated films, our walls throughout the facility have a bright, friendly look that carries over from the Minneapolis bakery to our new St. Paul location.” The overall look and design of the bakery’s interior came from the team at U+B Architecture & Design, Inc., who did the same at the Minneapolis facility in 2014. The goal was to make the new space in St. Paul feel familiar by sticking to the original color scheme and branding. “We were thrilled to help Cookie Cart advance their mission. Showing our graphic representations and explaining our design concepts is the kind of engagement we love participating in to make the project become a reality,” said Edie Sebesta from U+B Architecture & Design, Inc. “Using the films and graphics inside as a way to tell the Cookie Cart story was a unique opportunity to use the product and take advantage of its durability in a welcoming community space.” Cookie Cart uses a vibrant, youthful look that the designers wanted to infuse throughout the St. Paul location. 3M was able to match their signature orange with the films used on their delivery van

Films were used to create a bright, fresh extension of the bakery’s overall branding.

and on the interior walls. 3M donated the product for this new branding opportunity and hired Brand Ink, a local graphics shop with lots of experience in this field, to lead the charge of installing the products and ensuring the end results were smooth and flawless. Transforming the Surroundings 3M™ DI-NOC™ Architectural Finishes were used to help complete the renovation by refreshing the walls with a splash of color instead of having to use paint. These eco-friendly films transform surfaces with patterns ranging from marble to wood to pops of color. These finishes are also often used to mimic the look of paint, as demonstrated here. Brand Ink and its team of DI-NOC certified installers applied the film to the Cookie Cart walls over the course of a few weeks, using eleven rolls in total for the project. “My family has known about Cookie Cart before I even started Brand Ink in 2010,” said Nick Lowry, owner of Brand Ink. “It was exciting when 3M came to me with this opportunity to help out Cookie Cart, an organization that we are already connected with. “DI-NOC was a great fit for this space, as it is designed for the long haul and will stand the test of time without per-

formance issues like shrinking. It’s also easier to get a more seamless finish.” The branding extended to the exterior, as the Cookie Cart’s delivery van features a memorable and striking design. The eye-catching graphics on the delivery van are crisp, bright, and enticing—and they’re also visible at night. Using 3M™ Print Wrap Film IJ180mC-10, IN Food Marketing crafted the overall design of the van artwork, which was awarded Excellence for Design Features at the 2018 Communicator Awards. Built with Comply™ adhesive and micro technology, the IJ180mC-10 film delivered a smooth appearance. Looking Ahead The new storefront brings visual vibrancy to the neighborhood. The St. Paul location officially opened for business in the spring of 2018, and an estimated one hundred teens will be employed at the new bakery. Collectively they will work about 15,000 hours, either representing Cookie Cart in the community, working in the bakery, or taking classes. Cookie Cart’s long-term strategic goal is never having to turn away any prospective employees, and its new St. Paul bakery is one big step closer to achieving it.

Marketing was able to achieve a smooth application on the delivery van and print colorful graphics that match Cookie Cart’s signature orange and bright hues. April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated



A Custom

RIDE ehicle Wraps, Inc., is a family owned and operated vehicle wrap vinyl and graphic company based in northern California that has been wrapping vehicles since 2010. The company works with all kinds of vehicles—from sports cars to boats to food trucks—and is used to tackling custom jobs for customers. Last year, though, they received an unusual request that they had not anticipated before. A customer who had previously come to the company for a vehicle wrap solution approached them with a request for a custom vinyl wrapping job. The customer planned to give his daughter a hoverboard for her birthday and wanted help vinyl wrapping the personal vehicle in a custom skin to make it a truly oneof-a-kind gift. “Our client had seen what we had done recently with a 2016 Chevy Camaro using a Color Flow Series wrap vinyl from Avery Dennison,” says Burt Erdman, owner of Vehicle Wraps, Inc., “and he


