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USSC Sign Design Contest

A Perfect Alignment

Num ber 222 | d ec em ber 2 0 1 3


Deep Sign

Sculpting > Choosing Print Media > Wayfinding School > LED Lighting

Photography by Greg Gorman Š 2012


Solvent printing haS never been faSter Introducing the SureColor® S-Series. With the all-new SureColor S-Series line of printers, Epson is ushering in a new era of performance, quality and reliability. Developed for high-performance printing and a low cost of ownership, this all-new suite of solvent printers delivers print speeds that are the fastest in their class and image quality that’s unmatched in the industry, at an unprecedented price. And, with three unique 64" models to choose from, including the SureColor S50670, there’s an S-Series printer that’s right for your business. Learn more about the way solvent printing should be at

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December 2013






A Not-So-Fishy Fish Tale BY JEFF WOOTEN

A sign company goes above and beyond to get “under the sea.”

32 40

Natural Print Selection BY MIKE ANTONIAK

Equipment makers weigh in on choosing the right media.

Signs of Giving BY ASHLEY BRAY

A sign shop donates tips on getting your donor signage right.

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


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


Moving to Higher Ground BY LORI SHRIDHARE

Wayfinding helps transform a college into a university.

Dateline: Identity Signage BY JEFF WOOTEN

Prismatic letters (and a moose!) spread the word for a small town newspaper.


The Sign Building-Lighting Connection BY TED KONNERTH

Today’s advanced lighting technologies offer a world of opportunities for sign builders.

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

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


How-To Columns


High-Rise Sign Safety


Renewal Process

FEBRUARY 2014 February 11-14: Digital Signage Expo will be held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. ( February 27-March 1: Graphics of the Americas Expo & Conference is taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida. (

MARCH 2014

16 High-Rise Sign Safety BY BILL DUNDAS

Identifying new approaches to enhance sign structure performance.

20 Renewal Process BY MARK ROBERTS

Breathing new life back into a couple of twenty-year-old signs.

Departments 6




This month’s projects allow Editor Jeff Wooten to pinpoint some behind-thescenes attributes you can employ as well.

The latest news from around the industry.


Sign Show


SBI Marketplace


Shop Talk

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade. AWARD WINNERS


USSC Sign Design Contest

A Perfect Alignment

NU M BE R 22 2 | D ECE M BE R 2 013


On the Cover

Deep Sign

Sculpting > Choosing Print Media > Wayfinding School > LED Lighting


Ashley Bray details why sign businesses in small towns need to consider themselves full-service shops.

A Magic Sculpt octopus is attached to the treasure chest base of an aquatic-themed sign sculpture. Photo by Radim Horak.

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

March 6-8: Dscoop9, an independent global community of graphic arts professionals who use HP equipment and related solutions, will be held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida. ( March 7-8: The Mid South Sign Association’s “New Ideas New Possibilities” Conference is headed to Fayetteville/ Bentonville, Arkansas. (

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

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



by jeff wooten

December 2013, Vol. 27, No. 222

Behind-the-Sign Story Team-building can be one part of a project’s success.

Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 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 editorial editor

Jeff Wooten

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


ometimes it’s the hidden details that can play an instrumental role in the success of a sign project (in addition to the more visible design, fabrication, and installation aspects). This month, you’ll find several articles that feature projects of quality craftsmanship, yet their behind-the-scenes components (quality employees, customer service, third-party suppliers, thorough planning, etc.) also proved to be key pieces of the sign-making puzzle—pieces that can be utilized at your shop as well. A team of creative employees. Our cover story (p. 24) involves a sign shop, KDF Graphics of Rockleigh, New Jersey, working after hours to create an eight-and-a-half-foottall, aquatic-themed sign sculpture for an online sign competition. Although not by pre-planned design, each of the company’s six employees have creative skills of some sort—whether as a builder, an artist, a designer, or a photographer. “Most of our jobs are super-fast turnarounds because everyone here is well rounded and can run the [in-shop] equipment,” says President Stephen Hoey. “So a piece doesn’t have to go from department to department. Everyone just ‘dives’ right in here.” It’s a real team atmosphere that really generates quick results on time (including beating a looming deadline). Keeping customers in the loop. Speaking of “on time,” Tom Stade owns one-man-shop Moosehead Signs in Greenville, Maine, and his identity sign work for a newspaper involved prismatic letters and a router-cut moose (p. 50). Tom gave this client a three-week timeframe to draw up, build, and install everything for them, but being he’s a one-man operation, it doesn’t take but a few jobs to find himself


Ashley Bray

busy. Tom is still adamant about meeting any deadlines, and he is upfront with customers if he cannot. “If I see that I might be headed over-schedule, I’ll keep them up-to-date,” he says. “I might even send them a picture showing them where I’m at in the process. They seem to enjoy that.” Although Tom is the sole sign maker at his business, this is great advice for a shop of any size. Third-party relationships. In our “Signs of Giving” story (p. 40), Jim Vitous, owner of Custom Designs Signs in Keene, New Hampshire, offers tips for working with donor recognition signage. One project required him to use a third-party supplier (AMI Graphics) to convert old photographs into high-resolution files. Their coordination of the transfer of large files was important here. “We find that Dropbox works great,” he says, noting that a tight deadline meant a need for tight contact with their supplier. “We kept them informed of when we needed things and the status of the job as the deadline grew closer. In fact, we had final approval only three days before the celebration.” Detailed planning. “Moving to Higher Ground” (p. 46) details how The Baldus Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana completed the fabrication and installation of five distinct wayfinding sign types for Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana. Doing so required the firm to develop a Campus Signage Master Plan. “This plan involved extensive client interaction, research of the University’s brand standards, and exploration of a multitude of design concepts,” explains Dave Weadock, project manager at The Baldus Company, “yet doing so allowed us to achieve the best location and construction for each sign type.”

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

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

Butch “superfrog” Anton, Mike Antoniak, Bill Dundas, Jim hingst, ted Konnerth, Peter Perszyk, Mark roberts, lori shridhare, randy Wright art

Corporate Art Director Wendy Williams production

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers circulation

Circulation Director Maureen Cooney advertising sales national sales director

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

Kim noa

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

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



Design Winners

A. Bristol, Pennsylvania—The judging is in, and once again, the 2013 USSC Sign Design Competition demonstrates that the members of the United States Sign Council (USSC) are highly creative designers—coming up with some of the most innovative ideas in sign design throughout the country. The USSC Sign Design Contest is one that judges real signs—signs that have been ordered by a customer and built to specification and signs that are being viewed by the general public day after day. And looking over the many entries that USSC received this year, it appears that members are producing some out8

standing signs. This year’s “Best in Show” (Photo A) was awarded to Mack Bachman, designer at Golden West Advertising in Boise, Idaho for Metro Express Car Wash (a project that also claimed First Place for “Freestanding Sign, Internal Illumination”). Other First Place winners: “Building Sign, Internal Illumination” – Gable Signs, Inc., of Baltimore, Maryland (company)/ Curtis Arbaugh (designer) for M.C. Dean (project) (Photo B); ”Freestanding Sign, Non-illuminated” – Stoner Graphix of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania/Kurt Stoner for Turkey Hill (Photo C); “Multimedia” – Sign Solutions, LLC of Frederick, Maryland/

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013



F. Michael Brown and Tim Ward for 1861 Saloon (Photo D); “Banners, Murals, or Supergraphics” – SGI - Severn Graphics, Inc., of Glen Burnie, Maryland/Jeff Sparhawk for MGH Advertising-Old Bay Garage (Photo E); and “Carved/ Dimensional, Affixed to a Building” – House of Signs of Frisco, Colorado/Roger Cox for Cabin Fever (Photo F). Additional First Place winners: “Building Sign, Non-Illuminated” – The Great American Sign Company of Basking, New Jersey/Gary Johnson for Ridge Marketing; “Carved/ Dimensional, Monument or Freeestanding” – House of Signs/Roger Cox for Stagecoach Inn; “Electronic Message Center Sign” – Stoner Graphix/Kurt Stoner for Jiff BrothersBig Woody’s; and “Freestanding Sign, Illumination” – Horst Signs of Myerstown, Pennsylvania/H. Horst and R. Bergey for Horst Signs & Truck Lettering.


E. And: “Monument Sign, Internal Illumination” – Creative Sign Designs of Tampa, Florida/Creative Sign Designs Team for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise; “Monument Sign, Non-illuminated” – Danthonia Designs of Inverell, NSW, Australia/Nancy Kaiser for Mary Valley Country; “Sign Systems” – Golden West Advertising/Mack Bachman and Brodie Niendorf for Rocket Express Car Wash; and “Vehicles” – Stoner Graphix/Stoner Graphix Design Team for Wolfpak Transportation. All thirteen winners will be featured in the organization’s 2014 USSC Sign Design Calendar, which was mailed to all USSC members by early- to mid-November (it is also available at this month’s USSC Sign World International event in Atlantic City, New Jersey). To view photos of all First Place awardwinning entries, visit

Print Industry Stagnation? Boston, Massachusetts—Semper International (, a leading placement firm for skilled help in the graphic arts and printing industry, reports industry stagnation as the four th quar ter begins. Although 71 percent of companies surveyed reported a profitable Q3 (a three-point increase over Q2), Semper found that recent government mismanagement has hurt every sector of the economy. “We need Washington to step up and provide the stability and incentives businesses need to see to start hiring and investing,” notes Semper International CEO Dave Regan. “It’s the only way we’re going to get the economy moving again.” Survey participants include more than 300 small, medium, and large printing companies. These participants provided data on revenue and hiring, as well as estimated outlooks on future trends. Semper found that the greatest competitive threat to printers remains largely unchanged from last quarter. The current economy (52 percent) is the largest threat, exceeding price pressures from lower cost competitors (19 percent), and emerging technology (11 percent).

