Sign Builder January 2020

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The How-To Magazine

JA N UA RY 2020 | s i g n s h o p.co m

SIGN BUILDER

i l l u s trat e d

Digital Makeover:

The New Fremont Street Canopy

The New Generation: Young Sign Makers 2020

CNC Router:

Financing a Purchase


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Contents JANUARY 2020

How-To Columns

15 17

PROPERLY PLANNING AHEAD

By Rick Rossetti The importance of a sign survey.

Vol. 34

No. 295

20

DEVELOPING A SALES TEAM

By Jim Hingst Finding the right people to boost your sales.

departments

4 6

​Cover Photo: Watchfire Signs.

10 38 40

EDITOR’S COLUMN

It’s that time of year again for resolutions, and Editor Jeff Wooten clocks in with his take on those have problems with time management.

IN THE INDUSTRY

The $30 million Fremont Street Experience LED renovation is unveiled, lighting the path for a shopping area, and Orbus celebrates twenty years of ISO certification.

SIGN SHOW

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI MARKETPLACE

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

SHOP TALK

Jeff Wooten interviews Nick Lowry, president of Brand Ink, about his company’s best wayfinding practices.

Features

20 26 30 32

30 signshop.com

35

SBI’S YOUNG SIGN MAKERS 2020

By SBI Staff Meet today’s new generation of sign professionals.

EQUIPPED FOR FINANCING

By Jim Cirigliano When and how to lease a CNC router.

ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

By SBI Staff Traffic signs have proven to be a lucrative market for one sign company.

THE NEW CHICAGO WAY

By David Hickey Chicago proves a long and winding road to improving the sign permit process.

COMPLIANT IN DESIGN

By Jeff Wooten Things to keep in mind when designing ADA signage.

January 2020

Sign Builder Illustrated

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January 2020, Vol. 34, No. 295 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 88 Pine Street, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10005 212-620-7247 ; Fax: 212-633-1863

editorial

Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7, Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 jwooten@sbpub.com Managing Editor Ashley Bray 212-620-7220 abray@sbpub.com Contributing Writers Jim Cirigliano, David Hickey, Jim Hingst, Rick Rossetti

art

Art Director Nicole D’Antona Graphic Designer Hillary Coleman

production

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation

Circulation Director Maureen Cooney mcooney@sbpub.com

advertising sales

Publisher/West Coast Sales Arthur J. Sutley 212-620-7247 asutley@sbpub.com Associate Publisher/Mid-West Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233 jsutley@sbpub.com Integrated Account Manager/East Coast & Canada David Harkey 212-620-7223​ dharkey@sbpub.com Sign Builder Illustrated is published monthly. All rights reserved. Nothing herein may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. To purchase PDF files of cover and layouts or hard copy reprints, please call Art Sutley at 212-620-7247 or e-mail asutley@sbpub.com.

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January 2020

signshop.com


Fabricator Spotlight CAB Signs, known as “The Signmaker’s Signmaker,” is one of the leading sign fabrication trade shops in the New York metropolitan area. CAB’s 14,000 square foot shop in Brooklyn is the workplace for 25+ employees who orchestrate the art of sign production on a full range of surfaces and materials and are compliant with a host of local, state and federal requirements.

Read More at novapolymers.com/cab-signs


Editor’s Column

AGENDA

By Jeff Wooten

February 2020 FEBRUARY 20-22:

The Mid South Sign Association presents “Idea Exchange 2020” at the Hilton Garden Inn in Meridian, Missouri. (midsouthsign.org)

FEBRUARY 26-28:

The Midwest Sign Association Winter Meeting takes place at the downtown Renaissance Hotel in Toledo, Ohio. (msassn.org)

FEBRUARY 27-29:

Graphics of the Americas 2020 returns to the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. (goaexpo.com)

Time for a New Start

It’s the beginning of a New Year at your shop.

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Fremont Street Experience digital canopy in Las Vegas ahead of schedule (page 6). When I asked Watchfire CEO Steve Harriott about this, he said, “We worked very closely with Federal Heath. We had a lot of pre-meetings as we ramped up for this and did some test runs and installation dress rehearsals. We stayed in touch on-site and remotely to solve any problems and make sure everything was going smoothly.” (Note: Additional behind-thescenes details about this project can be found at signshop.com). Even if time management isn’t a problem that needs “resoluting” this year at your shop, we have plenty of other work environment improvement articles to inspire you this month—how and why to finance new equipment (page 26), the benefits of performing a sign survey (page 15), and the factors to look for when trying to find the right person for your sales team (page 17), to name a few. We’re also thrilled to present our thirdannual profiles of the notable young sign makers in the industry (page 20). Their stories should give you encouragement about the future of our industry. I know that I’m already envious that they all seem to possess excellent time management skills. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll work on that next year.