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April 2019

wanted the same vinyl used for his daughter’s hoverboard.” What is a Hoverboard? Also called self-balancing electric scooters, hoverboards are two-wheeled, motorized personal transport vehicles that superficially resemble skateboards. The rider leans forward or backward to move and twists to steer. These vehicles gained massive popularity a few years ago, becoming a hotticket holiday item in 2014 and 2015, but they were pulled from major U.S. retailers in 2016 when half a million hoverboards were recalled due to a fire risk caused by overheating batteries. Interest in the vehicles remains to this day, however, with enthusiasts drawn to their novelty and reputation for being fun to ride. Today’s hoverboards range from $200 to $600 and are once again sold widely at major retailers. Wrapping the Hoverboard Thankfully the team at Vehicle Wraps,

Inc., already had experience working with specialty wraps that allow them to print digital images and designs onto a variety of materials that are customcatered to projects. (Note: Customers often use specialty wraps for advertising campaigns, product launches, and event promotions.) The process of actually wrapping a hoverboard provided a few unique challenges because of its unusual shape and components. “We cleaned and prepped the surface using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol to remove any dirt/dust, as well as dismantled parts of the board that would not hold vinyl,” says Erdman. The hoverboard’s infamous battery (mentioned earlier) was a point of some concern when preparing to complete the wrap. Although the “exploding battery” issue that led to the massive recall in 2016 has since been corrected, these vehicles still rely on a lithium-ion battery for power. These are the same kinds of

All Photos: Vehicle Wraps, Inc.


“I need to wrap this…hoverboard?”

teries used in laptops, tablets, and smart phones, which have received media attention in recent years after freak events on commercial airplanes involving batteries exploding or catching fire during flights, forcing emergency landings. The sensitive nature of these batteries had to be taken into account before work on the hoverboard could begin. “We had to be careful, as those batteries are sensitive to heat and to pressure,” says Erdman. “So the battery had to be removed prior to wrapping to prevent any damage being done to the battery or the hoverboard itself.” Consistent with any other vehicle wrapping job, the technician used a squeegee, a heat gun, an OLFA knife, and a pair of wrap gloves to complete the project. “We used Avery Dennison Gloss Lightning Ridge (SW900-611-S) Color Flow vinyl on the hoverboard,” says Erdman. “The curves of the molded plastic were pretty intense and required a lot of

working the vinyl around them, but we were able to achieve a seamless look.” Branching Out Erdman encourages shops to welcome non-traditional projects as a way to open doors to new opportunities—including some applications that you might never have imagined before. Taking on many different kinds of projects, and not pigeon-holing your business into focusing only on one kind of work, can lead to prospects seeing your work and seeking out your company when they have an unusual project of their own. “The advantage to offering to wrap more than just vehicle and wall surfaces is that it really expands the amount of work you can do and new connections that it can establish,” says Erdman. “It really opens up to more and more projects and gives you versatility.” Before diving into new types of projects and testing the limits of your capa-

bilities, Erdman suggests reviewing the materials you are using as well as honestly assessing the state of your equipment and your team. “I think the most important thing that you should think about in wrapping surfaces other than vehicles and architectural [surfaces] is to know the limits of the vinyl and the limits of your ability before committing to a project,” says Erdman.

The hoverboard’s curves required a lot of working the vinyl around them.




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Sign Builder Illustrated



From Out of

the past G

ate City Signs & Graphics is a one-stop sign and graphic solution company that’s located in Greensboro, North Carolina. The company offers customized solutions that promote businesses and services throughout the area and beyond. For example, they recently had the privilege of replacing an aged and worn historic Greensboro sign located at the entrance to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. In addition to replacing and upgrading the old postand-panel sign with a permanent monument sign, the sign company was also tasked with recreating the colorful, historical sign known affectionately as the “Sad Drum” and placing it on the new sign structure.