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Dispatches + MACtac Launches Mobile App S t o w, O h i o — M A C t a c ® Distributor Products (www. has debuted the wide format industry’s first mobile tablet application designed specifically to help printing professionals in this field and their customers specify the right pressure-sensitive print media for their graphics applications. DesignScape™ 3D is built around common graphic applications and the settings in which they occur. The basic navigation of DesignScape 3D provides visual detail about where wide format graphic products are used in the real world, allowing a user to choose one of six 3D environments that each feature two or more views and rotating icons highlighting the many different pressure-sensitive graphic applications characteristic of each environment. This allows a user to see not only a specific application that might interest them but also additional installation ideas or opportunities for sales. For each application, DesignScape 3D

not only suggests products but also provides technical data, tips, collateral, and laminate recommendations. Users can also easily request product samples and additional literature, and they can readily email links to product literature in case a customer would like more information. In the event that a wireless connection is not available, the email will simply queue and send when Internet access is available. The application is available to download on tablets running iOS and Android operating systems. A Windows system will be available soon.

Orbus Expands, Builds New Facility Bolingbrook, Illinois—Orbus Exhibit & Display Group™, a trade supplier of display, exhibit, and event solutions, plans to expand operations through the construction of a new 350,000-square foot manufacturing and distribution facility. This not only allows the company to achieve its plans for growth, but also enables it to consolidate current operations and bring its team together into


one facility. The company held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, September 23 to kick-off the construction of the new building, which will be built on a twentyacre site in Woodridge, Illinois. In 2010, Orbus merged with its sister brand Nimlok. This move is the last step in the consolidation of its Illinois-based operations and combines the company’s custom exhibit manufacturing capabilities with its portable display production and distribution. Not only will the consolidation improve efficiencies and reduce duplication, but it will also support the company in establishing a unified corporate culture. To watch the groundbreaking ceremony, visit www.orbuscompany. com/orbus-future-home.

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

Roland Products Receive GREENGUARD Gold Certification Irvine, California—Roland DGA Corp., has announced that three of its products—Eco-Sol MAX ink, EcoSol MAX 2 ink, and WallFlair Removable Fabric—have received GREENGUARD Gold UL 2818 certification from UL Environment, a business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories). This certification provides assurance that these products meet some of the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into indoor air. GREENGUARD Gold Certification includes safety factors to account for sensitive individuals (such as children and the elderly) and ensures that a product is accepta b l e fo r u s e i n environments like schools and hospitals. This type of certification is becoming a key factor to a growing number of architects, designers, and facility managers seeking to incorporate third-party certified, healthier, more sustainable products into their buildings. “People spend 90 percent of their time indoors, which is why healthier indoor spaces are so critical,” says Sara Greenstein, president of UL Environment. “This level of UL certification is hard-earned and proves that Roland inks have always been part of an eco-conscious plan to create green products for our customers and, importantly, their customers,” adds Roland DGA President Rick Scrimger.

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SignSHOW A P PA R E L / P R I N T W E A R Epson Enters the Direct-to-garment Market with New SureColor® F2000 Series Printers Engineered by Epson America from the ground up, the new SureColor® F2000 Series Standard Edition and White Edition printers deliver industrial-level production, image quality, and reliability. With the ability to print directly onto garments—T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, and more (ranging from 100 percent cotton to 50/50 fabric blends)—the SureColor F2000 Series offers additional revenue opportunities for garment print shops of any size. The SureColor F2000 Series printers leverage Epson UltraChrome® DG ink technology—an all-new garment ink formulation developed specifically for the purpose-built, one-inch-wide Epson MicroPiezo® TFP® printhead. The Epson SureColor F2000 Standard Edition is a high-speed CMYK-only model, and the White Edition offers the added benefit of white ink for printing onto dark or color fabrics. The SureColor F2000 Series printers will be available in the U.S. in January 2014.

Fisher Textiles Stretches Its Digital Apparel Fabric Line Fisher Textiles, one of the leading suppliers of fabrics for digital printing, has added 1100 Jersey Micro Stretch to its digital apparel fabric line for dye-sublimation printing. 1100 Jersey Micro Stretch is 8.4 oz/yd² and 58 to 60 inches wide. Named for its stretch characteristics, it is 90 percent Polyester and 10 percent Spandex. It contains wicking (a moisture management system that allows perspiration to move away from the body), dries quickly, controls odor, and promotes comfort. Applications for 1100 Jersey Micro Stretch include apparel and sports shirts. Free sample rolls are available for testing. 800/554-8886;

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNAGE Nudo Products Builds Up Its Product Line with Launch of a New Web Site Nudo is a manufacturer of ceiling, wall, floor, and exterior architectural panels for a variety of market segments, and its new Web site is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to enhance the breadth and ease of obtaining product information for its customer base nationwide. The Web site reflects the clean, modern look of the Nudo brand and features a user-friendly navigation experience for every type of customer. The “Find a Product” feature allows users to search by industry and/or application and quickly get a list of all Nudo products that are a potential fit for their needs. A new “Live Chat” tool provides immediate assistance to all visitors. The product pages contain a quick resource center to access all pertinent product information. In addition, Nudo’s image gallery is searchable by product type, industry, and application, so visitors have access to hundreds of images to provide inspiration for their next project!

D I G I TA L P R I N T I N G E Q U I PM E N T/ S U P P L I E S Direct Digital UV Imaging for Deep Draw Thermoforming Produce custom thermoforming applications faster and more efficiently by imaging direct to substrate with the EFI™ VUTEk® GS Pro-TF digital inkjet printer series (pictured, with John Norwood, president of printing firm Interstate Graphics in Machesney Park, Illinois). EFI recently announced the commercial availability of this thermoforming system—a UV printer and ink combination that advances the industry’s analog-to-digital transformation by bringing inkjet printing to the thermoformed product decoration market. With outstanding elongation characteristics, excellent adhesion, and consistent post-draw opacity, images printed on the VUTEk GS2000 Pro-TF and VUTEk GS3250 Pro-TF withstand heat forming and cutting/routing with no chipping or loss of adhesion. Offer your customers a faster, lower cost alternative for custom thermoforming applications (custom-formed signs, packaging, P-O-P displays, vending panels, etc.).

LETTERS/LETTERING Gemini Utilizing Improved Alloy for All Cast Aluminum Products All cast aluminum products produced by Gemini Incorporated are now being manufactured with Aluminum Alloy 514—a grade of aluminum that offers higher ductility, better corrosion resistance, and even more durability than other aluminum alloys previously utilized by the company. Gemini made the decision to switch to the higher grade aluminum after consulting with customers and reviewing data on weatherability. The improved aluminum (a proprietary blend of Alloy 514) is also more eco-friendly than previous aluminum alloys. For many years, Gemini has cast aluminum products out of Alloy 514 when anodizing was the chosen finish option, because it was superior to any 356 or 319 grade alloys. Now Gemini will be using Alloy 514 for all cast aluminum products. The appearance will look the same, but the Aluminum Alloy 514 will last even longer than past products and with much fewer instances of failure in harsh weather conditions. 800/538-8377;


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

PA I N T S /CoAT I N G S / f I N I S H E S Versatile Genesis® LV Single-stage System Provides Sign Manufacturers a Premium Appearance The new Genesis® LV Single-Stage System from Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes is an ideal coating system for sign manufacturers. This two-component urethane coating system leverages two mixing clears to reach multiple gloss levels (flat, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss). With simple mix ratios (regardless of the preferred gloss level), this system is easy to apply and meets VOC regulations. The high-performance qualities of this system protect against humidity, temperature extremes, harsh chemicals, cleaning solvents, graffiti, and UV ray degradation. The Genesis LV System also utilizes the Sherwin-Williams Color Works® The Match Box Color System to deliver excellent color selection. Once a color is matched and applied, it can be taped in one hour. This feature makes the Genesis LV System ideal for complex sign designs that require multiple colors or striping. 800/798-5872;

P o STS - A N D - PA N E L S I G N S Component Signage Gets Decorative with Posts-and-Panel Options Component Signage, Inc., now offers a decorative/ornamental line of posts-and-panel signage that feature fluted or square posts with a wide range of post finial and post base options to fit the needs of many historic and upscale areas. The posts are offered in three-inch and four-inch diameters, which easily mate up with CSI’s aluminum-constructed sign cabinets. Custom shapes and sizes are also available.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


SignSHOW RoUTERS/ENGR AvERS New FusionGrafix™ Puts Fabricators in the Driver’s Seat to Create Their Own Distinctive Designs Offering a dynamic combination of design and fabrication flexibility, new FusionGrafix™ from Rowmark is a neverbefore-seen laser and rotary engravable sheet that is engineered with a customizable, UV-stable “grafix” pattern integrated over a durable acrylic core in thirty popular color options. Meeting a need in the market for more architectural, industrial, and environmental graphic signage and point-of-purchase (P-O-P) design options, this interior- and exteriorgrade two-ply sheet is available in 1/16-inch thickness in a semi-gloss finish. Rowmark’s new FusionGrafix “sample product fan” tool will also help users simulate product designs by sliding patterns over solid colors to visualize different combinations.

vEHICLE GRAPHICS Thin, Conformable Laminate with Horizontal Durability for Vehicle Wraps MACtac® Distributor Products has introduced the latest in wrap laminate technology for complex vehicle and fleet wraps. Its new PERMACOLOR® HORIZon™ XL1000 is the thinnest polyurethane overlaminate film on the market featuring extreme conformability and superior durability on horizontal surfaces. PERMACOLOR HORIZon is a 1.5-mil polyurethane, smooth, high-gloss film with a permanent adhesive coating that contributes to the extreme conformability, allowing for easy installation. PERMACOLOR HORIZon is recommended to be coupled with any MACtac wrapping films for even longer-term durability and flawless vehicle graphics. 866/622-8223;

New! LED Standoffs

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PRODUCT FEATURES: Power Supply • Diameter: 1”, Height: 1” • Color Temperature: Cool White • Number of LEDs 6 per Standoff • Total wattage: .4W • Flat Cap-M10 thread • Up to 10 Standoffs can be run off of one power supply • Screws & anchors included

New! Tri-Mod LED Backlighting Panels


7.50 EA.


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Standoffs for in the Ind Signage & Display

Finishes: Polished Chrome Brushed Brass Polished Chrome Matt Chrome Brushed Stainless Satin Stainless Black Nickel Satin Copper


• A great way to backlight your graphics, posters and promotional messages • Evenly illuminates without any hot spots • Just 1/16” thick • Less than 1” of installation depth required • Panels are pre-wired and simply clip together • 6 panel sizes enable endless configurations • Dimmable Go to Web: • Energy efficient Catalog 42, • Virtually shatterproof Pages 718-721 fiberglass construction • Rated for 50,000 hours usage with minimal to no light degradation Serving the Industry FREE Since 1972 1,000+