Jeff Wooten Editor, jwooten@sbpub.com

January 2020

March 2020 MARCH 30-APRIL 2:

Digital Signage Expo 2020 will be on full display at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (digitalsignageexpo.net)

April 2020 APRIL 1-4:

ISA International Sign Expo is headed to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (signexpo.org)

May 2020 MAY 3-7:

Photo: Shutterstock/Monster Ztudio.

H

ere we are at the start of 2020, and I wonder how many of you have made your resolutions for the New Year? Now how many of you have already broken said promise? Those who know me know that I’ve never been really big into the whole New Year’s resolution thing. Honestly it’s a concept I’ve never quite understood. Maybe it’s because I’ve never attributed the fact that a major change in one’s life should be limited to the start of a new calendar, or maybe it’s because I just have too many bad habits to address. One that I would like to change is my ability to get a better grasp for time and not fall behind. Just between you and me, when one edits a monthly magazine with a set schedule, this isn’t exactly the greatest trait to possess. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that I was probably late with this column and somehow managed to switch it into this very issue you’re holding before it made it to your mailbox. Psychologically I think this might be a reason why when I interview sign makers for articles about their projects, I always find a way to ask about how they manage their projects to arrive on time. (Helping you help me.) After all, this is just as much a crushing habit to have in sign shops. So I do admit I have a fair amount of jealously for those of you who have mastered the art of time management. It’s also another thing I noticed when manufacturer Watchfire Signs and installer Federal Heath alerted me that they had finished a $30 million renovation of the

LightFair International, the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow and conference, casts its shine at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (lightfair.com)

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In The Industry

$30 Million Fremont Street

EXPERIENCE led renovation L as Vegas, Nevada—This past November, the last of fifty-nine truckloads of digital signage modules departed the manufacturing facility at Watchfire Signs in Danville, Illinois, closing out the chapter on the renovation of the world’s largest single video screen—the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. Watchfire Signs, selected back in 2018 for the $30 million renovation, completed the project on budget and ahead of schedule for the grand reveal on New Year’s Eve. The digital canopy that covers the Fremont Street Experience measures 1,500 feet long, features a 97-foot arc length, and is suspended 90 feet above a pedestrian mall. The scale of this project for Watchfire Signs involved manufacturing 6

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and shipping 130,000 square feet of digital signage to Las Vegas. The canopy was manufactured using more than 67,000 modules containing 49 million LEDs. The sign was built in 68-by-280-inch sections called subframe assemblies. Sixty-four modules make up each subframe assembly with the full display consisting of 1,054 subframe assemblies. Since each subframe was manufactured to be installed at a specific spot on the canopy, Watchfire created a special crating and labeling system that arranged frames in a precise order within the shipping crates, making identification on the job site easy for the sign installers hired for this project, Federal Heath. Each of the assemblies was installed over the course of eight phases,

January 2020

allowing Fremont Street to remain open during the upgrade. Steve Harriott, president and CEO of Watchfire Signs, indicates one key component of this project was visiting the site early on and completing a digital mapping of it. “We used the mapping to help us better understand the layout of the canopy and how sections would be delivered to the site,” he says. Watchfire Signs even designed an allnew product that allowed the modules to be cut to fit the existing structure without impacting the information displayed. Perforations in each module also let daylight filter through and air circulate, critical for dispersing heat and illuminating the street below. “We had to get very creative to designshop.com


mimaki’s NJ Tech Center Reopens

R

ockaway, New Jersey Mimaki USA has reopened its expanded, remodeled New Jersey Technology Center, located in the greater New York metropolitan area. The 14,500-square-foot facility showcases furnishings and graphics that have been created using Mimaki products. This includes a new Mimaki Café Bar, complete with a comfortable lounge area for visiting guests. Additionally a replica Mimaki retail store displays a wide range of finished products that can be produced using Mimaki technology located on-site. The center includes all lines of Mimaki products that cater to sign graphics, textile and apparel, industrial products, and 3D markets. “Visitors can now experience innovative workflows that create a wide variety of imaginative display graphics as well as finished products,” said Mimaki USA Northeast Regional Manager Mike Trotter. Note: Visits can be arranged through authorized dealers or by contacting the center directly.

