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The How-To Magazine

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Contents JUNE 2018

Vol. 32

No. 276


How-To Columns



By Ilya A. Lipin & Chuck Lukens The impact of sales and use tax on the sign industry.


8 12 42 44


Environmental graphic design is hot, but when the question of character(s) pops up, EditorJeff Wooten tries to find permissible answers.


High school students explore the world of print; booking public library signs with steel, concrete, and HDU; and ISA members share tax stories.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

ISA Vice President of Government Affairs David Hickey answers questions at last spring’s ISA Sign Expo.



20 24 28 31 36 38


Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018


By Lori Shridhare Art installation draws attention to the wonders of city objects.


By Mike Antoniak Vinyl creates an old look for a new building.


By Matt McCausland Five ways solvent printing technology can benefit your business.


By Jeff Wooten The true story behind one shop’s humble growth.


By Jeff Wooten Using electronic message centers as a recruiting tool.


By Lori Shridhare An interview with authors Chris Calori and David Vanden-Eynden about wayfinding signage.

Cover Photo: Epson America.


June 2018, Vol. 32, No. 276 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Subscriptions: 800-895-4389

executive offices President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Publisher Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7247 ; Fax: 212-633-1863

editorial Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220 Contributing Writers Mike Antoniak, Tai Freligh, David Hickey, Ilya A. Lipin & Chuck Lukens, Matt McCausland, Lori Shridhare

art Art Director Nicole Cassano Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Associate Publisher/East Coast Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233 Mid-West & West Coast Sales Monica Boutros 212-620-7225 Sign Builder Illustrated is published monthly. All rights reserved. Nothing herein may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. To purchase PDF files of cover and layouts or hard copy reprints, please call Art Sutley at 212-620-7247 or e-mail


Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

Clever Headline We’ve Got& You

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Editor’s Column


By Jeff Wooten

June 2018 JUNE 7-9:

The 2018 SEGD Conference— Experience Minneapolis—takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (

JUNE 14-15:

The Midwest Sign Association’s Midwest Sign Show will be held at the Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit, Michigan. (


The Texas Sign Association’s Sixty-Fifth Annual Conference happens at Moody Gardens in Thackerville, Oklahoma. (

In Its Likeness

The question of character(s) pops up.


Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

Nowadays the pop-up bar has shifted more toward the transformative variety, with long-time establishments adopting short-term themes. In addition to the Simpsons-inspired bar we wrote about, an Internet search reveals that other bars have adopted brief themes related to Fleetwood Mac, Deadpool, StarWars, The Shining, and even Alice in Wonderland. Speaking of Wonderland, it’s quite a rabbit hole to dive into regarding how copyrighted materials can be used— with or without permission. You’ll find terminology like “fair use” and “transformative use.” This legalese has inspired us to delve into this topic in a lot more detail for an upcoming article than this single-page allows. Graphics providers are pretty much in the same boat as cake makers, schools, and garment providers when it comes to the use of intellectual properties and favorite characters in one-off products. The safest way to make sure your shortterm project doesn’t later become a longterm problem is to get permission straight from the rights holder. Another possibility: Add wording into your contract to ensure the client has received approval before moving forward. And most importantly of all, don’t steal images off the Internet!

Jeff Wooten Editor,

July 2018 JULY 18-21:

The Mid South Sign Association’s Annual Meeting and Tradeshow takes place at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. (

August 2018 AUGUST 9-11:

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

AUGUST 29-31:

The WSSC Sign Show/CSA Convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Garden Grove, California. (

September 2018 Photo: Shutterstock/garagestock.


nvironmental graphic design (EGD) is one of today’s hottest trends, particularly with the advances being made in wide format hardware and materials and the introduction of 3D printing. Immersion is key to this experience, but is there such a thing as being “too immersive?” In our February 2018 issue, we published an article about a bar owner who hired a sign studio to use vinyl graphics and foam-core cutouts in order to give his interior a Simpsons-inspired makeover to promote a trivia night related to the television series (“The Funny Thing About Experiential Graphics”). A sign designer rightly chided me for not noting whether the graphics provider was granted permission to reproduce these Simpsons images. If not, then we shouldn’t have been promoting a story advocating the use of images owned by others. The last thing we want to do at our magazine is give the impression to our readers that it’s okay to take copyrighted images owned by others and use them however a client wishes. I reached back out to the sign maker, Shira Kollins, who assured me that everything used was hand-drawn from scratch and that the campaign was brief (ten days) and decorative, with nothing from it sold for personal gain. In the hospitality industry, there has been a recent rise in “pop-up” bars in major cities. This concept started with a business opening up in a certain location for a limited time and then moving elsewhere.


The Southern States Sign Association Tradeshow takes place at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, North Carolina. (

In The Industry

High School Students Explore the

World of Print


ilford, Connecticut—Thirteen students from the charter high school Common Ground of New Haven, Connecticut were introduced to the world of printing when they visited wholesale large format print provider SignCenter ( The purpose of their visit was career exploration and to learn about the various types of skills needed to work in the print industry. SignCenter Owner Michael Oliveras headed the tour and also gave the students meaningful advice on joining the workforce. Oliveras described SignCenter’s business model and what it means to be a wholesale printer. He explained that their customer base consists of other print8

Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

ers, print brokers, and print resellers and how they all rely on SignCenter to deliver high-quality prints to their end-users—in a timely and consistent fashion. He imparted some of his insights on what makes a valuable employee by explaining that employers are looking for candidates that are willing to work and have enthusiasm about the work. Oliveras impressed upon the students the importance of basic math skills and common sense, which he candidly expressed, “many of today’s candidates are lacking.” He also stressed that managers take note of the employees who go above and beyond their job description and encouraged the students to make themselves invaluable. “Show up every

day, be on time, do your work, and if you don’t have anything to do, pick up a broom,” said Oliveras. Students were able to experience first-hand the difference between latex, solvent, UV, and dye-sublimation printing in SignCenter’s 24,000-square foot facility. They learned how digital die cutting worked and were introduced to large format banner construction and dye sublimation to rigid boards such as aluminum. Oliveras explained that sewing was another skill that is hard to find and told them if they always wanted a job, to learn to sew. After the tour was completed, students were broken into groups to work at three stations where they were able to apply

Tax Reform & Signage


Students were taught that managers take note of the employees who go above and beyond. their math skills with interactive tasks. At the first station, Production Manager Chrisy Fletcher taught the students about yield. She explained that it is important to get as many prints on a sheet with the least amount of waste, and she set up three challenges for the students to complete: (1.) to get as many 12-by18-inch prints on a 4-by-8-foot board and then also 18-by-24-inch prints, (2.) to complete a mock order containing various sized prints with the least amount of waste, and (3.) to determine how many rolls of vinyl would be needed to fulfill a sample order for stickers. At the die-cutting station, SignCenter employee Paulo Campos explained how die cutting worked and how important it

is to be precise. He taught each student how to use calipers to measure the thickness and how to program the Zünd cutter. At the final station, SignCenter employee Tatiana Robinson taught the students the importance of color matching. For this hands-on activity, she deliberately printed several Pantone colors slightly off. She gave the students a Pantone color swatch book and custom CMYK color filters, which had each color segmented by incremental percentages. Students were to adjust the colors by adding or removing percentages of CMYK. Overall the students seemed fascinated with all that could be done at the shop. Several students even asked about the opportunity for an internship or a job.