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April 2019

“This was an amazing project to be involved with, and it’s one that’s close to my heart,” said Gate City Signs & Graphics Owner Jim Helms. “I’ve frequently run through the Military Park and trained for races there. And I purposely selected my business location to be nearby the park. So, it was an absolute honor to be able to design and install this sign right in our backyard.” Reproducing a Historic Sign From production to installation, it took about six to eight weeks for Gate City Signs to complete this project. The new double-sided monument sign is actually a combination of different components. The overall dimensions of the foundation and stone blocks hosting the main sign panel measure 72 inches tall-

by-192 inches long-by-24 inches wide. The main sign itself consists of two 44-inch-tall-by-162-long-by-1.5-inch Western Red Cedar Redwood panels. Gate City Signs selected this material figuring they should last about fifteen to twenty years. Gate City Signs carved the redwood panels using a V-shaped bit on their CNC router and then painted them using Matthews Paint. All the paint colors, substrates, materials, and fonts used for this project were either hand selected by park officials or designated by National Parks brand guidelines. The stonework, metal color, sign colors, and fonts featured on the panels all kept with these official guidelines as well. The arrowhead logo featuring the

All Photos: Gate City Signs.

Custom sign company recreates historic military park signage.


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The Sad Drum was carved out of HDU and painted to match the original design.

tional Park Service identification found on the left-hand side of the sign panel was precision-cut from an aluminum plate and then screen-printed and attached.


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April 2019

Several French cleats were attached to the backside of the redwood cedar panels, where they were then locked to the steel frame support structure.

Mother Nature gifted Gate City Signs with unexpectedly warm temperatures in early December, which allowed them to get the foundation

poured and the concrete blocks and stone laid before a big December snowfall soon followed. The Western Red Cedar redwood panels are attached to both sides of a steel frame that Gate City Signs constructed in-shop. Gate City Signs first embedded Jbolts into the solid concrete based. Then using a template, they drilled holes into the steel frame support structure and maneuvered them to slide over the inserted J-bolts. “We then tightened the frame to the base using steel galvanized lock washers and nuts,” said Helms. Gate City Signs followed this up by attaching several steel French cleats to the backside of the decorated Western Red Cedar redwood panels. “We then lifted, placed, and locked the panels to the frame using the attached French cleats,” said Helms. One thing to keep in mind about this project is that, because it was installed on military park grounds, the dirt excavated during the project couldn’t be disposed of just anywhere. In keeping with park rules and regulations, Gate City Signs took special care to spread the dirt at a designated site within the boundaries of the park. The reason for this is that it’s essential to keep the soil on site in case it were to contain any artifacts. The park doesn’t

want that soil ending up anywhere else but on the property. Reproducing a Historic Drum According to Helms, reproducing the historic “Sad Drum” was the most significant part of the sign project. The original drum survived the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and has been hanging on the waist of a militia mannequin at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park since 1954. Though not much was known about the drummer, Luther W. Clark—and some question whether the drum was ever used in battle—it still remains an icon of the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. Over the years, there has been much speculation regarding the meaning of the sad drum. The drum itself depicts a sad face, which has been assumed to be the face of King George III as a sad Humpty Dumpty because his kingdom was falling and couldn’t be put back together. In addition to the face, the Sad Drum sign also displays the red-andblue North Carolina militia flag, a French flag, cannon barrels, the buttend of a musket, swords, a spear-like pole arm called a spontoon, and other war implements. In 1985, park rangers Don Long and James Clark recreated the Sad Drum in the form of a five-inch replica, which was sent to then National Park Service Director William Penn Mott in Washington, D.C., to hang on a Christmas tree in his office. Mott wanted each of the 300 parks across the United States to provide a lightweight ornament that was characteristic of each park. Using a reference photo, Gate City Signs replicated the Sad Drum by using their CNC router to carve the piece out of high-density urethane (HDU) foam that hardens when painted. “[This substrate] should last about as long as the main sign itself,” said Helms. Once the shape of the sign was exacted from the newer and stronger material, Gate City Signs hired a professional artist to replicate the exact artwork from the original Sad Drum sign. “We were so pleased when the artistry came back to us,” said Helms,

ing that his staff is committed to providing exceptional customer service, the highest quality signs and graphics delivered and installed in a timely fashion, and an experience that exceeds expectations in both service and quality. “When we contract work that requires outside talent, we take special care to select the right people. So, we knew

that we had chosen the perfect person for the job.” They attached the Sad Drum replicas to the cinderblock on both sides of the sign structure and then finished by placing the stone around the drums. Portions of this article appeared in a previously written press release.