Barrel Lengths from 1/2” – 6” Diameters from 1/2” – 1-1/2” PREMIUM PREMIUM ALUMINUM 1” Diameter BARREL Unbeatable STEEL SERIES for SERIES Tamper Proof theIdeal Page Outdoors PART # LENGTH PRICE 3/4” Diameter Tamper Proof 5/8” Diameter BARREL Catalog! STDE-3224- * 3/4” $1.60 ea. BARREL PART # LENGTH PRICE STDE-3232- * 1” $2.02 ea. PART # LENGTH PRICE STDA-2020- * 5/8” $1.94 ea. STDE-3248- * 1-1/2” $2.22 ea. STD-2424- * 3/4” $6.55 ea. STDA-2032* 1” $2.26 ea. New Jersey STDE-3264- * 2” $2.42 ea. STD-2432- * 1” $6.85 ea. STDA-2048- * 1-1/2” $2.73 ea. Arizona STDE-3296- * 3” $2.92 ea. STD-2448- * 1-1/2” $7.60 ea. STDA-2064- * 2” $3.26 ea. * STD-241284” $10.25 ea. STDE-32128- * 4” $3.33 ea. STDA-2096- * 3” $3.94 ea. Go to Web: STDE-32192- * 6” $4.00 ea. STDA-20128- * 4” $4.15 ea. Lowest Prices...Widest Selection... All From Stock! Catalog 42, Pages 132-141


ter utwaIndustries, OPlastics Inc. 1-800-631-8375


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

w i d e f o r m at- i n k /m e d i a / s u p p l i e s Presto Tape Introduces New Aqueous Coating for Digitally Printable Wallcoverings Presto Tape recently added two new materials to its Digitally Printable Wallcoverings line—CanvasTac (8-oz., 17-mils) and Presto Tex (4-oz., 7-mils). Both materials can be printed with eco-solvent, UV, latex, and now aqueous inks. Print beautiful fine art, giclée, or photo reproductions on both print medias with Presto Tex #444 for Aqueous and CanvasTac #555 for Aqueous. Ideal for lobbies and conference rooms, CanvasTac is a peel-and-stick white canvas material with premium coating that is repositionable and removable. It has a microsphere adhesive on the backside for easy installation and removal. Intended for wall graphics and advertisements, Presto Tex is a peel-and-stick white polyester fabric with premium coating that also has a repositionable/removable microsphere adhesive. When removed, both materials leave no residue on the surface. Both materials can easily be contoured cut without any fraying and are available in twenty-four-, thirty-, and fiftyfour-inch widths (with CanvasTac also available in sixty-inch widths).

Wide Format Redefined with Seiko | Infotech’s ColorPainter M-64s Seiko | Infotech Inc. offers its ColorPainter™ M-64s, a high-speed print engine with low-odor, eco-solvent SX ink. ColorPainter M-64s features new print heads that realize a maximum print speed of 66.5 m2/h. The newly developed SX inks offer a wide color gamut, high vividness, high density, excellent outdoor durability, and low running costs. The airflow inside the printer has been redesigned for faster ink drying, and the Dynamic Dot Printing (DDP) Technology controls and optimizes dot size and dot density to produce rich, bold, and glossy colors with fine details. DDP also creates high-density printing without any loss in speedave no residue on the surface.

LEDs look much better in uniform. Makrolon® LD polycarbonate sheets deliver uniform light diffusion for today’s LED signage. They feature an advanced light diffusion technology that provides excellent light uniformity. LED hot spots and shadowing are eliminated in flat or formed applications. Makrolon LD is available in a range of standard sign colors and can be custom matched to industry colors. Don’t limit your design flexibility with LEDs. Makrolon LD delivers now. Call 800-254-1707 for samples or visit to locate your local, authorized distributor.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Bill DunDas


Identifying new approaches to enhance sign structure performance.


hen the International Sign Association (ISA) created its original Technical Committee back in 2004, one of the first issues on its agenda was to investigate sporadic reports of freestanding, high-rise sign structures at certain locations across the United States that had collapsed due to unknown causes. Because the number of these incidents represents a very small percentage of all such signs in use, ISA’s initial efforts focused on gathering case study information to determine whether any patterns might be detected. At the outset of ISA’s inquiry, one common factor emerging from available reports indicated that each of the sign failures involved a singlepole, telescoping-type structure (Figure 1) commonly specified for many high-rise signs constructed in the U.S. and elsewhere. While twin-pole and multi-pole signs commonly utilize the same type of telescoping de-

Figure 1. Many high-rise signs are supported by single, telescoping-type poles.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

sign, all of the failure reports provided to ISA involved single-pole structures. Although various theories existed regarding the causes of these incidents, it soon became obvious to members of ISA’s Mechanical & Structural Subcommittee that addressing this issue successfully would require launching a comprehensive engineering study. To conduct this research, ISA selected the structural engineering department at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Working closely with their research team under the guidance of Chia-Ming Uang, professor of Structural Engineering at UCSD, ISA provided its case study information as a basis for the university’s initial study, which aimed to identify the root cause of these failures. Initial research focused on characteristics of the structural connections between pole sections comprising different steel pipe diameters. The common connection type for these structures (known as a “lap splice”) features circular, steel-plate rings welded to the bottom of each ascending pole section (Figure 2). In this design, one or more “guide rings” may be fabricated to fit snugly inside of the adjacent, lower pole section. The exposed “cap ring” matches the outside diameter of the adjacent pole section and is welded to the top edge of this adjacent section when the pole is erected. The first of two UCSD research reports, Evaluation of Sleeve Connection of Cantilevered Steel Sign Structures, was published in October 2008. This report established that, under steady wind conditions prevailing in certain sign locations, the welded connections joining these telescoping pole sections may be damaged by excessive, wind-induced vibrations. These vibrations are generated by a dynamic wind effect that is known as “vortex shedding” (Figure 3). At steady wind speeds in the

all PhotoS: iSa.

High-Rise Sign Safety

Figure 2. This top section of a telescoping pole shows the common lap-splice configuration. The two rings closest to the right-hand side of the photo are “guide rings” sized to fit inside the adjacent, lower pole section when the pole is assembled. The other “cap ring” (left-hand side) is slightly larger in diameter than the other two rings, and it will be field-welded to the top edge of the adjacent, lower pole section.

range of thirty to fifty miles per hour and depending on the specific characteristics of individual sign structures, these damaging vibrations sometimes are amplified by a lock-in effect known as “harmonic resonance.” This effect can drastically increase the number of fatigue cycles imposed on the pole’s structural connections. For this reason, structures located in areas where relatively strong and steady winds prevail may be subject to premature failure. According to standards that have been developed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation

Figure 3. This graphic illustrates vortex shedding, which occurs when wind flow is diverted around a sign pole. This effect causes the pole to vibrate in directions perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction (as shown).

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Figure 4. (left) As indicated by the markings shown here, an inspection of this sign structure connection detected fatigue cracking above and below the toe of the fillet weld joining the cap ring to the upper pipe.


Figure 5. (right) This photo demonstrates a failed sign structure after the upper pole section has broken off and collapsed. Note that the cracking propogated entirely around the upper toe of the fillet weld, leaving only small tabs visible at the rear edge of the break.

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

Officials (AASHTO), the types and configurations of welds commonly used to fabricate single-pole sign structures are susceptible to wind-induced fatigue Figure 4 shows a typical example of fatigue-type cracking, which case studies indicate typically occur at the toe of the exposed fillet weld joining the cap ring to the pipe section above. Over time, this cracking penetrates the wall of the pipe and propagates around the circumference of the weld toe until the upper portion of the pole collapses (Figure 5). Because these cracks are quite thin and may be obscured by paint or rust, this damage might remain undetected until the structure’s integrity is substantially compromised. Additionally certain sign structures may sustain internal damage that is not detectable strictly by visual inspections. To provide guidance for sign companies and their engineers, ISA launched a three-year research project at UCSD’s Charles Lee Powell Structural Research Laboratory. In a series of destructive tests, ISA evaluated various alternative pole connections—in addition to some potential repair options. The results of this testing are reported in Fatigue Tests of Welded Connections in Cantilevered Steel Sign Structures published in October 2011 and available via the ISA Web site (www. Because professional engineers are responsible for developing structural designs, ISA’s aim was not to make specific design recommendations but to provide test results suggesting some general

sign approaches, which appear promising for bolstering the safety and durability of these structures. To provide guidance in the near term—and also to address the numerous existing signs of this type—the International Sign Association created the Sign Structure Installation/Inspection Guidelines (also available via the ISA Web site at These safety guidelines are applicable not only to single-pole, telescoping structures but to all types of freestanding signs. A key finding of the ISA research establishes that a tapered pole design commonly used for high-mast, roadway light poles and telecommunications towers (Figure 6) is substantially more durable than the common telescoping pole. At present, however, sign companies face significant availability and delivery challenges in utilizing this type of pole that’s commonly sold in large quantities to public transportation agencies and utility firms. Since this research was published though, some ISA member companies have already implemented new projects utilizing the tapered-pole design. Additionally ISA’s research points to certain modifications of the telescoping pole design, which the UCSD tests indicate can improve durability. In addressing this issue, ISA has implemented a comprehensive approach to safety. The first facet of these efforts has been communicating the root cause of this issue and emphasizing the need for regular structural safety inspections in accordance with ISA’s guidelines. A second facet is identifying alternative design approaches that professional engineers may consider for enhancing durability of new and existing sign structures. In addition, ISA continues to gather and review reports of sign structure failures while communicating these research findings and the solutions currently being implemented by sign companies and others. Bill Dundas is the ISA Director of Technical & Regulatory Affairs. For more information about this subject matter, please email him at

Figure 6. As shown here, tapered poles incorporating polygonal cross-sections connect via “slip-joint” connections that do not require any welding. ISA research indicates that this type of pole offers superior fatigue resistance.