l e x a n d r i a , V i rg i n i a — International Sign Association (ISA) members shared their stories about how their businesses and employees have been affected by the new tax law during a recent ceremony held at the White House. Nicole Bergstrom, president of SmithCraft Custom Architectural Signs in Phoenix, Arizona, detailed how she has used tax reform to improve capabilities for her shop. “We are buying new equipment,” she said. “I’m very excited about what the future holds for us.” Also participating alongside B e rg st ro m i n t h e eve n t wa s Brandon McMillen, vice president of SmithCraft in Phoenix, Arizona. Roy Cox, owner of Trav-Ad Signs in Huntsville, Alabama, along with company representatives Aaron R u d d a n d S t e v e C a r r, a l s o attended the event. “Participating in these events raises the profile of the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry at the federal level of government and the White House,” said David Hickey, ISA’s vice president of advocacy. “It is important for leaders and representatives to hear the impact that policies like the tax cut have had on their businesses.” The link to the video of the Rose Garden event can be viewed at

June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


In The Industry Tasty Graphics


Library Signs


ynergy Sign & Graphics of Strasburg, Ohio fabricated entrance and exit signs out of steel, concrete, and Precision Board HDU for the public library in Newcomerstown, Ohio. The tall entrance sign resembles five stacked books with the library’s name and various classic titles on their spines, while the exit sign is inspired by The Sword in The Stone book. (Note: To see both signs, visit Everything was modeled in 3D using Enroute Software and cut on their MultiCam 3000 series CNC router. Owner Jim Dawson started by creating a steel frame for the inside of the entrance sign. He added lots of one-by-one-inch and twoby-two-inch steel tube supports to hold everything up. A three-by-three-inch tube stands in the middle. “We plasma cut the books from steel and then welded them together and covered most of the surfaces with galvanized lath,” he says. The surfaces of the books are covered in fiberglass-reinforced concrete, but the spines are router-cut out of two-inchthick PBLT-30 to make the book names easier to carve. After all the steel was 10

Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

fabricated, Dawson screwed the spines to the ends of the books, stacked them, and then covered them with metal lath, using wire ties to hold the concrete. He blended sculpted concrete right up against the Precision Board and then covered everything—the spines, concrete, and HDU—with two coats of TSF-45. “We brushed a graining tool to make it look like pages and added another eight coats of paint over all that,” says Dawson. “Each book has its own color. We antiqued everything with a glazing process.” Dawson employed the same process for the smaller Sword in the Stone exit sign, using two layers of two-inch-thick thirtypound Precision Board. “The bookmark is a steel frame covered with Smooth-On Free Form Habitat Epoxy Clay,” he says. The Newcomerstown Public Libary medallion at the top covers up the steel frame that comes out of the book and is made out of two layers of two-inch-thick PBLT-30 glued to the steel. Dawson then painted it with Nova Colar, while all of the reactive parts were done with Modern Masters Reactive Bonds. —Tai Freligh

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Booking Public

anville, Illinois—Swift Print Communications recently produced and installed bright, eye-catching wide format graphics on two outdoor food kiosks in just ten days. The unique project was a request of the Bi-State Development Research Institute, a nonprofit enterprise of Bi-State Development and the Missouri Foundation for Health. Swift Print Communications teamed up with Werremeyer Creative, a marketing and graphic design agency also based in St. Louis. The team printed Mactac’s REBEL™ H multi-print media on an Océ Arizona 550 XT UV flatbed printer from Canon Solutions America. “There was a repeating pattern in the graphic, and we had to make sure the color was correct,” said Shawn Fogle of Swif t Print Communications. “REBEL H helped with that because we knew what color was being printed.” Swift Print used Mactac’s SAG Anti-Graffiti Window Protection Films to ensure the colorful graphics would last as long as possible and resist both UV fade and graffiti. “Because we used a UV printer, we needed to make sure the laminate used would work well with the inks,” said Fogle. “Most laminates aren’t made for UV printing, so choosing Mactac’s anti-graffiti laminate was vital as we didn’t want outgassing from the UV inks to create bubbles in the laminate.” Swift Print cut the final graphics to various sizes for the install in less than twenty-four hours.


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LexJet Introduces Satin Poster Paper for Industrial-level HP Latex Print Operators For latex print operators running high-volume jobs, LexJet Satin Poster Paper offers a cost-effective, quality option, particularly for HP Latex 3000 and 3500 machines. It is also compatible with solvent, eco-solvent, and UV-curable inkjet printers. With a 200-gsm paper base and a satin finish, this new paper is an ideal PVC-free alternative that provides a photo-finish and sheen for an appealing coating to the finished print while meeting cost and performance targets. The durable, high-strength cellulose paper base and proprietary water-resistant ink-receptive coating is ideal for photo, poster, and P-O-S signage applications. LexJet Satin Poster Paper is compatible with most overlaminates and protective coatings for more durable indoor and short-term outdoor applications.

LED MODULES/tubes/strips LiteSheet Solutions’ Revolutionary AC Direct LED Lighting Technology LiteSheet Solutions’ first-to-market BriteCor™ AC direct LED lighting system (including the Brik product line, pictured) combines their Adaptive Control Module and mesh LED redundancy design, which allows them to operate their fixtures directly from the AC line, eliminate the problematic driver, and under-power the LED diodes at only 20 to 40 percent of their rated capacity. Drivers are the number-one failure mode in LED lighting fixtures—created by such factors as heat and voltage fluctuation that cause performance and reliability issues. By eliminating the driver and using LED redundancy design, LiteSheet’s AC direct technology delivers a number of advantages—high-efficiency, lower total ownership cost, longer life, etc.

New SloanLED Channel Letter Lighting Solution is a Performance Workhorse and Cost-saver VL Plus 3 is a reimagining of SloanLED’s everyday channel letter solution, incorporating a lens optic that doubles light coverage at half the cost. VL Plus 3 is the cost-effective LED solution for illuminating standard facelit channel letters. It’s available in white (6500 K) and red and adds a lens that increases the viewing angle by 33 percent. The result is twice the maximum coverage per row at ten inches, an impressive light output of 150 lumens per foot (6500 K), and class-leading efficacy of 101 lm/w—all in a solution costing 50 percent less. VL Plus 3 is UL and cUL recognized and ROHS compliant.

LETTERS Gemini Offers Aluminum and Stainless Steel Fabricated Letters & Logos Made-to-Order A wider range of sizes for Gemini's made-to-order fabricated aluminum and stainless steel letters and logos are now available. From precision-fabricated stainless steel letters just two inches high to fabricated aluminum letters and logos up to ten feet tall, Gemini offers a vast range of wholesale fabrication solutions to meet the design specifications of Authorized Gemini Reseller partners. Gemini’s fabricated titanium-coated stainless steel letters and logos feature letters heights from 2 to 36 inches tall with return depths from 1/2 to 6 inches and strokes as narrow as 3/8-inch. Their aluminum letters and logos feature robust structural quality from 16 inches up to 120 inches tall and return depths from two to six inches.


Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

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Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

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June 2018

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How To


Taxing Considerations The impact of sales and use tax on the sign industry.

Photo: Shutterstock/Zadorozhnyi Viktor.


nless your business only operates in the five states that do not impose sales and use tax, you are likely aware of the significant impact that it can have on your business. For those in the sign industry, interpreting application of sales and use tax laws, regulations, and administrative tax guidance can result in a migraine. Due to ambiguous laws and regulations, taxpayers frequently rely on a patchwork of informal guidance scattered on the Internet that is often too vague to draw a conclusion. Failing to collect sales tax often leaves the seller unpleasantly exposed to tax liability. Deciding whether to charge your customer sales tax is fraught with risk and should be undertaken with very careful consideration. Charging sales tax incorrectly or inaccurately may put a business at a competitive disadvantage as well as expose it to a legal liability through class action lawsuits, qui tam actions, and tax assessments.