velop a unique product that met all the distinctive needs for Fremont Street, including trimmable modules that fit the canopy’s shape and can handle the extreme desert conditions,” says Harriott, noting that nearly every one of his employees was involved in some way on this innovative project over two-plus years. The first update in fourteen years, the new Watchfire digital canopy is seven times brighter and four times sharper than the original, making the light show on it vivid even during daylight hours. High-contrast materials (using black for the sign face instead of the traditional white) and the innovative light trapping design combine to make it possible to run content on the canopy during the day—something that was impossible signshop.com

with the old design. “It’s able to compete against sunlight,” says Harriott, noting the sun can be the bane of many LED displays during daytime hours. “We also ended up with richer colors for it.” For Harriott, this project was a terrific way for Watchfire Signs to end 2019. “We’re thrilled to have participated in creating the largest LED sign in the world,” he says. “There’s a lot of pride in a company like ours based in the Midwest to compete against firms all over the world and win this job. We were excited to deliver a product that the customer is thrilled with and that everyone who visits the site will be thrilled with.” To read more behind-the-scenes details about this project, visit signshop.com. January 2020

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In The Industry Lighting the Path,

Not the Place

S

arasota, Florida — Jonathan Parks, senior principal of Solstice Architects, took a unique approach to lighting when designing a parking garage for St. Armand’s Circle, an outdoor dining and shopping area with European flair, located in Sarasota, Florida. With more than 130 shops along the circle, traffic and parking can be a challenge. To tackle this issue, the city authorized construction of a new four-level garage with nearly 500 parking spaces. However officials stipulated that the structure could not disrupt the scale of existing architecture and that any illumination needed to be muted and not spill over into the adjacent residential neighborhood. “We had to shift our design philosophy and provide lighting models that didn’t generate any light pollution,” says Parks. The garage was to include three staircases—a prominent one visible off the main street, another around the corner, and a third located in the middle of the garage. Wayfinding needed to be considered from the standpoint of drivers navigating the garage and then becoming pedestrians and vice versa upon their return. Some would be familiar with

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the space but many would not, given the number of tourists that visit St. Armand’s Circle. “Handrail lighting fit the bill because illuminating from just the hip down meant we’d be lighting the path not the place,” Parks says, noting he needed something that could accommodate straight lines and tight angles. Upon a recommendation from Dan Sroka, director of Specifications for Envision Lighting Systems, Parks used iLight’s LED Handrail Lighting System to fulfill his design intent. For this project, the contractor supplied the dimension of each run. iLight then cut the housing and lens to length, connected the light engines to length, and put them in the housing with the lens attached to create “cartridges.” In the field, the contractor only had to wire the power for the cartridges and put the cartridges into the underside channel of the handrails. Sleek and understated, the resulting lighting is elegant and provides just the right illumination the project needed. “The color temp we picked and the subtle nature of it all make it night-sky friendly,” says Parks.

January 2020

Twenty Years of ISO for orbus

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oodridge, Illinois — Orbus Exhibit & Display Group ® , one of North America’s leading wholesale suppliers and manufacturers of display, exhibit, graphic, and event solutions, is proud to share that it has achieved twenty years of ISO Certification. Orbus holds ISO 9001:2015 for Quality Management, providing its distributors the highest quality of products and services in the industry. Orbus also holds ISO 14001:2015 for Environmental Management, motivating its increased environmental protection initiatives and driving Orbus to recycle 90 percent of its total waste. Additionally, in 2018, Orbus implemented 5S Lean Training Initiatives in all departments, creating a cleaner and more efficient work space for all employees. In 2019, it started to adopt Six Sigma principals, a data-driven method of evaluating product, process, or service use, and creation to ensure that variation and defects are reduced or eliminated at both their Las Vegas and Woodridge facilities.

signshop.com


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Sign Show DIGITAL SIGN/EMC/VIDEO DISPLAYS Market Demand Results in Advanced Sign Technology

BANNERS/MATERIAL/EQUIPMENT Put Up with the Image One Impact Banner Trak Kit Image One Impact, a manufacturer and supplier of highquality products for the sign, graphics, and vehicle wrap industries, has announced the availability of its Banner Trak kit. Each Banner Trak kit includes two, four-foot sections of one-inch-wide rail, one BT-1002 connector, two BT-1003 pair sliders/thumbscrews, and one BT-100 pair of end caps. There are a couple of attachment options with this product. You can use your regular grommets with sliders and thumbscrews to attach your banner to Banner Trak, or you can mount directly to walls with the proper hardware. (Note: Optional mounting accessories are also available.) Meanwhile you can use multiple Banner Trak kits to build any-size indoor or outdoor banner that you need. image1impact.com/ product/4-banner-trak-rail