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December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Mark roBerts


Renewal Process Breathing new life back into a couple of twenty-yearold signs.


uring my thirty-six-year career as a sign professional, I have had numerous opportunities to retrofit building and ground signs for my favorite clients. This month I was offered the opportunity to renew two severely aged signs for one such client, the Univar Corporation. The first was a building fascia sign consisting of 1/4-inch-thick painted acrylic letters. These letters had been attached to the stucco surface with silicone caulk. Unfortunately the stucco surface had deteriorated before the letters gave way, resulting in a huge mess of a sign in distress. Since I am not a fan of applying stucco myself, I quickly suggested to my client convert-

ing the deteriorated wall with four aluminum pan faces. Not only would the aluminum pans conceal the horrible stucco situation, but they would give the entrance to the building a new and up-to-date appearance. Our sheet metal professional sheared the aluminum sheets (0.063-inch) to the correct size for bending the pan faces, in order to have 1-1/2inch returns on all four sides. With these new pan faces, we cut eight 1-1/2-by-1-1/2-inch aluminum angle supports to attach to the stucco wall—four at the top and four at the bottom. These aluminum angles were attached to the stucco wall with 3/16-inch toggle bolts and tightened securely. The pans were placed over the angles, left to

The Univar lobby entrance now features new aluminum pan-formed faces with dimensional acrylic letters.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

right. I was very satisfied with the tightness of the fit of the four pans because even small gaps look ugly from the ground—and we do not do ugly! The aluminum pans were attached to the horizontal angles with pop-rivets— eight across the top and bottom of each pan. Next we applied 3M VHB tape (the red liner tape) to the backs of each freshly painted letter. Using a layout guide, I installed the logo pieces and each letter horizontally left to right across the pan faces. This process took less than ten minutes. After a quick cleaning of the four pan faces with Windex® and a half roll of paper towels, we were done with this sign. The second sign on our list at this location was an older posts-and-panel

type, with faces measuring 5-by-10 feet. These faces were so old that we could not remove the pans for repainting. So we did the next best thing—we recovered the faces with new, slightly larger aluminum pans. Back at the metal shop, we sheared the white .080-inch aluminum sheets and bent the 90-degree edges on three sides at one-inch wide. The bottom edge of each pan face was left straight and attached to the existing faces with 3M VHB tape. Now that we had some smooth and clean aluminum faces to work with, we adhered our pattern to the faces and installed the freshly painted acrylic letters—once again with 3M VHB tape. The only task left to do was to paint the legs of the sign, which was the final

Installing the new pan-formed faces to both sides of the Univar yard sign.

Peeling the covering from the VHB tape attached to the back of each letter.

Adhering the painted plex letters to the sign face.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


touch to complete the restoration. Most of the time, we can refurbish signs on-site without retrofitting new faces to the old structures; however this was not the case with this project. So if you are ever faced with a sign-refurbishing job, step back and determine exactly what has to be done to please the client and their budget. Once you and the client are on the same page, they will, more times than not, request additional sign projects to enhance the facility. Be ready with your sales materials to show stock safety signs, individual plastic or metal letters and numbers, and any other necessary identification or marketing message the customer may want to use. These additional signs and ancillary products will benefit both them and your bottom line! Mark Roberts has been designing and producing signs since 1978. He is also a sign and marketing seminar and workshop leader at select sign shows. For more information, visit and

Making double-sure that the individual letters are level before final adhesion.

The renovated yard sign for Univar.

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


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D i m e n s i o n a l / By J e f f Wo ot e n / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

A Not-So-Fishy Fish Tale A sign shop goes Above And beyond to get “under the seA.” What stands eight-and-a-half feet tall, weighs nearly 500 pounds, features HDU, acrylic, and PVC, and sits in the workshop section of a sign shop’s office with real and mechanical fish swimming inside it? The answer is a 360-degree, 48-inch-wide-by-30inch-deep sculpture designed and built from scratch by sign makers eager to show off their highly creative skills to customers and fellow sign artists. When KDF Custom Graphics President Stephen Hoey and Business Development Manager Brian Hamilton heard about a friendly sign-building competition initiated by renowned sign makers Dan

Sawatzky, Jamie Oxenham, and Doug Haffner on the Oxenham Design Forum, they wanted in. The challenge involved creating a 3-D sign with only two requirements: It had to (1.) include the name “The Institute for the Study of Mechanical Marine Life” somewhere on it, and (2.) feature a mechanical fish of some sort. Hamilton and Hoey were already devotees of Sawatzky’s creative 3-D work and had taken his classes before. “[This contest] was perfect timing, as some people had been contacting us for this type of large-scale work,” says Hoey.

The finished sign sculpture features a clownfish piloting a mechanical “wooden” fish (opposite page), as well as various routed and sculpted aquatic elements and in-shop surprises.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

All photos: kdf custom grAphics.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


For the pilot clownfish, Hoey set it up on a post to be able to sculpt around it, first adding a face in order to have “scale and character” to work around and then adding further texture and detail.

Once they received approval to enter, the contest was already well underway. Hoey and Hamilton only had a month-and-a-half to channel their inner Captain Nemos and submit an entry. They knew they’d be competing against some of the best sign makers around, so they immediately started brainstorming something “smoking hot” no one had ever seen before; they also wanted to do something that would showcase all their shop’s talents—graphics, metals, sculptures, etc. The story they developed after only a couple of hours: “A little clownfish too scared to travel builds himself a mechanical fish out of driftwood to tool around the ocean in [so as] to stay safe. The only way to find him is by using the periscope designed for ‘The Institute for the Study of Mechanical Marine Life.’” Hamilton proposed incorporating a fish tank somewhere, as well. However the shop wanted to do something cooler than just an ordinary aquarium. The extraordinary solution: Make it part of a periscope. Engineering the “wooden” mechanical fish wouldn’t be problematic, as KDF Custom Graphics ( has plenty of experience designing this kind of work. In fact, all six of its well-rounded employees boast highly creative skills. Located in Rockleigh, New Jersey, they are far from operating as a “traditional” sign shop. “Most of the time, if someone comes to us, it’s because another sign shop isn’t able to do 26

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

KDF avoided making the fish too cartoony since real clownfish would also be swimming around the tank. Texturing and sculpting were performed with a spackle knife, a pencil point, a pencil eraser, etc.

the job for them,” explains Hoey, noting they started out as a reprographics company and evolved into tradeshow graphics, vinyl-mounted foam, and custom acrylic displays. While Hamilton was fabricating and welding the steel frame armature for the sculpture, Hoey was designing the basics and textures of the mechanical fish in EnRoute Pro. KDF carved the “wooden” mechanical fish out of oneand-a-half-inch-thick thirty-pound Precision Board PBLT HDU using their MultiCam 3000 CNC router. They employed a 3/8-inch Ball End Mill for the rough pass and a 1/4-inch Ball for the finish pass. Meanwhile Hoey created the clownfish “pilot” to be inserted inside the mechanical fish using Magic Sculpt epoxy clay. While this was going on, Hamilton was building the fish tank from scratch. He cut the panels out of 1/2-inch- and 1/4-inch-thick acrylic with the MultiCam 3000 and a table saw and injected them with resin bond to weld the edges. Hamilton screwed some MDF to the router table to keep the acrylic blocks in place. Cutting these pieces took about half an hour. Two-inch-thick acrylic was used for the seated acrylic base that holds the fish tank snugly in place. “This might’ve been overkill,” says Hoey, “but it definitely made for a cool custom acrylic fish tank tray.” Once the tank was together, KDF drilled holes and prepped for the pump hoses. Hamilton then set the clownfish pilot inside the mechanical fish piece via an acrylic rod.

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December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Each of the four panels making up the treasure chest bottom feature designs to give each its own character. While building the fish tank, Hamilton mounted a female PVC pipe to the acrylic and a male PVC piece to the back of the mechanical fish for easier placement. Then he added propellers to the back of the fish “vessel” and installed pistons that would be able to open the door. KDF cut rough blocks of HDU for the stone base. Hoey and his shop are

big fans of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, so he carved Gaelic proverbs in this style of calligraphy around the base. Hamilton welded a basic frame at the base and added a 4-1/2-inch-wide steel pipe to be able to hold the weight of the upper fish tank. He cut the pipe in half and clamped it, making disassembly in the future much easier. The middle pipe comes all the way up to a steel plate.

KDF likes the hard durability of thirty-pound Precision Board HDU and used it for the components that could attract dings or dents when sculpting. (Note: To view this construction process, visit Hoey routed the base panels atop the stone slab to resemble a treasure chest. It too was made from one-and-a-halfinch thirty-pound Precision Board and later hand-carved to age the “wood” and “metal” in an effort to give each of the four panel its own character. “We first cut the bottom side out of

Everyone felt that buying a fish tank would be “cheating,” so KDF built one from scratch using cut-acrylic pieces welded together with injected resin bond. 28

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

one-inch Precision Board and used a hatch fill to remove a 1/2-inch pocket all around so that the piece would fit snugly over the sides of the box,” explains Hoey. “Then we routed a 1/8-inch-deep seat on the spoilboard to hold the inside part of the cut piece.” Once the piece was set in place, Hoey added routed texture to the other side. “We cut the piece in half, so one side would be removable,” he continues. “Once in place, we added wrought iron metal over the seams so no one will know the panel is removable.” (Note: Hoey cut the porthole of the base out of acrylic separately, painted it, and mounted it to the treasure chest with Magic Sculpt.) After adding the octopus and sea urchin to the top of the treasure chest via Magic Sculpt, Hoey noticed they still had some room left but didn’t need anything “crazy-busy,” so they opted for a translucent purple that stood out nicely. In fact, many of the custom components found throughout were actually designed on the fly—crabs, seahorses, starfish, gearshifts, etc. Hoey would draw up 3-D designs in EnRoute Pro, while a slab of Precision Board waited on the router table. “We knew it needed to have lots of color and fun elements, since it could be viewed 360 degrees,” says Hoey, noting that they also added barnacles along the base with Magic Sculpt. The control panel that operates lights and gears resembles a shell. Two pieces of steel tubing make up the armature of its arm, and KDF drilled a few holes in them to run their lighting that would be added later. Its mechanics were conceptualized and pieces all cut in one night. “Then we put it aside so we could add things like switches and panic buttons later,” remarks Hoey. KDF reverse-printed the “full-speedahead” gear onto acrylic via its Océ Arizona 350XT flatbed and inset it into a two-inch piece of router-carved Precision Board. “It’s an actual working piece,” says Hoey. “You can move it to ‘half,’ ‘slow,’ ‘stop,’ etc.” The periscope is constructed entirely from PVC pipe. Hoey crafted the rivets using Magic Sculpt. “It’s not all perfectly straight,” he comments, “but we did that on purpose.” However Hoey felt there was still

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December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Hoey and Hamilton found creative ways of putting their names on the structure, such as this “full speed ahead” gear.