Similarly a failure to properly accrue and remit use tax on taxable purchases may also result in a tax liability. This article provides a general overview of potential issues businesses in the sign industry may encounter and recommends that businesses review their sales and use tax function annually to stay compliant with the law. General Taxability Concepts In order to make a correct taxability determination, sellers should evaluate relevant tax definitions, the terms of the contract, how the sign is going to be installed and utilized, how the invoice reflects the charge for the sign and any labor, as well as the tax status of their customer (i.e., nonprofit or for profit). In most states, sales tax applies to the sales of “tangible personal property” and certain enumerated services. Tangible personal property generally means personal property that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched or that is in any manner per-

ceptible to the senses. The taxability determination may change to the extent that a sign is going to be incorporated into a real property, which is not subject to sales tax. Real property is commonly defined as fixed property that is attached to land. With respect to the sale of interior and exterior signage, the line is often blurred between what constitutes real property and tangible personal property. Some states require that tangible personal property be “permanently affixed” to real estate in order to become real property. In this case, the seller of such property is not obligated to collect sales tax from the purchaser. However the seller is required to pay sales or use tax on the cost price of the materials installed. Conversely, if the sale of installed property is deemed to remain tangible personal property, the seller is obligated to collect sales tax from the customer. Most sellers will not owe sales tax on the purchase price of the items resold to the customer due to the sale-forresale exemption. Contract form is often key to determining the proper tax treatment. A number of states require contractors working under a “time and materials” contract to collect sales tax on the price of materials transferred to customers, even when the project is classified as real property. For instance, Nebraska has a particularly complicated series of elections that contractors are required to make, choosing whether to pay tax on their materials or collect sales tax on the invoiced materials from customers. Sales of Material In determining if sales tax applies to a sale of a sign that is going to be attached to real property, it is often challenging to determine when the attachment can be June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated




Deciding whether to charge your customer sales tax is fraught with risk and should be undertaken with very careful consideration.


Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

sale price of items they manufacture or fabricate when affixed to realty, if these items are also sold to customers without installation. Installation Labor Sales of materials are not the only concern. Sellers should also evaluate the taxability of separately stated services such as installation labor. Often times, if separately stated services are provided in conjunction with the sales of tangible personal property, any corresponding services will be taxable. However, if the installed material is deemed to become a part of real property, then the installation services may be exempt from tax. For example, in Pennsylvania, the taxability of separately stated installation labor will follow the taxability of the item being sold (Citation: 72 P.S. § 7201(k) (4); 61 Pa. Code §31.5(c)). However, in other states, installation labor may not be subject to sales tax regardless of the taxability of the item being sold as long as such charges are separately stated. Maryland and Illinois, for example, are among the states that do not require sales tax to be charged on installation labor even if the items being installed are subject to tax (Citation: Md. Code Ann. Tax-Gen. § 11-101(m); Maryland Tax Tip 18; Ill. Admin. Code tit. 86, §130.120(d)). Invoices Sellers of signs and associated services should pay close attention to how such

charges are stated on their invoice. Combining material and service charges may be subject to tax in their entirety, while separately stated services may be exempt. Installation charges are deductible from total receipts when computing the amount of sales tax charged to the purchaser if such charges are separately invoiced from the selling price of the material. However installation labor is subject to sales tax if the charges are included in a lump sum price (Citation: Ill. Admin. Code tit. 86, §130.2140(b)(2); Illinois General Information Letter ST 15-0063-GIL, Oct. 29. 2015). Purchaser’s Tax Status Sellers should also pay close attention to the tax status of the customer. If the customer is a governmental or nonprofit entity, some states (e.g., Illinois and Wisconsin) permit the exempt status of such entities to pass through to contractors performing real property construction. To substantiate favorable tax treatment, the sellers should ensure that they meet requirements imposed by each jurisdiction as well as obtain essential documentation. For example, if a seller is presented with a properly completed exemption certificate and accepts the certificate in good faith, then the seller is normally relieved of its obligation to collect the sales tax. However it is recommended that the seller carefully review exemption certificates to confirm that all required

Photo: Shutterstock/qvist.

deemed to be “permanently affixed” for the purposes of taxation. Given that the taxability of materials is often dictated by the level of attachment of the material, contractors must give careful consideration to how material is installed and the overall nature of the project. California, for example, has issued guidance stating that “on-premise” electric signs are considered “fixtures” and are subsequently treated as taxable tangible personal property even if installed by a contractor (Citation: California SBE Information Publication No. 9, 03/01/2016). Therefore it becomes the contractor’s responsibility to collect sales tax on the sale of such signs. Interestingly California makes a distinction between on-premise electric signs and outdoor advertising signs. Signs attached to buildings are generally considered taxable fixtures, similar to on premise electric signs. However outdoor advertising signs built upon land are considered “structures” and thus real property. Therefore a contractor who furnishes and installs an outdoor advertising sign is not obligated to collect sales tax on the materials. The contractor will owe sales or use tax on the purchase of materials used to create the sign. In some states, where the sale and installation of signage is considered real property, the contractor may owe tax on more than just its cost of materials for the sign. Michigan requires contractors to pay use tax on the full


mation is included. A failure to comply can result in the sign company being assessed for tax on its material costs. Battling Tax Exposure If state and local sales/use tax exposures exist, taxpayers can effectively manage the costs of compliance by proactively identifying areas of underpayment and pursuing remediation through voluntary disclosure agreements (VDAs) and tax amnesty programs. Utilizing VDA and tax amnesty programs can help delinquent taxpayers achieve compliance as quickly as possible with the added benefits of reduced penalties, interest, and administrative costs. Conclusion As most states have their own unique quirks related to application of sales tax to signs and associate service com-

How To


ponents, the taxability should be determined on a per job basis. The ultimate taxability of installed signage is closely linked to each state’s definitions of real and personal property, case law, and other administrative guidance. Since labor and service fees are often a material part of the sign sale, their taxability and appearance on an invoice is an important component of taxability review and determination. In addition, unbundling a contract might yield tax savings. For example, a large outdoor sign contract could separate real property components (e.g., excavation of base, pouring a concrete pad, underground electrical wiring) and personal property (e.g., sign display, pylon, above-ground wiring). In a state like Wisconsin, the sign installer would owe use tax on its costs

for the real estate portion of the contract and would collect sales tax on the personal property portion (price of materials plus installation). Failure to assess which revenues are taxable can leave your business exposed to sales and use tax liability if audited by a state or locality. Consulting with a sales and use tax professional can serve as a valuable investment by potentially providing assurance of substantial compliance and/ or exposure in the many jurisdictions in which your business operates. Ilya A. Lipin is a manager in the state and local tax (SALT) practice of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He may be reached at ilya.lipin@ Chuck Lukens is a SALT senior associate in Philadelphia and may be reached at

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June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated



Art installation draws attention to the wonders of city objects.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February June 2018 2017

Public Art in

the Shadow A

“parking monkey” is lurking under a city parking meter in Redwood City, California. An image of “Pac-Man” rests in the shadow of a blue mailbox. A toy version of railroad cars lands on the sidewalk behind a railroad track. These seemingly random images placed throughout the city are part of an installation by San Francisco-based graphic artist Damon Belanger. Belanger painted these twenty-three images throughout the city, drawing attention to everyday objects such as guardrails, playgrounds, parking pay stations, and train tracks. In 2017, he won a merit award as part of the annual How International Design Awards competition. Sign Builder Illustrated recently interviewed Belanger to discuss the concepts behind this unique public art exhibit.