The saying "image is everything" is particularly relevant with digital displays. Daktronics, Inc., is pleased to introduce the latest in the Galaxy® line of LED message displays—the Galaxy GT6x. The GT6x provides high resolution and bright, vibrant, robust images. GT6x LEDs are mounted to the surface of the circuit of the display to generate images in a wider viewing area than found on traditional LED displays. Pixel pitch (the number of pixels per square foot) is also a factor in the viewing experience. The smaller the pixel pitch, then the higher the resolution. The new GT6x is available in both a standard 8mm and 10mm pixel pitch options. The GT6x also features an upgraded module and power delivery system to increase brightness 33 percent over the existing Galaxy GT6 product line, while maintaining the reliability associated with Daktronics. www.daktronics.com

ROUTERS/ENGRAVERS It’s No Myth! The Versatile Trident Series CNC Router is Here! The Trident Series from AXYZ is known for its versatility and speed. With triple-head technology, a twin knife, and heavy-duty router spindle, it delivers lightning-fast cutting and overwhelming power to take on the broadest range of materials. From routing aluminum and acrylic to cutting and trimming paper, vinyl, foam board, and rubber, the opportunities to create new products are endless. A much larger process area (60 inches/1.52 m to 128 inches/3.25 m in width and 48 inches/1.21 m to 50 feet/15.24 m in length) makes it easier to delve into items you may not have even considered before (brackets, fixtures, or shelving units that attach to your sign-making creations). Knives, such as the tangential, oscillating, or a combination of both, with blades up to 4.75 inches long make it easier to cut any depth of material. Combine all these features together and you are working with the most versatile, configurable machine in the industry. Optimize the Trident’s capabilities by adding an Automatic Tool Changer (ATC) or AXYZ AVS camera (AVS) registration system. The ATC automatically selects the correct tool without operator involvement (available in seven-, ten-, fourteen-, or twenty-one-station holder capacity). The AVS system quickly finds and recognizes conventional registration marks to adjust the cutting path, providing exact alignment and 100 percent accuracy. The Trident is compatible with a multitude of optional enhancements to customize your CNC router and improve accuracy, flexibility, productivity, and quality. axyz.com

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Sign Show LED MODULES/TUBES/STRIPS eos LightPaper LED Material is Thin, Lightweight, Flexible, and Field-cuttable The versatility of Lightpaper LED sheets from lighting solutions provider eos makes them perfect for the illumination of indoor signage, posters, channel letters, and virtually any situation that may require very low setback between the illuminated surface and the light source. The specific applicability of a product like eos LightPaper for signage applications rests with its fieldcuttability, its very low setback capability, and its feather weight. You can use simple household scissors to cut eos LightPaper either on an individual LED basis or into strips, making it perfect for channel letters or narrow signs that are otherwise more difficult to illuminate. Minimum setback between the LightPaper and the material it’s lighting up can be as low as 1.5 to 2 inches (depending on the variety of sheet used and the material being lit). Plus LightPaper’s light weight makes it quick and easy to install with few people involved. This is especially useful when installing lighting in hard-to-reach elevated locations. LightPaper is backed with 3M industrial adhesive that can simply be peeled and stuck, or it can be easily nailed or stapled in place. LightPaper is currently available in an ample series of damp-location-rated, 24V, high-CRI varieties with high Lumens per square foot. Dedicated white eos LightPaper is available in 2700K, 3000K, 4000K, and 6000K. Tunable white is offered across that same Kelvin range, while RGB plus dedicated white can also be ordered. If factory customization is desired at the time of initial order, eos offers a Tiling Service, as well. eoslight.com

SERVICE TRUCKS/CRANES Who’s Accredited? Find Out with New Online Crane Operator Certification Directory The Who’s Accredited? Directory—a Webbased tool designed to help employers navigate OSHA’s rules on crane operator qualifications—is the result of the NCCCO Foundation’s research and education initiative designed to enhance safety and encourage compliance with federal and state safety rules and regulations. The Who’s Accredited? Directory is designed to take the guesswork out of determining whether or not a certification organization’s programs are accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body, as OSHA requires in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC. The Who’s Accredited? Directory also provides a detailed listing of each accredited certification program offered by the accredited certification organizations, as well as a direct link to the listing maintained by the two accrediting bodies that OSHA recognizes (ANSI and NCCA). Employers can check the accreditation status of any certification organization anytime by following the Who’s Accredited? link on the NCCCO Foundation’s Web site. bit.ly/whosaccredited