Another clever in-shop carving: KDF included their name Game of Thronesstyle on top of the periscope box.

The control panel that operates the lights, gears, and fish tank temperature resembles a seashell.

something missing from this portion. While drinking a cup of coffee, inspiration hit him. “I stuck the cup on there and used a little Magic Sculpt on the outside of it!” he says. (Note: Hoey wanted to get KDF’s name somewhere on the sign but not in a place that was quite so obvious, so he carved it via the router onto the top of the periscope box.) Hoey and Hamilton also added the names of their children to various parts

of the structure. They might look like engraved steel, but they were actually printed via the Océ Arizona 350XT flatbed onto plaques and sign panels cut out of .060-inch aluminum. The entire sign is made out of fifteenand thirty-pound Precision Board and Magic Sculpt, except the thin “Institute” nameplate piece; it’s actually PVC. “The lettering was actually printed out and attached to it,” remarks Hoey.

An aquatic-themed “metal” box sits nicely over the acrylic tank shelf without the need for any mechanical fasteners. “We had set a PVC seat inside the canopy walls about four inches from the bottom to be able to do this,” explains Hoey. The finished piece was designed in sections that can come apart, if needed for future moving. “We set the steel structure in place and leveled it with legs,” explains Hoey. “Then we started


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

putting the components over it.” As for lighting, the LED modules inside the bottom of the tank (as well as those lighting up the cabin and the button eye of the fish) are immersible. Meanwhile standard LED strips backlight the sign, decorate the stone base, and accentuate the water return on the back of the tank that resembles a lightsaber. A little manual pull rod placed on the front of the tank allows people to open the door of the mechanical fish and peer inside to view the clownfish driving. The door has a wire connected to the front of it that goes up through the top of the tank to a pulley system and then comes down when pulled. KDF primed everything with Precision Board primer and then brushand spray-painted everything with acrylic paint. “I added a Polygen coating to the sculpted fish that allows it to rest in the fish tank without the paint outgassing and killing the real clownfish in there,” says Hoey. KDF Print Production Manager Radim Horak handled printing and installing the background and floor graphics surrounding this impressive contest entry. Hoey also credits KDF Repro-

graphics and Logistics Manager Eddie Cheung for being the resident “fish tank expert” and making sure no fish were lost. An attached auto-feeder dispenses a little bit of food every day, and the PVC periscope unscrews, allowing them to pop off the top and change out the water a couple of times a week. Hamilton, Hoey, and the KDF Fabrication Assistant Mark Pilcher worked on this project entirely after hours (with Pilcher helping out with cutting,

painting, and assembly). At press time, contest results weren’t official, but that’s not keeping KDF from looking forward to participating in another one of these creative exercises. “We loved doing it!” states Hoey. “It’s also wild to watch others come up with something cool.”

To watch a video of this project, visit

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


P r i n t M e d i a / B y M i k e A n t o n i A k / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Print Selection Equipment makers weigh in on choosing the right media. What’s the best digital print media for the when bidding on any project. However the best answer may not always be the most obvious one. With so many choices available and new materials appearing all the time, it can be a bit vexing to select, especially for unique print projects. Turn to the media suppliers, and recommendations will invariably point to something in their catalog. 32

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

Photos: (toP) colorado signs & graPhics; (left) image one imPact.

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For insights a little less biased, we posed the following question to manufacturers of large/grand format digital printing systems: What advice do you offer owners of your printer about selecting print materials for their projects? Some do market their own line of media, and all have taken steps to certify a broad range of products from major media vendors and to build profiles for use on their systems. So printer manufacturers can be less prone to pitch any particular product or single brand.

Cast vinyl is dimensionally stable and versatile and is the choice for wrapping vehicles, such as this Kia Soul automobile. ject will help narrow the choices. “Consider such variables as outdoor durability, weatherability, and longevity in regard to each application,” says Julie Gederos, market development manager for Roland DGA ( Ken Hanulec, vice president of Marketing for EFI inkjet and VUTEk (w3., says, “It’s really about understanding the application: Will it be indoors or outdoors? Will it be viewed up close or at a distance? Will it be installed short-term or long term?

Fabrics have emerged as an eco-friendly alternative to vinyl in applications like tradeshow displays and banners.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

“Once you understand the application, then you can understand what the best production method and media is.” Customers should also be careful not to overlook some critical considerations. “The viewing distance, frequency of changing the graphic, size, weight, and other factors all come into play when selecting media,” says Gederos. Ashley Rowland, director of Marketing and Promotions at Mimaki USA (, points out, “Different media types are going to be compatible with different ink types, and if you don’t choose the right one, you can face a number of different issues—from poor adhesion to image bleed.”

Print Technology Dictates Choices Certain print systems are best for certain applications, notes Smith, and that narrows the selection to specific types of media. He says: + Aqueous printers are good for printing vibrant images for indoor installations where color quality, rather than longevity, is the key requirement; + Solvent systems are for more durable prints, typically for outdoor installations; and + UV printers are for sustainability and versatility, whether printing on conventional or unique substrates. “There are different benefits to each

Photo: roland dga.

There is strong consensus among those interviewed for this story that selecting the right media always comes back to the same set of core considerations. “There may be a number of media types you can choose from for a print job at various price points,” begins Dave Conrad, marketing director for Mutoh America ( “This is why understanding the application, the print placement, customers’ expectations, and budget are extremely important to being sure that you choose the right media for the job.” At Epson (, Jeff Smith, manager of Large Format Printing Consumables, advises, “The best way to start is to try and understand the application and the customer’s expectations. Then you can start talking about the different kinds of print technologies and the materials available for each.” Qualifying the customer and the pro-

Photo: roland dga.

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

The Range of Media and Recommended Applications Unique applications may call for a specialty substrate, but most projects can be produced with one of the well established categories of digital print media. Culled from their comments, here’s an overview of manufacturers’ recommendations for the popular materials most frequently run through their digital print systems. Cast Vinyl: Dimensionally stable and versatile, the choice for wrapping vehicles, fleet graphics, and any object with lots of curves for endless possibilities. For durability, a companion laminate is recommended. Calendered Vinyl: A staple for projects that don’t require the flexibility of cast vinyl and where thickness can be a desired attribute. These includes signs, decals, stickers, floor graphics, and some P-O-P displays. Metallic Vinyl: For eye-catching graphics that can’t be ignored. This material can be used for signs and lettering, cars, P-O-P, etc. Fabrics: An emerging, eco-friendly alternative to vinyls. Multiple applications in soft signage, displays, tradeshows, and banners for a highend look. Also lightweight, easily shipped, and easily stored. Photo Paper: The top choice for fine art and photo reproduction when image quality is the top requirement. Recommended for interior installations only. Recyclable/Green Materials: A pricier alternative to more traditional print media when minimizing environmental impact over the entire life of the printed product is a concern. A choice that’s often client-driven. Magnetic Media: For specialized applications where the goal is to have a graphic that’s easily applied to and removed from metallic or magnetized surfaces. Used for some signs and vehicle graphics, promotional products, and P-O-P.

of these printing technologies,” says Smith. “Once you decide which is the best print technology for the job, then you can start talking about the different kinds of materials which are available.” At that point, economics figure into the selection, as determined by client budget and desired margins. “Besides media and ink compatibility, a major factor that people consider is cost,” notes Rowland. “A small sign shop printing graduation banners or temporary P-O-P displays probably isn’t going to pay for a premium material, because it really isn’t necessary and suitable for the job.” At the other extreme are jobs for government agencies, the fine arts, or on architectural glass where image quality or durability are requisites. “The graphics will be scrutinized and viewed closely so the printer is willing to pay more and have that peace of mind. It really boils down to how important the job is and how much you’re willing to invest,” says Rowland. Conrad cautions, “Although saving money is important, the best media choice for the job may not always be the cheapest.” In fact, focusing on application niches requiring more expensive specialty media can be an effective way to differentiate one’s services and generate revenue. “The real value and profits come when you can print on materials that others can’t,” says Hanulec, noting one advantage of UV flatbed printing. Part of Epson’s strategy is to concentrate on lucrative niches requiring specialty media for specialized applications. “We’ve [focused] on more of the boutique aspect of large format, in printing on canvas, fine art, and wallpaper,” offers Smith as examples. “There’s lower volume but incredible demand and profit.”

Photo: colorado signs & graPhics.

There to Assist Whether producing a highly competitive commodity like banners, or targeting a select print application, printer manufacturers are eager allies, ready to assist in selecting the right media for the job. Your success ultimately determines theirs, as well. They have a vested interest in ensuring every print job meets client expectations—and they accept that responsibility. Their respective Web sites contain a wealth of resources on digital print media and recommended applications.