After I came up with the general theme of robots or various real or imagined creatures, it was pretty easy to associate them with various objects. I was also occasionally inspired by the location; for example, all of the pieces around the train station are related to transportation. What is the technology that you used to set up the shadow images? Were there any technical issues to fix or monitor? Interestingly I think the major technical aspect of this project was the color of the paint. I’ve seen a few comments online where people were not sure if they were real or not. The process was pretty simple and straightforward. I created templates out of pliable plastic and butcher paper and painted them straight onto the concrete.

Did you adjust the setup for day versus night viewing? Daytime versus nighttime viewing wasn’t a large consideration for this project, but since most of the images are around the downtown area, the lighting is actually quite effective when seen at night. What feedback did you receive on this project from city officials and the general public? This project has had an overwhelmingly positive response, both from the city and the public in general. As I was painting them, a lot of folks stopped and spoke to me, saying they would love to see more projects like this in their community. How does public art like this project help us connect better with our towns and cities? I think people are always encouraged when

All Photos: Damon Belanger.

SBI: How did you decide on creating the shadow images that would pair with the objects themselves? Damon Belanger: The Redwood City Improvement Association, in partnership with Redwood City Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department, put out a call to artists for ideas for a proposed shadow art project in downtown Redwood City. I submitted ideas based on characters and themes that I have been exploring in my work, and I was fortunate enough to have my proposal selected. How did you decide on creating the shadow images that would pair with the objects themselves? A lot of my ideas came from the size and shape of the objects themselves. As I created them, I thought about what the object might look if it could move or came to life.

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they see their city or community embracing and supporting art in their neighborhoods and finding creative projects like this that beautify their environment. In our area, there is also a public project to have artists paint utility boxes. That’s a great example of a blank canvas that was begging for public art. How does the act of creating and displaying outdoor signage overlap, in some ways, with the intention/process behind public art installations (even though there are different end goals for each of these)? One of the biggest challenges of public art, and for that matter any outdoor signage, is the balance between trying to get attention and making the piece feel like a natural part of the environment. You can think about places with classic signage like Hong Kong or Las Vegas. What makes a sign stand out? And why do they feel part of the integrated whole? To me, it always makes sense to think of the location first and decide how you can leverage that to either make your message work with the environment or possibly contrast it. What else are you currently working on? Do you have any plans for creating another exhibit like this? I just finished designing a decorated raised crosswalk intersection in Palo Alto, California. It will be installed this summer. This project has some interesting challenges because it’s also based on the ground and has special limitations because of the material being used.

View more Shadow Art and other graphic design work by Damon Belanger at


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June 2018

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





Building a Standout



hen you’re in the business of wrapping the world with digitally printed graphics, you might as well show off what you can do. “Opportunities in this business are everywhere,” says Tamara Baumann, owner and founder of Underwraps (gounder24

Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018 in Huntington Beach, California. “You can wrap pretty much anything—vehicles, walls, floors, furniture, ceilings, buildings, etc. And, the sky is the limit when it comes to design.” Over the course of her career, Baumann has had a hand in wrapping everything from a Steinway piano for Lady Gaga to

boats, helicopters, and building interiors. Her main focus is vehicle graphics, and Baumann estimates she’s helped restore, upgrade, and update the look of hundreds of cars and trucks. Baumann launched Underwraps in 2016 as a one-stop shop for anyone eager to customize a vehicle inside or out.

All Photos: Underwraps.

Vinyl creates an old look for a new building.

“When I first got started, people were just excited they could put a design on their car,” she says. “Today they want it to look like paint with a lot of attention to details so you can’t tell it’s been wrapped.” Visitors to the industrial park where Underwraps is based are greeted by a highly visible example of the required design and

installation expertise for quality wraps. Among the streets of drab concrete buildings, the Underwraps headquarters stands out as dramatically different. A recent wall wrap on the outside of the building seems to situate it in another place, camouflaging the exterior in what you’d expect to encounter in some timeworn corner of an inner city factory district. Details Make The Design “I’ve always been a fan of cool architecture and especially urban, industrial spaces that have character written all over them,” says Baumann, who explains her company’s attention to detail is “extreme” and that they wanted to portray the same elements here to “wow” everyone. This old look for the new building projects the authenticity of a sooty, neglected commercial district: weathered signs announcing the location, sections of brick showing through worn layers of peeling stucco, haphazardly repaired broken windows, and a rusted garage grate. “When you’re driving through a modern industrial neighborhood like this, everywhere you look it’s the same brown and tan buildings,” says Baumann. “We wanted something different that would stand out. We’re definitely fans of that distressed look.” The design concept is built on a trend she’s helped promote in her years wrapping custom cars and trucks. While most wraps entail dramatic graphics and bold colors, some owners have bucked these trends with calls for something more gritty and retro. Baumann says some hot-rodders would seek out vintage cars and trucks languishing in barns or sheds, update the motors and interiors, but leave the rusted exterior as is. In 2013, Baumann bought a classic Chevy C10 pick-up with similar intentions then decided to make it a showcase example of what’s possible with digitally printed graphics. “We wanted to show what you can do by creating a wrap using the rusted patina look on that old Chevy C10,” she says. To make it look as authentic as possible, she researched where rust would naturally wear through the original paint of a truck of that vintage, then covered the entire vehicle, including the truck bed,

with the digitally printed panels. “We take this truck to shows and everyone cannot believe it’s a wrap,” she says. First Impressions Motorists passing by the Underwraps headquarters have the same initial shock. “Most people in the neighborhood thought we had sandblasted the building,” reports Baumann. “They love the boldness of the design. Now everyone knows we are here and what we do.” This wall mural was also an opportunity to field test exterior applications of Avery Dennison’s then new MPI 1405 Urethane film and companion DOL 6460 laminate on a textured surface. “We like to do live tests of new products to see how they perform for different applications than they may have originally been developed for,” says David Timmerman, Avery Dennison’s Regional Tech Specialist for the West Coast. “When you combine the MPI 1405 with the DOL 6460, it makes for a very conformable product we thought would be great for vehicles and wrapping exteriors.” When Timmerman learned Baumann was considering a digitally printed mural on the 26-by-17-foot wall of their building, he approached her about making it a test project. Avery Dennison would provide the material for design, printing, and installation by the Underwraps crew. Searching the Internet, Baumann and her graphic designer studied scores of images of old brick and concrete buildings and selected the combination of features they wanted for the mural. Then the wrap was designed as original art, incorporating a vintage-looking Underwraps sign and logo. “It’s really a combination of things inspired by multiple pic-

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tures and ideas we looked at,” she says. The mural was printed on an Epson inkjet as a series of fifty-four-inch-wide panels. Baumann and her team were on hand for the installation, along with Timmerman and Avery sales reps. “On these tests, we want the customer’s crew to handle the

media and work with it so they can tell us how they like working with it,” says Timmerman. “I’m there to help with troubleshooting if they have any questions.” With a scissor lift, the installation posed no special challenges. “We recommend they lay out the panels and seam

them together, then go back and heat them to conform to the texture of the underlying surface,” says Timmerman. “This test confirmed the materials work well for application on exteriors like brick or textured concrete.” The mural was an immediate attention grabber. “Right away, there was a lot of rubber-necking from people driving by, even before the installation was through,” says Timmerman. The wall wrap has also made Underwraps something of a local landmark. “It’s no longer just another wall of brick or concrete,” says Baumann, “but something entirely different you don’t expect to see in this area. People have been really impressed by all the attention to detail. Some come by just to take pictures. “This is a very competitive business and you have to be on the edge in what you design. You’re continually challenged to come up with new and better designs for something that looks different than what everyone else is doing.”