April 2019

Sign Builder Illustrated



Transcontinental Packaging enlisted Nimlok-authorized dealer, Nimlok New York City, to create an impactful mixed-media display using dye-sublimation printing on pillowcase fabrics and silicone edge graphics.


ON Display The roles of vinyl and fabrics in tradeshow and event graphics.


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April 2019


here are a variety of display options to consider for tradeshow and special event graphics. Banners and backdrops are popular options. Meanwhile portable displays can make quite a visual impact, combining solid color panels with detailed, emotional imagery tied to a brand identity.

As for materials, vinyl remains a very prevalent choice for these settings. One of the most common applications for vinyl graphics is a retractable banner stand; large hanging banners are another. The appeal of vinyl is that it offers an added durability, as well as being cost effective and easy to clean.

Photo: (Left) Nimlok®, a division of Orbus Exhibit & Display Group®. (Right) Orbus Exhibit & Display Group®.

Meanwhile dye-sublimation textiles have become increasingly popular over the past five years—for example, printed table throws, banners, and pillowcase graphics for aluminum structures and stretch materials with silicone edge beading that is sewn into the perimeter of a graphic and fits into a channel/extrusion (which results in a very clean, polished look). Fabric graphics are effortless to pack up and ship in small boxes. It is simple to ship a ten-foot fabric backwall in a small box compared to a series of rollable styrene or PVC panels. Customers also enjoy the convenience of simply machine washing to clean the graphics in between tradeshows or events. With the increase in marketing at outdoor events, sporting races, and concerts, there is also a bigger need for graphics that can withstand different climates and hold up in exterior conditions. When picking materials for outdoor graphics, it is important to consider whether the material has any type of water-resistant coating for products such as tents. Lightweight flag and mesh materials can also be great solutions for simple outdoor applications. Advice: Upsizing Graphics and Photos To properly upsize graphics and/or photos for use as an event display backdrop or banner, it all comes down to the initial quality of the raw image you’ll be using and how much or how little you’ll need to scale and crop said image. If you need to scale your photos up substantially, we suggest starting with a high-resolution image. For example, an image that contains 300-ppi (pixels per inch) retains more detail once scaled up than the 72-ppi version of this image. We also suggest that your images be at least 100-ppi at final print size to achieve the best printed quality for a large format print. Recent versions of Adobe® Photoshop® also offer resampling options that you can choose from when you’re upscaling images. These usually have the best results if you’re starting with a highresolution image. These options work off of an algorithm that creates filler pixels

that are sampled from nearby pixels. A 300-ppi image works better to preserve its resolution, whereas a 72-ppi image becomes extremely blurry. Color Management Color management is essential for graphics and photos that are used as event display backdrops and banners. It is easiest to manage the color output of solid colors for items such as critical logo colors when they are supplied as vector elements. Select RIP software will store a color library that helps achieve the closest match for a Pantone® solid-coated spot color. If your vector element has a certain Pantone color built in, this type of RIP will automatically output the closest mix to achieve the specified color. If you are not printing with actual Pantone inks, you should be aware that there will be slight color variation when compared to the Pantone book; however we’ve seen some great enhancements over the last six years to achievable color output—especially when it comes to dye-sublimation printing. As far as color output for raster images, it is critical to supply the printer with physical proofs to highlight your color expectations or alternatively find a trusted G7 certified print facility. The reason is that a G7 print facility can guarantee that files will have a similar neutral appearance across multiple printers and substrates. Hard copy proofs can also be requested to show how artwork will appear on the final substrate. This can help the customer see exactly how an image or Pantone/spot