UV flatbed printers allow you to be able to print on materials for products that your competitors might not be able to offer. “We spend a great deal of time developing our printers, the printheads, and ink systems,” notes Smith, “and we spend just as much time developing

media as part of a matched system with carefully selected products for the photo, fine art, and proofing markets.” Starting with equipment vendors’ rec-

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Visit Booth #726 for the USSC “SIGN WORLD INTERNATIONAL” tradeshow at the Atlantic City Convention Center

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


SGIA Closes “Monster” of a Show For three days, the 2013 SGIA Expo (Orlando, October 23-25) took over the Orange County Convention Center to showcase the most innovative technologies in the specialty-imaging marketplace. From high-speed flatbed and roll-to-roll printers to digitally printed textiles, 534 exhibitors proved themselves the industry’s best and brightest, sending attendees home with new equipment, newfound knowledge, and new opportunities. Attendees packed the 212,000-square foot exhibit hall (overseen by professional lifeguards stationed on fourteen-foot stands in the lobby), plus educational sessions and networking receptions. Even more exciting was the first-ever co-location with the Industrial Fabrics Association International Expo—offering attendees of both shows the chance to see new opportunities. Seven Expo-exclusive Zones—including the brand new Strategic Sustainable Solutions Zone and Digital Textile Printing Zone—gave attendees the opportunity to benefit from a wealth of knowledge across specialty imaging’s full spectrum. Industry experts were on-hand to give informative presentations, lead instructional (and fascinating!) demonstrations, and answer a myriad of questions. The experts included Charlie Taublieb of Taublieb Consulting, Lon Winters of (both in the Screen Printed Apparel Training Zone), Syd Northup of


Gans Ink and Supply Co. (in the Color Management & Workflow Solutions Zone), and John Carthey of Corporate Installations (in the PDAA Graphics Application Zone). With more than forty expert-led education sessions spanning two days and reports of record seminar attendance, the potential to learn at the SGIA Expo is at an all-time high. Topics ranged from “Color Matching Secrets for Screen Printed Apparel” to “How to Select Your First (or Next) Wide Format Printer” and “Industrial Inkjet Technologies: State of the Art.” SGIA’s educational program provided all the information necessary to help you take your business to the next level. The 2014 SGIA Expo will be held from October 22-24 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more details, visit

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


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ommendations will save time and ensure results. “It’s always easier to find media that has already been profiled for the Mutoh ValueJet and inks being used,” says Conrad. “If the print job allows you to source a media this has already been done for, that would be the first option to consider.” Like its competitors, Mutoh has created and assembled profiles for an extensive selection of media, with profiles already available for media from most major suppliers. “This makes printing almost any job on a ValueJet printer fast and easy and also ensures the image quality will be the best possible for that particular job,” says Conrad. That kind of ongoing support (with testing of new media as it appears) is a standard all equipment makers continually strive to meet. Roland’s selection of tested and profiled media “takes a lot of guesswork out of getting the desired results across a wide selection of substrates,” according to Gederos, who points to the media section of Roland’s Web site as the place to begin. On the site, customers can find application photos, videos, and detailed product descriptions. “If what’s on the Web isn’t sufficient, customer support stands ready to assist,” she says. Rowland adds, “We routinely work with premium media manufacturers to ensure compatibility with our equipment and ink and develop color profiles for our customers.” For unique applications where a recommended or certified media isn’t already available, all manufacturers have networks in place to identify or find the right material for the challenging project. “Besides our sales staff, Mimaki has an extensive dealer network trained by Mimaki that’s very knowledgeable about the media they sell and its compatibility with our equipment and ink,” says Rowland. Smith says, “If they want to hit the pavement running, we can tell them, ‘Here’s the media that satisfies your application.’ But we also love when a customer comes to us with a new application and asks, ‘What have you got, or what can you recommend?’” Hanulec agrees. “We love to talk to our customers. That’s what gets us excited about this business,” he states. “Every day, they come to us with something new.”

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


A r c h i t e c t u r a l / B y A s h l e y B r Ay / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /


of Giving

“If you want to be a fullservice sign company, you need to understand donor signage,” says Jim Vitous, owner of Custom Designs Signs (www. in Keene, Vitous believes donor signs are a type of signage that every shop can capitalize on, since opportunities for these projects are everywhere. “Every town has some sort of cause that’s going to need a


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

all Photos: custom designs signs.

A sign shop donates tips on getting your donor signage right.

New Hampshire.


Jim Vitous created the concept for the seven donor panels at Springfield Hospital. He took inspiration from the river that flows through the center of town and creates seven waterfalls.

donor wall—whether it’s the hospital, an animal shelter, or a local shopping center that wants to do something for children’s charities,” he says. In fact, Vitous recently created a sevenpanel donor wall celebrating the donors and one hundred years of caring at a smalltown hospital in Springfield, Vermont. The typical donation was about $200 to $250, and when portions of all the donations were put aside for this project, it totaled about $1,000 per panel. “So it was a wall that we had to work almost to a budget, but be tasteful,” he says. Vitous came up with the design for the panels himself, settling on a simple look that reflects the area. “There’s a river that flows through the center of the town that’s been part of the industrial heritage, and there are seven waterfalls that go through the town,” he says. “So we made seven panels that went through seven stages of the history of the hospital.” (Note: To further reflect the seven waterfalls, the panels also feature a slope cut into the tops.)

Custom Designs handled the graphic design work on all seven panels of the Springfield Hospital donor walls to keep the project within budget. The decision was made to place the panels in a quiet hallway where patients stay for longer-term care. These patients enjoy the donor wall while taking walks and receiving visitors. Custom Designs started the work by gathering all the verbiage and images for the project and working on the layout for each of the seven panels. The shop

typically outsources graphic design work like this but made an exception here, in order to keep the project on budget. When the graphics and text were laid out for the panels, Custom Designs sent the files to its supplier, AMI Graphics (, who took some of the older, one hundred-year-old photographs and converted them to high-

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


resolution files. AMI then printed the files onto 3/4-inch-thick Sintra® panels using a large format HP flatbed printer with UV inks; the UV-cure inks eliminated the need for any lamination. “A direct print onto the panel was very cost-effective,” says Vitous, noting that, after printing, the Sintra panels were then cut to shape on a CNC router. (Note: See sidebar on opposite page for an example of another recent donor signage project Vitous worked on.) Donating aDvice about Donor walls After eight years in the sign business with Custom Designs, Vitous has done a fair amount of donor signage work. (Note: The previous owner of Custom Designs originally opened the business back in 1969. To read more on the shop’s history and where Vitous is taking the company today, turn to Shop Talk on page 64.) Vitous’s experience has led him to develop some tips and techniques for making sure donor signs are successful. He recommends starting off any donor project by finding answers to a number of considerations. Design. The first task is to determine the design or theme of the donor signage. Will it match the building’s curContinued on page 45

Custom Designs has fabricated a number of donor projects over the years, including this sign for the Brooks School.

To further evoke the seven waterfalls Vitous used as inspiration, each of the seven panels at Springfield Hospital features a slope cut into their tops.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

An Education on Donor Signs: Brooks School

Photos: custom designs signs.

For the Brooks School in Massachusetts, Jim Vitous of Custom Designs Signs was tasked with designing a wall dedicated to the donors of the new $4 million science center. The wall was located in a lobby where people would gather for events and the display would be in plain view. On this particular project, Vitous had to carry out the school’s design vision, which included using the wood from two hundred-year-old Elm trees that were cut down to make room for the new center. But the wood was not the easiest substrate to work with. “It was so dimensionally unstable and wouldn’t take a stain—it was not our choice,” says Vitous. “I told them this stuff is going to split in a year, and they said, ‘You know what, we want that.’ “Because the school itself has a 120-year heritage, they had some hand-carved stuff there that was already that old, so it really blended in.” The wood panels were all different sizes, with the size determined by the donation amount. The smallest panel was 8-by-48 inches and one of the largest (with information about the donor wall) was 3-by-7 feet long and weighed 85 to 100 pounds. The different-sized panels were interspersed and stretched twenty-six feet high up on the wall. When determining letter height, Vitous had to make sure viewers could not only read the panels closest to view but also the smallest panel at the top of

The plaques on the science center’s donor wall range in size from the small 8-by-48-inch panels to the large 3-by-7-foot information panel (pictured, above).

The donor wall in the lobby of the new science center at the Brooks School is a system of wooden panels, which are crafted from the Elm trees on the property and stud-mounted to vertical, stainless steel rods. the wall. This distance away also dictated the size of the smallest panel, since larger text would need to fit on the panel. To ensure everything on the display was legible, Vitous created mock-ups, which he then put on the wall. “A mock up goes a long way,” he says. “It’s usually a minimal investment for the sign guy, but often it’s a part of a fundraising display. “It galvanizes the relationship and makes sure they won’t shop around.” With everything sized, Vitous Vcarved the names into the wood panels using his router. The panels were then mounted to the brick wall using 1/16-inch-diameter, stainless steel rods that ran vertically all the way down the wall. The panels were mounted to the rods with standoffs, so that they appear to float on the wall. The entire installation took about thirty hours to perform.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


When choosing a location for a donor sign, consider a place where people naturally gather. Sometimes a more peaceful location can work better for deceased donors.

Continued from page 42 rent signs or architecture? Or will it introduce a new theme? Sometimes this decision is not solely up to the sign shop. It might have to work together with an architect to settle on a theme. No matter the design, it still should keep the focus on the donors. For this reason, Vitous chooses to use blind fasteners and blind stud mounts so that no fasteners are visible on the front of the signage. Price.The actual donation is another determining factor in the design, and the cost of each panel should also reflect the donation amount. “If someone makes a $100 donation, the plaque can’t cost $99,” says Vitous, “because you take away from the donation, which is the real objective.” The amount of money budgeted for each plaque or name panel will also determine the materials and processes that can be used for the donor project. Numbers. The number of panels/ names needed on a donor display is an important figure to find out up front. A sign shop should plan ahead if a donor project will require additional panels/ names as more donations are made. For starters, the number of donors will dictate the size of the names and/or the panels on a display. “It can determine everything,” says Vitous, “functionally the size of the letter. If you’re going to have a million people on the wall, they all can’t be three-inch-high letters. You’re not going to have enough wall space for that.”

(Note: Vitous also recommends finding out the longest name first, which also helps to determine plaque size and the space needed on a wall.) Knowing whether a project will have additional donors added to it is especially important on displays with individual panels because it allows a sign shop to buy extras along with the blanks that will be fabricated immediately. It’s more cost-effective for a shop to go ahead and buy in bulk than to buy just one panel later on. Plus when the time comes to fabricate that additional panel, the shop can immediately begin the painting or carving that’s necessary on the sign blank that’s already there. Overbuying also ensures a uniform appearance. “Trying to add a brandnew panel and make it look old is kind of tough,” says Vitous. “We over-buy on some materials or over-make some blank panels so that they all age the same.” In addition, having a blank panel or space for a name on a display allows perspective donors to see the available “real estate” for their name, if they were to make a donation. Location. “A critical key when you’re looking at donor signage is the location,” says Vitous. “Often we choose a location where folks will naturally gather during a function—sometimes a more peaceful location when dedicated to a deceased donor.” The location can also affect letter size. “If donor names are located high up on a wall, then the letters must be large enough to read,” says Vitous. December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


I d e n t i t y / By Lo r i S h r i d h a r e / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Moving to HigHer ground 46

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


WayFIndInG Helps TransFOrM a COlleGe InTO a unIversITy.


or any wayfinding project, “transformation� is a key word. Often the goals of the project include implementing a new architecture and visual communications strategy or upgrading an existing one.