Two-Day Sign Industry Event

Great Seminars for Shop Owners and Employees

Over 100 Dynamic Booths and Displays

Opening Night Networking Event at Infinity Music Hall


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






Five ways solvent printing technology can benefit your business.

1. Image Quality. The number-one requirement of any PSP is to provide customers with outstanding image quality. If a customer feels they can get better image quality elsewhere, they will not be back for return business, and a potential revenue opportunity is lost. When seeking a wide format solvent

printer, look for one leveraging advanced technology such as dual-array printheads and an advanced media feeding system to help automate overnight workflows and ensure high-quality sellable output with less visible banding and graduations. In addition, look for color gamut levels and photographic output-quality levels to ensure the investment will be guaranteed to deliver the highest image quality. 2. Versatility. The versatility behind solvent allows PSPs to differentiate their offerings and provide customers with unique applications without compromising quality. Customers may not always be seeking the same type of print. A customer who originally ordered an outdoor banner may return for stickers to be used as part of a skateboard deck design or photographic prints for the interior of their store. All of this can be done with solvent printing technology. Beyond expanding service offerings and ensuring output quality, PSPs should seek solutions that integrate ink guarantees to safeguard customer satisfaction and reliability. Output guarantees, such as the Avery Dennison ICS Performance Guarantee and the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty, work with technology, ink, and media manufacturers to ensure combined packages produce durable output, leaving customers likely to return and recommend print services to others looking for similar output. 3. Color Consistency. In branding and signage, offering color consistency is a must. You’ll never see a McDonald’s or CocaCola red a shade or two off from the iconic color. Print service providers must be ready and able to offer an expanded color gamut and successfully match any color a client throws their way. The solvent ink industry is evolving due to rapid advancement in technology


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and ink chemistry—now allowing PSPs to reach 98 percent Pantone and ensure efficient, precise, and repeatable performance. Ink technology has expanded outside the traditional CYMK color scheme with successful formulations for red, white, and metallic silver. Solvent ink chemistry and

All Photos: Epson America, Inc.


hether looking to find a cost-efficient, entry-level solution or expand service offerings, solvent printing (primarily known for signage) can be an efficient, versatile resource for a range of printing needs—including fine art reproduction, vehicle wraps, photographic prints, canvas prints, stickers, and more. Solvent delivers a variety of advantages and durable output to exceed the needs of customers. Its versatile media compatibility, outstanding durability, and weather- and scratch-proof output make it an ideal solution for print service providers (PSPs). In addition, solvent printing technology is providing new levels of photographic output quality in faster turnaround times, allowing PSPs to invoice additional projects and generate added revenue. Following are five ways solvent printing technology can help PSPs maintain strong customer relationships, generate additional revenue, and stay ahead of market needs:

Solvent Getting Fluent About

ogy embeds colorant into the media to establish a more permanent bond between substrate and ink. By penetrating the media, it is able to withstand water, scratching, and fading. 4. Ink Efficiency. To help their businesses succeed, PSPs must be

ate with asset efficiency, including overall ink usage. Generally more efficient than water-based ink solutions, solvent ink was designed for high-speed, highproduction output. In addition, traditionally solvent ink is less expensive than other types and, over time, can help a PSP transition into the

wide format printing business by aiding in managing ink costs. Ideal for a new PSP learning how to manage print shop cash flow, most solvent printing technology traditionally does not require installing a 220v hook up, which could result in reduced energy costs.

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PSPs can laminate and increase the rate projects are sent out for installation, creating more opportunities for them to take on additional jobs and increase overall revenue.

5. Same-day Lamination. The majority of solvent prints will be laminated, as it’s an important step in the graphics production process for outdoor signage. Laminated output weatherproofs the print and helps protect against damage. Lamination is done to add durability, prolong the life of the print, and improve visual qualities (such as image sharpness, color saturation, and heightening the contrast between colors). Traditionally ink and media manufac-

turers have recommended PSPs allow solvent output to dry for twenty-four to forty-eight hours for the off-gassing process to take place. However, due to rapidly evolving technologies, new solvent ink technologies have the ability to reduce the off-gas time by at least 75 percent, allowing PSPs to laminate solvent prints the same day they come off the printer—as fast as six hours after the print is complete. By decreasing the curating time,

Conclusion Solvent printing technology delivers fast, reliable, high-quality output and enables PSPs to gain advantages in image quality, total cost‑of‑ownership, and project turnaround time. By integrating solvent printing technology, PSPs can expect durable, consistent output suitable for a variety of printing applications, delivered at impressive speeds that far exceed customer expectations. By increasing output quality and decreasing project turnaround time, PSPs can confidently accept additional projects, resulting in increased projection and revenue opportunities. Matt McCausland is product manager, Professional Imaging, at Epson America, Inc.

Show Time! There was a time not long ago when some predicted the end of tradeshows as we know them, seemingly happy to consign their model to the past and assume a more modern, Internet-driven way of doing things would be the way to go. Thankfully, these people were wrong—at least insofar as the fundamental demise of tradeshows. Where, perhaps by happenchance, they were right is that the traditional format has indeed evolved—in a good way. No longer merely a collection of companies lining-up to display their wares, in many cases, these exhibitions are full-on visual extravaganzas that combine keynote presentations and interactive debates, educational workshops, and application areas,


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not forgetting the “core” showcase of the latest technologies and services. For visitors, some of whom might be thinking about the next investment to grow their business or enhance efficiencies, there’s no substitute for direct face-to-face engagement with those you might eventually buy from. The ability to question product experts and salespeople, see live demonstrations, and compare competing offerings within feet of each other, all contributes to a much easier decision-making process for would-be buyers. Granted, if you’re running a business, it’s not always easy to find time for you or your key staff to leave the office or production facility or justify the expense of visiting an exhibition that might be in another country. That said, I believe most

business owners would acknowledge the importance of networking within their industry and staying abreast of technology change—especially if it offers revenue- or efficiency-enhancing potential for their operations. In an age of low-cost airline travel, most of us would think nothing of booking a cheap weekend city break with our partners. For the same level of expense (and potentially less if it’s on home soil), visiting a major tradeshow to see the market’s latest products and technologies might unlock the key to taking your business and your service offering to the next level. In fact, why not take your partner and combine it with that city break? —Michelle Johnson, marketing manager, SA International



Bigger Texas All Photos: Humble Sign Company.


The true story behind one shop’s humble growth.

umble Sign Company is located in Humble (pronounced “Um-bull”), Texas, which is a suburb of Houston. This fullservice sign company does pretty much everything—electrical signs, identification and architectural signage, channel letters, LED displays, vehicle wraps, vinyl graphics, etc. The company does $5 million annually in business, and they have upgraded their leased facility three times and are in the process of getting ready to move into a brand-new, built-from-scratch 20,000-square-foot facility. But what if I told you that seven years ago Humble Sign Company was a struggling two-man vinyl shop located in the attic over a vehicle repair shop?