color might be reproduced on various different substrates—from dye-sublimation textiles to vinyl and rigid substrates. Designs That Work There are a few factors that play into whether or not a specific color/design will help or hurt your event display backdrop or banner. For example, step-and-repeat walls are a very popular item at the moment for events, and these are mostly used for people to be photographed with a background. Graphics here should be relatively simple with large enough logos and solid color backgrounds so that the brands can easily be recognized. For hanging structures or banners in a tradeshow setting, it is important to make your message stand out from a distance—simple and bold goes a long way if you are hoping for your brand to be noticed quickly at a show. Backlit fabric is also another huge trend, especially for silicone edge lightbox graphics. In our experience, very vibrant imagery, colorful landscapes, or bold colors can make a huge impact when backlit. Dark colors are ideal when it comes to backlit display graphics, as light colors, white, and grays can tend to look more washed-out and make less of a statement. White text creates a stark contrast to a darker background, making the display really pop.

Jaime Herand is vice president of Graphics Operations and Jenny Prado is art service manager at Orbus Exhibit & Display Group.

300-ppi image scaled up to 80-inch width with Photoshop’s “Preserve Details for Enlargement” tool selected. Resolution stays the same, and the image is acceptable for large format printing.

April 2019

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Shop Talk


Automatic Assumptions Are robotics coming for your job?


he robots are coming! At least that’s what the news reports around the first of the year would lead you to believe. While robots aren’t going to take over the world like sci-fi movies have predicted (yet), it does appear they are coming for your jobs. A number of stories have predicted the growth in automation, robotics, and the like over the next few years. One even said that one in four Americans could be displaced by automation. While all of that remains to be seen, there is one trend that I believe we will see come to fruition—and quickly. The World Economic Forum report released in early 2019 found that training will become increasingly important, especially as some jobs go by the wayside due to automation. As the authors write: “The broad change that will be required in this new world of learning and work is to move away from traditional, front-loaded accreditation and

siloed certificates to a system of lifelong learning infused with a shared set of skillsbased indicators at its core.” Two items are worth highlighting here. First, providing tools that help workers become lifelong learners will be a powerful differentiator for any business. Second, a focus on skills-based indicators will become paramount. As the world of work shifts dramatically, for companies to survive and thrive, they must be willing to invest in training their employees, as well as be open to recruiting newcomers into the industry. Several reports around the first of the year noted how dramatically work is changing and how some industries may shift. Workers who have been displaced by automation and robots will be looking for jobs—and our industry certainly has solid careers to offer. As automation begins to take place, many states will likely begin offering train-

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ing and retraining programs to help workers make the transition. Already grants and tax breaks exist in certain areas when hiring hard-to-place workers. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, offered through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workforce Investment, provides tax credits for businesses that hire groups who have typically had significant barriers to finding jobs—like veterans, ex-felons, and those who receive government benefits. However this program only is authorized for hires made before January 1, 2020. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT), funded by the Department of Labor and implemented at the state level, has led to innovative apprenticeships and targeted training. Check with your state’s Workforce Board to learn more about programs in your area. One of the most successful programs at bringing young people into the industry has been ISA’s Sign Manufacturing Day, held each year the first Friday in October in conjunction with the National Association of Manufacturers. Last year, almost 4,000 high school, community, and technical school students visited a sign, graphics, and visual communications company—and several have found jobs as a result of this event. While October may seem far away, some companies have told us they are more successful in reaching schools late in the spring semester rather than losing time over the summer break. Reach out to to learn more about getting started. It is clear that finding, retaining, and retraining workers will continue to be a major effort for sign, graphics, and visual communications companies going forward. If the news reports are to be believed, there are plenty of people who will be looking for work. We have a powerful story to tell, but we must be open to bringing in—and training—those new workers.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 1407, Cedar Rapids, IA. 52406-1407. 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.

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