But once in a while, wayfinding is needed for when the organization is rebuilt or

restructured, as one company found out when called to create a campus system. The Baldus Company (, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been working on a range of visual communications and displays since its founding in 1950, with extensive experience designing and fabricating campus wayfinding systems for universities. Founder George H. Baldus was at the helm for several decades, transferring ownership to his son Hugh and daughter-in-law Mary in 1970. They sold the

all photos: the baldus company.

business to their sons (and current owners) George and Hugh in 1999.

Brothers George (right) and Hugh Baldus have owned The Baldus Company since purchasing it in 1999.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Focusing primarily on displays, graphics, signage systems, message centers, and corporate environment products, The Baldus Company serves both end-users, as well as architects, designers, and advertising agencies. Over the years, their client base has included corporations, universities, municipalities, financial institutions, hospitals, and others. When Indiana’s Manchester College redefined itself as a university, they approached a design team (including The Baldus Company) for rebranding that included a new wayfinding system. The Baldus Company, in turn, took on the design-build of some gargantuan signage.

The Sign Syllabus “Part of the branding process included the transformation of the campus signage into a modern, sleek, eye-catching system,” says George Baldus. “A secondary goal of the new sign system was to reduce the overall sign quantity, as well as to add select signs to the most important pedestrian and vehicular intersections throughout campus; this helped reduce sign clutter.” The initial planning stages for this system involved outlining ideas for signage that would direct both vehicles and pedestrians. “Careful consideration was given to how a visitor enters the campus and their procession to their desired location,” says Baldus. “In doing so, the locations of the new signs became evident.” With this vision in mind, The Baldus Company developed and presented several schematic sign design concepts that were later developed. Dave Weadock, the landscape architect on staff, worked closely with design firms The LandPlan Group and Design Collaborative throughout the planning process. In the planning phase, digital “tools” were used, including Adobe, AutoCAD, Sketchup, Google Earth, and local online geographical information system (GIS) mapping. “The design team used mapping from the university, Google Earth, and a local GIS to aid in the development of the plans,” says Baldus. “Working hand-in-hand with a team from the university was also helpful, given their experience with daily traffic patterns of vehicles and pedestrians within their campus.” 48

Four pedestrian campus directories (left) were installed throughout campus, as well as seven vehicular directional signs and three parking identification signs featuring reflective vinyl graphics and copy. Building Class Ultimately they created four distinct sign styles utilizing program elements developed from some of their initial meetings. Out of these four, the university selected portions of each design they found effective. They then decided on the final design and quantity for each sign type. Once this signage master plan was in place, the project moved smoothly to fabrication and finally to installation. “Few modifications were required during the implementation phase of the project, as many of the pitfalls that could have occurred were identified and remedied prior to fabrication and installation,” says Baldus. “This ultimately reduced fabrication costs and saved the client money.” The final quantity of signs was determined by balancing the need of the signs with the project budget. Because the college underwent a brand transformation, newly created design standards were implemented as part of the project. The largest of the signage commissioned towers over fifteen feet in height, with a width of over twenty-four feet. Located on the edge of the University along a state road, this mammoth monument provides a gateway to the campus. The smaller monument sign, located in

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

a residential area on the edge of campus, measures 9 feet tall-by-14 feet wide. The other signs—including the campus directory (6-1/2 feet tall-by-42 inches wide), vehicular directory (48by-42 inches), parking directory signs (36-by-33 inches), and the building identification signs located at doorways (18-by-8 inches)—completed this unique rebranding project. The sign exteriors are aluminum-clad with a silver metallic paint finish, and the interior frame is constructed entirely of aluminum tubing, except for steel vertical supports that fasten the sign to its foundation. “The design team worked side by side with the university’s brand standards manager and marketing department to ensure all standards were met,” says Baldus. The fabrication phase of the project included the use of a water jet cutter, welding equipment, metal break, router, vinyl plotters, and the Complete Matthews Paint System. In addition to using the latest technology to design the system, white LEDs were installed as reverse-lit channel letters and illuminated logo faces in both the small and large monument signs. The remainder of the wayfinding signs are non-illuminated and incorporate

a smaller 9-by-14-foot monument sign (top) complements the larger one at the university’s entrance (see page 47), while twenty building identification signs are part of a modular system that allows for updates. tive white and black vinyl copy for nighttime visibility. “The campus is well lit for safety, and the secondary light from the streets and sidewalks provides adequate light for sign visibility,” says George Baldus.

Signing Up for Install Installation equipment included a frontend loader and backhoe, along with a Bobcat® with a jackhammer and auger attachment. Loads of excavated debris were hauled away to make room for the threeto four-foot-deep concrete foundations. Because of the magnitude of the monument signs, their installation proved to be the most challenging aspect of this project. “Thorough planning occurred prior to the installation to ensure fabricated sign components properly fit the masonry structures [built by Michael Kinder & Sons of Fort Wayne],” says Baldus. “Several onsite modifications to the signs’ substructure were required to accommodate the installations.”

Lessons Learned Throughout the project, The Baldus Company relied on lessons learned and experiences gained from previous largescale wayfinding signage projects.

Over the course of five months of project planning and fabrication, the company used a Gantt chart as a guide for the design team, mapping out each step of the process. “This chart helped to coordinate work with the client, peer consultants, and the hardscape contractor,” says Baldus. Open and clear communication with all stakeholders was also of critical importance. The role as primary fabricator put the responsibility of project coordination squarely on The Baldus Company. Manchester University Facilities Director Chris Garber was intimately involved in the project from start to finish and provided an invaluable conduit for communication and task management. In addition, the company had to pay special attention to the new branding guidelines, especially during the planning process. Working hand-in-hand with the university’s brand administrator and the marketing department was crucial here. These standards included the use of the university logo, font, and copy layout. “Careful application of brand standards during this initial phase ensures that a uniform, cohesive signage system will exist when additional phases or signs are added as the campus grows,” says Baldus. December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


L e t t e r s / By J e f f Wo ot e n / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /


Identity Signage The Eastern Gazette newspaper had been operating out of an old warehouse in Dexter, Maine, for the past 160 years. However when ownership decided to recently relocate to a muchmore-modern, two-story, freestanding building, instead of taking their old sign with them, they opted to invest in a morestylish identity sign upgrade. 50

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


all photos: moosehead signs.


he solution: A brand-new 480-inch-wide sign package featuring twenty-seven-inch-tall prismatic letters carved out of one-and-a-half-inch-thick Precision Board HDU and bonded to 6mm Alupanel, as well as a router-cut moose wading in water. All the identity signage would be installed just above the first floor on the roadside portion of the building. Eastern Gazette management turned to Tom Stade, a secondgeneration owner of one-man custom sign shop Moosehead Signs ( in nearby Greenville, Maine. Stade has long enjoyed carving dimensional signage—but doing so in ways that bring artistry back into the process that some might deem “lost” in today’s cookie-cutter sign world. They sent Stade a copy of their font and moose logo to set up the template. Noticing that “Eastern Gazette” was employing an Olde English-type font, Stade suggested using prismatic letters,

feeling this would make them stand out even more. However the supplied artwork and fonts weren’t clean nor were the thicknesses of the strokes consistent. So Stade restructured the visuals on his computer to make the finished lettering consistent and stronger. He then altered the graphics as needed in vector format and processed it out to his Gerber CNC router, adjusting the structure of the thinner strokes. One reason Stade used one-and-a-half-inch-thick HDU was because the wider strokes in some letters required this thickness. Yet since some of the strokes were so thin (some as little as 3/8-inch-wide), he programmed his router to leave a web on some of the fonts to provide stability when handling the letters. He also came up with the idea of applying the HDU letters to black-painted Alupanel panels, also cut at a slightly larger size on the router. This added a clean outline and extra stability. December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Top row: Stade used stud mounts positioned via a paper pattern for later attachment to the wall. Bottom row: After painting the letters with latex paints, Stade bonded the HDU letters and Alupanel backboard together with contact cement.


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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

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Meanwhile Stade router-cut the moose section and two separate ripples of water out of a piece of four-by-eight Alupanel. For mounting, Stade used a marker to put dots onto the letters and moose where studs would be placed and drilled with a countersink bit. Then positioning the letters over a paper pattern made on his Graphtec FC5100 plotter, he marked the holes onto the installation pattern. Stade then slipped 18-8 flathead SS screws through and tightened the nuts onto the back. After scuffing the Alupanel backboards with a Scotch-Brite™ pad and performing additional chiseling and sanding, Stade primed the HDU letters with Jay Cooke’s latex primer. He then applied Sherwin-Williams bonding primer to the Alupanel before applying the spray-painted latex colors. Stade latex-painted the Alupanel pieces black and masked and sprayed the different colors onto the carved moose panel using Gerbermask Ultra II (black printing on the liner). “Not only is latex paint durable,” he says, “but it dries quickly.” Once he finished painting the white onto the HDU letters, Stade cut off the extra web supporting some of the letters and sharpened some of the radius corners. He then traced the outline of the HDU letters onto the Alupanel backboard with a white Hydro Marker to guide placement. He applied high-performance Neoprene contact cement to the HDU and Alupanel for bonding. Installation via ladders only took a couple of hours this past summer. Each of the letters was installed onto the building individually, as well as the moose and ripple water portions. While Stade was drilling the holes for HDU placement, he called on his brother Lynn to apply silicone to the back of the Alupanel for additional bonding. Lynn also helped out lifting up the letters and graphics to Tom. The biggest project challenge: Stade had to delicately handle the letters due to their strokes being so super-thin in spots. “It wasn’t just setting them up on the router and cutting,” he explains. “I had to carefully handle them after removing them off the table [and] while hand-chiseling the transition the router leaves when going from thinner strokes to thicker, as well as certain corners.”

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


L E D L i g ht i n g / By Ted KonnerTh / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

The Sign Building-Lighting


LED is changing the traditional role of sign builder, and savvy shops can take advantage of this to add more revenue to their businesses.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


Today’s advanced lighting technologies offer a world of opportunities for sign builders.

photos (this page): dave forrest.