It took the vision (and timing) of one man to make this gigantic leap into the sign stratosphere and become one of the biggest sign manufacturers in Houston. His story is not only an inspiration for his employees but possibly you too. Bart Peterschick grew up in the boating business. He started out as a mechanic and then moved into management and sales. “However the boating industry took a hefty blow during the financial crisis of 2010,” he says. “I found myself under-employed, and no one was hiring. I was desperately running out of money.” Seven years ago, with no other options around, Peterschick saw that the struggling Humble Sign Company banner printing shop was for sale. He had

no prior sign experience whatsoever, but he also had nowhere else to turn. Driving down the road, he saw the sign—lots of them. “There were signs everywhere,” he says. “I figured this would be a recession-proof industry, since as long as someone was working, there would be a need for signs.” With Peterschick’s forward-thinking and the universal sales and management skills he brought over from the boating industry, they grew from just two employees to the over thirty they have now. “We went from no install trucks to four Elliott cranes and two service trucks,” says Jason Pollard, a sign-lifer and installations manager at Humble Sign Company. “We went from slinging plain magnetics and coroplast signs to June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated



Direct-mount channel letters on a pan sign.


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several national accounts and one of the biggest ship-in installers in the area.” One of the reasons for Peterschick’s success is that he finds the right people to do the right job and then just gets out of their way. “I always felt like I would do better if my employer just set me up and then got out of the way,” he says. Peterschick has learned that you always have to appreciate the people on your team. His shop’s foundation is built on recruiting, retaining, and motivating great employees. He has improved not only the morale of many of his employees but also their lives. Peterschick writes a personal letter to somebody every week—calling it the “play of the week”—pointing out their efforts, thanking them, and giving them a $50 gift card. “You have to let your workers know that they’re appreciated and give them recognition for their efforts and do it every day,” says Peterschick. “Because in the end, it’s not about your equipment, your facility, or your logo. It’s about your people.” To succeed creatively and financially as a company, they always look for a good attitude amongst their employees. “It’s inevitable that, when you get more than three, four, or five people in any business, there’s always going to be that one guy constantly complaining. And that can spread like a disease,” says Pollard. “We’ve always just nipped that in the bud and, in doing so, has left us with the best group of people I’ve ever worked with in my life. You’ve got to be able to come to work everyday and enjoy what you do.” Another thing they stress to employees every day is that they work as a unit. “We don’t do anything by ourselves here,” says Pollard. “There’s not one guy down there feeling forced to figure everything out. It’s all of us as a whole.” Production meetings are held first thing each Tuesday morning. These typically run an hour-and-a-half and involve costs reports where they analyze spreadsheets and study how much labor was quoted (and how much it took), how much material was quoted (and how much they used), etc. This helps them better bid on jobs and know how they

can save on certain types of projects down the road. “You can’t underbid a job, because if you do, you’re going to see that you underbid the job in front of everybody in Tuesday’s meeting,” laughs Pollard. “But this allows us to tweak and redefine what we do. We look at cost per minute and not cost per hour.”

Peterschick finds the right people to do the right job and gets out of their way. “i always felt like i would do better if my employer just set me up and got out of the way,” he says. They typically have five crews going at a time and run an average of a dozen jobs a day. “Project management is where we shine and is what brings people back,” says Pollard. “You don’t have to worry about it as much when you

have the right people in the right place. We have the best installers in the city by far, and these guys don’t need a lot of direction. In the morning, we talk about what they’ll be doing that day, and they go knock it out.” If you can name it, then the shop floor probably has it—CNC routers; channel letter notching, bending, and flanging machines; large format printers; welding equipment; paint booths; etc. Pollard says that Peterschick has been able to grow the company because he is “fearless” and “cognizant” of what his employees need. “If you need a piece of equipment that’s going to speed up the job and let him know how it’s going to save you on average fifteen minutes a day and this is how much money this is going to save over the span of a month, he’ll buy it,” he says. ‘If we tell him that installs are getting a little backed up and guys are working sixty hours a week, then he’ll either buy another truck or hire more crew.” As stated earlier, they have developed into a national ship-in installer. “Shipin work is one of those things where if they trust you, they trust you and they’ll keep coming back to you,” says Pollard. “But you have to show them that you can do the work and that you’re going to make their life easier and that it’s worth it, even if it costs a little more than the other guy.” They’re really starting to ramp up their work with national accounts. Their

The Grotto sign features a faux-rust effect.

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largest customer is Landry’s, Inc., a dining/hospitality/entertainment/gaming corporation, and they have cultivated a nice relationship with their CEO Tilman Fertitta. Their work perfecting this over the past few years is allowing them to branch out and serve other national organizations and Fortune 500 companies. “The last thing that you ever want to do is rush in and try to grab up a bunch of these larger companies and be unable to actually handle the workload. If you do, you’ll just go downhill from there,” says Pollard. “And once word gets out, you won’t be able to recover and do anything.” Humble Sign Company doesn’t do cookie-cutter signs; they’re all custom fabrications. “We design it and then we figure out how to build it,” says Pollard. “We have some of the best fabricators around, and I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do.” Among some of their projects: • They created four oversized 12-by-

12-foot glass-face diamonds atop the Landry’s Post Oak Hotel skyscraper. They wanted a unique lighting solution that would go from brilliant white to any

you have to let your workers know that they’re appreciated and give them recognition for their efforts [every day]. color in the spectrum. “We designed a system that utilized alternating white and RGB LED modules,” says Peterschick. “CEO Tilman Fertitta loved it.

High Quality Products for Your Finishing Needs. • V-Grooving • Dust Free Cutting

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• Scoring • Routing

Since he is also the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, he wanted it to light up red every time the team wins!” • They do face-lit, LED-illuminated pylon signs and channel letters for Saltgrass Steakhouses all over the country. “Back in the day, they would use openface neon channel letters,” says Pollard. “But today, they are normal face-lit letters with faux-neon LED inside them. We apply two layers of vinyl onto the second surface and one layer on the first surface. When it lights up at night, it looks like brilliant neon.” • For Willie G’s Seafood, they created simple but elegant direct-mount custom channel letters remote-mounted on a pan sign. They custom-painted them in their booth using AzkoNobel and Matthews Paint paint systems. • They created a faux-rust illuminated sign panel for The Grotto restaurant at Landry’s corporate headquarters in downtown Houston. They used pushthru letters and routed aluminum panels. The back side of the panel is a threeinch-deep can, which they inserted LED modules into. “To create the rust effect, we had to put on a chemical finish,” says Pollard. “Since it’s Landry’s, it has to be perfect. You can’t have a bunch of rust in one corner and not that much in the other. It had to be something we call ‘consistently random.’” Each year, and sometimes each quarter, Peterschick sits down and wonders how his company is going to top that one and go to the next level. It has led him to develop a new tagline for this company: “Faster. Better. More.” “Where do we go from here? We’ve done it incrementally and steadily with a 30 percent growth on average year after year. Every time we do that, we have to force ourselves to look for the next level,” says Peterschick. “My vision is continued growth by offering your customer more than you did the previous year and try to exceed their expectations. That’s how we’ve retained customers for seven years.” And from the looks of it, with the skill, equipment, and high employee morale, Humble Sign Company will be retaining customers for many more years to come.