While the sign building industry should be commended for its ability to integrate LED into design, we’ve yet to see companies fully maximize the opportunity that LED presents. Given the evolution of the industry to LED—which in many ways has turned lighting into a technologicallydriven discipline rather than one reliant upon heavy hardware, parts, and labor—there are new relationships to build between the lighting world and sign builders. It is the companies and their leaders who tap into and guide these new associations between industries that will disrupt the norm and reap the rewards for years to come. The following article presents insight into the changing relationship

between the lighting and sign building industry and how new lighting technology is impacting segments of sign building.

Sign Building and LED Today There are several indications of LED’s influence in sign building and sign design. For example, sign builders now use RGB LED sources to create pure colors in lieu of shielding media or screening. Additionally they are also leveraging LED equipment to simplify controls systems that are integrated into building automation that dims the signage during low traffic hours or peak demand times to avoid meter penalties. Another prime example of how sign builders can use (and are using) LED technology is in developing flood-lit signage that is far more compact and aesthetically pleasing than traditional high-intensity discharge (HID) or fluorescent flood lighting for use in panel signs such as billboards or decorative signage that uses lighting to punch up

Lighting renders a certain design appearance for stores. By adding a lighting focus, shops could build a significant revenue stream.

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


photos (above) isa; (right) cao lighting.

LED lighting companies can offer help to sign builders interested in selling outdoor or indoor lighting as an extension of their relationship with clients. awnings. These are just a few of the many examples that showcase the long-term customer benefits of LED. But the question remains: Are you leveraging lighting technologies enough to expand and broaden the impact you can make on your customers, thus increasing your income potential? Through LED, the traditional role of the sign builder is changing— and savvy ones can take advantage of this to add more revenue to their businesses.

Optimizing LED to Increase Revenues New lighting technology has made it possible for sign companies to enter the LED fray. The question here is: How? What’s crucial to understand is the designers inside massive retail brands

and other commercial businesses that rely upon signage (Bank of America®, McDonalds®, 7-Eleven®, etc.) have tremendous influence on the overall appearance of those store locations. Your link to expanding your business opportunities with existing sign clients is these designers—whom you already know. You know that appearance means everything to designers. And what renders appearance? Lighting. Adding a lighting December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Channel letters are so ubiquitous that it can be difficult to make sure your shop stands out in the market. But performing a flawless install the first time can be a good start. Bob Chapa, owner of SIGNARAMA Troy in Michigan, has been a sign franchisee for over ten years, and his shop was one of the first locations nationally to begin fabricating channel letters in-house. Today, Chapa is the president of a wholesale division called, which ships channel letters nationwide with a focus on customer service. “It’s more about the relationship. It’s easy to say you can build the best set of channel letters out there…but we like to take the approach of helping the stores sell these jobs,” says Chapa. “Because we came from the sign industry, we know everything that can happen on the sign shop’s side.” Chapa says the first step to a successful channel letter install is a proper site survey. He suggests using a checklist: + Is it a raceway or flush-mount channel letter install? + What is the wall material the sign is being installed on? This is the biggest variable on the install and some surfaces, like drivet/stucco, are more problematic than others. + How are you getting electrical service to the letters? “[Electrical service is] usually through the backside of the wall,” says Chapa. “Most people think that’s just the easy way, but you have to be able to get up to the wall to do the proper wiring.”

During the survey, be sure to also take accurate measurements. Chapa recommends using the app My Measures & Dimensions Pro (, which allows you to take photos of a job site and input the measurements right on the app. “I have hundreds of surveys all stored on my app,” he says. “I never have to look for them.” On the actual install, Chapa says one of the biggest mistakes shops make is in the number of installers onsite. For a large job, he recommends at least three or four people so that everyone stays safe and is not overtasked. To read all of Chapa’s advice on channel letter installs, log on to

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013


Tips on Channel leTTer Installs

focus could provide a significant revenue stream for sign building companies, but you have to move day-to-day conversations into discussions about improving interior or exterior design elements. So how do you go about making this happen? You probably don’t know the ins and outs of lighting and LED, and, in reality, you shouldn’t. But to bring LED into the discussion with your clients, you can call upon another relationship you count on already—your LED lighting partner. Currently lighting companies that sell to sign builders are value-added resellers that sell LED array systems to build into signs. Still, with the changing landscape of lighting, LED lighting companies can offer help to sign builders interested in selling outdoor or indoor lighting as an extension of their relationship with clients. For example, sign builders who have retail clients such as fast food or convenience stores can also sell indoor case lighting for coolers (and relatively easily too). This working model could extend into a variety of lighting types: from floods to canopies (gas station lighting), area lighting, store lighting, emergency lighting, and so forth.

Why Your Sales Team Can Create the Opportunity to Sell LED Lighting The sign industry has a parallel channel strategy to commercial lighting (first calling on specifiers, then getting a project spec’d, and then selling the lights to an installer). This channel facilitates meeting with design departments within larger companies to help develop imaging strategies that enable conversations about the overall design concept, including discussions about energy conservation. These kinds of conversations require talented people who can move a designer from signage and imagery into more applied design areas such as lighting tasks.

Whereas the transactional model tends to focus on cost, effective LED lighting solutions call for an initial layout of funds that pay off over several years for clients—as well as for you because these are higher margin offerings. Find a lighting partner who can help you do the technical applications and recommend quality solutions. Your business will expand profitably without need for cold calling.

Ted Konnerth is the founder, president, and CEO of Egret Consulting Group, a retained search firm specializing exclusively in the electrical industry. With more than twenty-five years of experience in the electrical industry, he is a leading expert on talent development and the emergence of new lighting technologies.



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Selling Mistakes to Avoid There’s a common mistake sign builders should know to avoid in the process of expanding services into LED lighting— latching onto and selling the cheapest available solutions. As sign builders know, a large part of their business is built on transactional relationships. But LED lighting is different.

888.519.5337 * Call for details December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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Ability Plastics, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 62 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 62 A .R .K . Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 A .R .K . Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 AXYZ International . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Bayer MaterialScience LLC . . . . . . 15 Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 CAO Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Chemical Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Clarke Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Clarke Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Clarke Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Coastal Enterprises . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Computerized Cutters, Inc . . . . . . . 59 DSE (Digital Signage Expo) . . . . . . 44 Duxbury Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Epson America, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . C2 Epson America, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Fastenation, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Fisher Textiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Floyd & Associates LLC . . . . . . . . . 63 Gemini, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 GH Imaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Gill Studios, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Gyford Standoff Systems . . . . . . . 53 Hartlauer Bits, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Innovision LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 International Sign Association . . . . . 33 J Freeman, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 L&L Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 LMT Onsrud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 MBS-Standoffs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 MultiCam, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 National Banner Co . Inc . . . . . . . . . 62 ORAFOL Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63



Ornamental Post Panel & Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Outwater Plastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Principal LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Rapid Tac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 SAi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 ShopBot Tools, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Sign America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Signs365 .com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4 SloanLED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Small Balls, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Stamm Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 19 Thermwood Corp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Trim-Lok Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Universal Laser Systems Inc . . . . . 27 US LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 VKF Renzel USA Corp . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Wilkie Mfg . LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C3 Y J Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17



Companies in Sign Show Component Signage, Inc . . . . . . . . 13 EFI VUTEk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Epson America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Fisher Textiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Gemini, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 MACtac Distributor Products . . . . 14 Nudo Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Presto Tape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Rowmark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Seiko Infotech, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Sherwin-Williams . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

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December 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



B y A s h l e y B r Ay

Custom Designs Signs of Keene, NH

Big Business in a Small Town


im Vitous, owner of Custom Designs Signs (, demonstrated on page 40 that he has a handle on donor recognition signage But he also has a hold on his corner of business in the small city of Keene, New Hampshire (population: 25,000). Vitous says you have to be a full-service shop to survive here. “People come to you wanting wraps, parking signs, etc.,” he says. Vitous has been taking on jobs since moving to the Keene area and purchasing his sign shop eight years ago. The previous owner of the shop, Jim Pulaski, had been in business since 1969 but was looking to retire. Vitous had worked fourteen years for custom metal products manufacturer Matthews Bronze Architectural Products and was looking for a change. He immediately recognized the shop’s history and heritage in the community. “There are still neon and hand-painted signs standing in this town that [Pulaski] built back in 1969,” says Vitous. The previous owner not only made sure his signs stood the test of time but also his business. “He was conscientious to adopt vinyl technology,” Vitous says. “He was the first in town to buy a Gerber vinyl cutter and the first to buy a router. So we were really ahead of the curve.”

Today Vitous keeps the business going with his partner Kris Arnold, who has thirty-plus years as a classically trained sign expert. The duo works on a variety of projects—channel letters, lightboxes, monuments, and of course, donor signage. The 2,000-square foot shop houses a Graphtec plotter, a CamTech CNC router, a panel saw, and a variety of hand tools. “We’ve held off on purchasing a printer because we can buy from other sign shops that do it much more cost effectively,” says Vitous. “It often adds up to an even cost on a buy-vs.-make decision. “We’re still the biggest shop in town at two people, but being the biggest fish in this little sea is kind of relative.” Logic would dictate that sign shops would be fiercely competitive for jobs and customers in a town the size of Keene. But this isn’t the case. “There’s four other sign shops in town, and nobody really disturbs the market,” he says. “It’s not really competitive. I throw the annual Christmas party, and everybody comes down to my place.” Each shop has its own niche, so business doesn’t overlap. In fact, the shops even share accounts sometimes. Vitous says, “We respect each other’s territories, we respect each other’s customers, and more importantly, we respect each other’s work.”

Photos: custom designs signs.

In a small town, you have to be a full-service shop to survive.

Jim Vitous (left) and Kris Arnold hold up a plaque they made to honor a dedicated camp instructor who recently passed away. 64

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2013

The Road Ahead   


Times have changed, so has  the Sign industry and the way  we do business. With new  government regulations  Wilkie helps you keep ahead  of the curve with the new  Wilkie innovative products  with the sign professional in  mind.  The Wilkie Model 52XLR is a  prime example of this  52’  two man rotating platform  with a storable jib winch in  the basket and a mainline  winch that stores when not in  use mounted on a non CDL  truck, Wilkie helps you keep  ahead of the curves in life  that come your way.   Wilkie Mfg., L.L.C.  405‐235‐0920 Phone  405‐236‐3324 Fax 


Sign Builder Illustrated December 2013