Wall Murals Welcome Airport Visitors As part of the renovation efforts at Hot Springs Memorial Field Airport, FASTSIGNS® of Hot Springs, Arkansas was commissioned to provide new wall murals in the passenger terminal to show the city’s rich history and promote attractions in the area. After several months of finding the right imagery conveying the city’s history and present, Owner Bill Bracewell and his team at FASTSIGNS of Hot Springs designed and installed two wall murals, each approximately eightfeet-tall and nineteen-feet-wide. “Because the photos needed to be displayed on such a large scale, it took several months for us to find the perfect photos to use that are high quality and resonate with visitors,” said Bracewell. FASTSIGNS of Hot Springs’ graphic designer Christian Bracewell designed the mural montage featuring a photo collage of local attractions, as well as a vintage map of the area as the background. FASTSIGNS used WallScapes™ wallcovering with a matte finish for the wall murals. “We decided to use the wallcovering material versus traditional vinyl because it is so much more durable and creates a seamless, vibrant look,” said Bracewell.

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Now Hiring


ere’s the story of one company that, several years ago, replaced its old incandescent bulb message center sign with static flex faces. Yet realizing they needed some extra oomph to get the job done, they 36

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dynamically came back full-circle with the installation of a brand-new, state-ofthe-art digital message center. Starting out with a single rented printing press back in 1917, Quad/Graphics has evolved today into a global multi-

channel solutions provider that prints magazines, catalogs, and retail inserts. Its Lomira, Wisconsin location is the largest print-production facility in the Western Hemisphere (2 million-plus square feet). An early adopter of electronic message centers (EMCs), the Lomira plant has one of the largest pylon signs on highway U.S. 41, which is the main thoroughfare connecting Green Bay to Milwaukee. But when the aging incandescent bulb EMC they’d been using since 1999 began to fail, the company decommissioned it back in 2014 and covered it with flex faces featuring the words “Now Hiring.” However this static, non-illuminated flex face solution was woefully underperforming, particularly when it came to posting employment recruitment notices. Quad/Graphics figured they would yield a better return on investment if they went back to an EMC. They reached out to their long-time sign partner TLC Sign in Kimberly, Wisconsin for suggestions. TLC Sign is a family-owned, full-service sign business that’s been open for twenty-four years. While they’ve made a name for themselves in the area with their success at heavy installs, their twenty-five team members do everything from cut vinyl and vehicle wraps to lighting and digital signage. “Quad/Graphics originally had a 30R20 bulb incandescent message center and would service and repair it or replace the lamps that had failed over the years,” says TLC Sign Owner Tim Cullen, noting that they were ahead of the curve because they wouldn’t need a new host structure as the viewing angles had already been set with the old message center. “Our customer and teammates, Joel Gidder and Scott Stare, really did their homework to come up with a plan that was cost-effective.” Ever since TLC Sign opened their doors, they have been a Watchfire Signs dealer, so they brought Watchfire Wisconsin Sales Territory Manager Chad Defenbaugh onboard. They

All Photos: Quad/Graphics.

Using EMCs as a recruiting tool.

mended a Watchfire double-sided 12-by24-foot full-color message center. Cullen and Defenbaugh traveled to the Quad/Graphics facility and, in their parking lot, showed their decision-makers two message centers with different resolutions side-by-side. Cullen had a 19mm demo trailer sign, and Defenbaugh brought a 16mm demo sign on his truck. Quad/ Graphics selected the Watchfire 16mm XVS unit featuring a 198-by-414 matrix. There are multiple variables to consider when deciding on the best resolution for an electronic display. “We take how high in the air the sign is going to be installed, how far off the road it is, and then speed of traffic, and those determine what resolution is going to work,” says Defenbaugh. “They ended up being impressed with the little bit of higher resolution.” The new LED signs are the same size as the old incandescent signs yet feature 40 times the amount of pixels: 81,972 pixels per face compared to just over 2,000 pixels. Fortunately TLC Sign did not remove the original message center, instead only covering it with the flex faces, so this made the variance process smoother since the cabinet had been grandfathered in by the county. Community officials also knew what Quad/Graphics meant to the local area as far as employment goes. Watchfire manufactured the sign in four weeks and drop-shipped it straight to the Quad/Graphics facility. TLC Sign applied some “TLC” to the existing sixty-five-foot-tall steel structure before putting the new message center up. “We applied a new paint job,” says Cullen. “We also added some vertical bracing to substantially improve its stability.” The install took place over three days in early January. TLC Sign used two 100foot 17-ton Elliott cranes and a 70-foot

Old sign.

Elliott two-man bucket for installation. The first day involved removing (and recycling) the flex face and old EMC from the structure, while the other two days involved putting the new double-sided display in place. “Watchfire LEDs have a bolt-flag system so that the structure physically bolts to the steel,” says Cullen. Temperatures during the three days barely broke 0°F. The weather outside might have been frightful, but it doesn’t affect the LED display. “Freezing temperatures don’t hamper LED systems,” says Cullen. “Instead you have to be wary about heat, but the Watchfire EMC has ventilation systems to handle this.” The sign features full-color changeable messages. TLC Signs worked with MacKenzie Anderson, Quad/Graphics site analyst in the IT department, and Joe Gitter, the plant director, in training to manage the display’s content. “They’ve done a tremendous job with that content, promoting local events in this tight-knit community,” says Cullen. “The heavy traffic on their corridor, whether it’s people headed to Green Bay for a Packers game or going to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play, link that landmark sign to Quad/Graphics and the surrounding area.” The new sign’s resolution has noticeably improved, and its efficiency has greatly expanded. “The old message center was an ‘electrical hog,’” says Cullen. “It drew 663 kilowatts, whereas the new only now only draws an average of 114 kilowatts, depending on the colors and time of day.” The most important thing is that the digital sign is successful at doing its job. Defenbaugh stresses that it’s all about getting the client to focus on the three or four areas where they want to see an increase in business. “It’s not focusing on every avenue and everything you do,” he says, “because otherwise the sign becomes too busy. For Quad/Graphics, one of their biggest struggles was in human resources and bringing new people in, and they were running into a hard time getting some of their promotions across to the public.” Quad/Graphics has found that the sign performs as well or better than other advertising vehicles used for recruitment. At least 30 percent of those who fill out job applications say they found out about the opportunity from the EMC. June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated



An interview with authors Chris Calori and David Vanden-Eynden about wayfinding signage. 38

Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

A Go-to Guide


ayfinding best practices come from many sources, including environmental graphic design (EGD) experts, sign manufacturers, and technology professionals. To gain an appreciation

of how all of these fields inform the complex arena of wayfinding, it’s important to refer to the existing literature. The book Signage and Wayfinding Design is one such resource. With a first edition released in 2007 and a second

the signage pyramid is essentially an organization and planning model that helps people engaged in egd to understand the basic components of a comprehensive wayfinding program.

Photo: CVE Design.

The book’s second edition is in full-color and available online or through

edition in 2015, the book covers what the authors refer to as the “Signage Pyramid” method, an organization and planning model for wayfinding. Sign Builder Illustrated recently interviewed co-authors Chris Calori (sole author for first edition) and David VandenEynden about their book. SBI: What was the impetus behind writing the first edition in 2007? Were

there any similar books available at the time? Calori: In the early 1980s, a designer named John Follis, along with co-author David Hammer, wrote the first comprehensive book on what was then called architectural graphics. Most of the subsequent books were photo surveys and case histories, with no real methodology behind them. The impetus behind the first edition of Signage and Wayfinding Design was to introduce the “Signage Pyramid” method, to expand the knowledge base of EGD in a codified way, and to address the many changes to the field including computers, software, the design process, materials and manufacturing techniques, and planning and programming, among many other topics. There was such a need for information on EGD methodology that the publisher, Wiley, even arranged a Chinese translation of the first edition.

The second edition, written seven years after the first, expanded and refreshed the first edition—including emerging technologies, new and more designers and projects, EGD links to communication and branding, and updated code considerations. Most importantly, the second edition is published in full color throughout, which the first edition was not. Color is such an important aspect of signage, so this second edition feature is really a big plus. Why is it important to have a book dedicated to wayfinding? Vanden-Eynden: As the world becomes more interconnected and our cities, universities, corporate campuses, transportation facilities, and entertainment venues become more complex, with wider and more diverse populations, the need to provide navigational and wayfinding information has become a critical component of our lives. June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


The Signage Pyramid components of information, graphics, and hardware.

Signage and Wayfinding Design is intended as a guide for architects and city planners, design students, sign fabricators, and client reps to assist people in the often-complex process of planning, designing, and implementing wayfinding and signage programs.

Please tell us about the “Signage Pyramid� method and how that works. Calori: The Signage Pyramid (pictured, above) is essentially an organization and planning model that helps people engaged in EGD to understand the basic components of a comprehensive way-

finding or signage program. The foundation, or key component of every signage and wayfinding program, is the information content system. Signage exists solely to convey a message, whether it is to identify, direct, inform, warn, or promote.

Introducing the New Flat System! >> 40

Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

Photo (Right): CVE Design/Owensboro, KY Convention Center.


The graphics component consists of the visual elements used to convey the information content (color, typography, symbols and icons, and layout). The final component, the hardware system, is the physical sign object and includes sizes, shapes and forms, materials, lighting, etc. The hardware component is what most people think of when we talk about signs. What are some of the latest technologies and materials that sign professionals should be aware of when it comes to wayfinding? Vanden-Eynden: The new technologies are amazing and are a lot of fun to experiment with and to explore. LED lighting has dramatically altered the way designers approach illuminated signs. Environmental graphic design professionals and manufacturers are able to design and build illuminated signs that are thinner, use less energy, change color, and last longer. Digital printing has opened up a tremendous world of opportunity with full-color, high-resolution printing on traditional and non-traditional materials such as glass, stone, wood, plastics, even carpeting and window coverings. Meanwhile 3D printing is poised to have a major impact in the manufacturing and production area of the industry. And we haven’t even mentioned the realm of electronic display screens. How has wayfinding become complex, especially for large organizations such as healthcare and universities? Calori: Signage and wayfinding in our ever-more-complex environments—physically, digitally, and virtually—makes today’s wayfinding systems more useful and at the same time more complex and difficult to manage. Digital/electronic technologies require constant and continual updates and maintenance. Handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets are finding greater adaptation and ease of use among certain demographic groups but have inherent limitations as well, such as uncharged batteries, poor reception, or a power outage.

These conditions need to be supported by the more analog, physical components of a wayfinding system. We view the digital/virtual and the physical/ analog as two sides of the same coin— they support each other and there is room and need for both.

sponsibility of the designer as the designer is trained to consider the visual communication and branding needs of clients and end-users. We also consider the people in the shop to be some of our best collaborators. They know so much!

What is the optimal way a wayfinding designer and a sign manufacturer should work together? Vanden-Eynden: This is a frequent question in the EGD community. In a

What do you think the next ten years look like for wayfinding in the U.S.? Calori: There will be tremendous growth in the digital aspects of wayfinding. However digital/electronic systems are

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perfect world, sign manufacturers would be at the table in the early stages of design. The designer and sign fabricator would work closely to devise buildable solutions—the hardware component of the Signage Pyramid—that address the fiscal and functional realities of the client and end-user. Manufacturers are also indispensable in advising on application and reproduction techniques for the graphics component. The information content and graphics components of the Signage Pyramid would remain the re-

increasingly susceptible to hacking and other computer and data glitches. We think the infatuation with technology for technology’s sake will ebb a bit as users become overwhelmed—and underwhelmed—by navigational apps, and owners realize the cost of the continued and constant maintenance and upgrades that these technologies all require.

For additional information about the book, Signage and Wayfinding Design, visit June 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


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Sign Builder Illustrated


Shop Talk


Ask Away!

When the sign industry gathers, questions follow.


his year at ISA International Sign Expo 2018, ISA’s advocacy team had numerous opportunities to answer questions, connect with attendees, and update them on the latest in codes and regulations. If you weren’t there, here’s some of what you missed. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidance. Representatives from the FCC were on hand to help sign, graphics, and visual communications companies learn how to comply with FCC rules related to digital signs. This is an emerging issue for some in our industry. Hearing directly from the FCC about compliance and penalties for non-compliance allows attendees to educate customers on how to use their signs and expertise to stay out of trouble. National Electric Code (NEC) insights. We again turned to the experts, including UL and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), to better

understand NEC requirements for disconnects and other electrical safety issues. Attendees had the chance to learn about the key provisions in the code language, interpretations in the inspection community, and training to implement best practices in their companies. UL resources. Another session detailed the UL references available— many of them free—to subscribers and non-subscribers. OSHA Crane Operation Certification requirements. This has been delayed several times, but we continue to expect it to take effect November 10, 2018. The OSHA requirements are mandatory, and violations could result in significant fines and grounding of your equipment. ISA will get you as prepared as possible. In addition to hearing about these federal issues, codes on the local level received their time. ISA’s work at the local level. Signs are

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

Prices are subject to change.

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

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


Sign Builder Illustrated

June 2018

COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2018. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information, contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or

one of the most regulated products in America, which makes it tough for sign companies to get their customers the signs they need. ISA advocates for the value of signs on the industry’s behalf and explained how you can up your political game to protect and grow your business. Sign brightness. Two sessions tackled this topic. One provided insight into measuring EMC brightness in the field. What happens when a city asks for “proof” that a message center you sold isn’t too bright? Or a neighbor files a nuisance complaint? How do you verify that your customer’s sign is in compliance? Attendees learned tips and received a handy reference guide to help prove that a message center is set to display at an allowably bright level. All of these are contained in the ISA publication, Night-time Brightness Recommendations for On-Premise Electronic Message Centers, available at Another session focused on optimizing sign brightness and understanding the most-preferred brightness level for different visual environments. We also brought Planning for Sign Code Success™ to ISA Sign Expo for the first time. This brought planners and local officials to the event to learn how to develop reasonable sign codes. In addition to the talking, we did plenty of listening. The advocacy team provided complimentary advice in the Sign Code Station inside the Hub. If you weren’t at ISA Sign Expo 2018, you certainly missed a lot in terms of federal and local regulations, but ISA’s advocacy efforts are always available (and free for members!). Many of these sessions will be available in ISA’s education section of the Web site in the coming months. In addition, many of these topics will be explored in webinars throughout 2018. Learn more at

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 3135, Northbrook , IL 60062-3135. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to-activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.

Photo: Dave Forrest.


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Sign Builder Illustrated June 2018  

This issue features stories on solvent printing, vinyl graphics, tax law, ADA/wayfinding, architectural signs, project management, and more!

Sign Builder Illustrated June 2018  

This issue features stories on solvent printing, vinyl graphics, tax law, ADA/wayfinding, architectural signs, project management, and more!