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LED MODULES/TUBES/STRIPS Universal Lighting Technologies Expands EVERLINE Retrofit Options Universal Lighting Technologies, Inc., recently introduced its EVERLINE® LRK34-ML LED Linear Retrofit Kits, designed for commercial applications, to its high-efficiency line of products. The fast and easy-to-install LRK34-ML kit is intended for retrofitting mid- and high-bay T5HO and T8 fixtures. It comes with three EVERLINE LED lightbars and a 0-10V dimmable 80W driver, providing 14,000 lumens. The LRK34-ML allows for the replacement of a fluorescent system with a highly efficient LED light engine with no redesign or revised layout required. With an L85 lumen maintenance rating of greater than 60,000 hours, the LRK34-ML provides a brand-new light engine without having to replace the existing fixture housing. This LED linear retrofit kit is UL Classified and DesignLights Consortium ® Qualified. Designed for maximum durability, the LRK34-ML offers a seven-year warranty. The system is available in one-pack and sixpack options. unvlt.com

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Sign Show SOFTWARE-DESIGN/PRINT/ROUTER/ESTIMATING Avery Dennison’s New Paint Protection Film Cutting Software Created with Dealers and Installers in Mind Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions has launched its new Paint Protection Film Cutting Software—now available across the United States and Canada. Intended to be used in combination with Avery Dennison Paint Protection Film SPF-XI, users can choose from thousands of pre-cut templates from the Paint Protection Film Cutting Software to find the perfect match for a specific vehicle. Shop owners and installers can rest easy knowing that they can deliver an exact fit for their customers while offering long-lasting protection with the use of SPF-XI. Paint Protection Film (PPF) that protects a vehicle’s appearance from insects, road debris, and minor abrasions. Offering the film—or even the service to install the film—allows the opportunity for dealers to earn incremental income. The PPF film can be a profitable upsell opportunity with average MSRPs that could range from $500 for a partial and up to $6,000 for full installations. Avery Dennison SPF-XI PPF, coupled with the software and templates, can be a significant addition to a business. Additional benefits of the new software include: manually, hand-nested files that serve to save more material than automated nesting; the ability to see the square footage of each kit for easy and fast pricing; wrapped and unwrapped edge kits; and the ability to set the cut order so track marks are not left across materials. graphics. averydennison.com

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INNOVATIVE FASTENING SOLUTIONS

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Sign Show VINYL/VINYL FILMS Squid Window Textile for Latex An alternative to plastic film products, Squid has a unique way of dressing up windows, and now it is available for latex ink technology exclusively in the United States through LexJet. This latex substrate dries instantly and emits zero gasses, thus providing end-users with a safe, non-toxic material that is ideal for any setting (including hospitals, day care centers, and clinical environments). By utilizing the versatility of HP latex, Squid enables distributors and end customers to maintain accuracy, superior print quality, and a stylish look and feel when printing solid colors to its polyester yarn. Print service providers who specialize in signage and interior decoration can now extend the breadth of their media portfolio in partnership with LexJet, utilizing the versatility of HP latex printing via the latest trends in personalized textiles and customized interiors. Squid has many design and eco-friendly benefits. It prints easily using wide format technology (including solvent, eco-solvent, UV-curable, and latex). Its crisp output is ideal for branding or advertising messaging. Squid also reduces glare and reflects heat from the sun, as well as resists humidity and creates privacy. Because the adhesive is only placed on the fibers of the textile, Squid still provides a bit of transparency while still blocking about one-third of the sun’s energy. Featuring antibacterial properties, fire-retardant and PVC-free Squid can be used printed or unprinted. It is available in six base colors to provide a variety of warm, contemporary, and minimalistic finished looks. lexjet.com/squid

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How To

Installation

By Rick Rossetti

Properly Planning Ahead The importance of a sign survey.

All Photos: Sign Effectz, Inc.

P

erforming a proper sign survey will help you avoid mistakes as well as return trips to job sites. This action also helps the shop provide their sign installers with the correct drawings and materials needed to complete the project the right way. Equipped with a complete survey, there is a lot more that a sign shop can do to help the job go smoother—whether this entails proper drawings or other helpful fabrication techniques that can be done to expedite the install. Taking proper photos out at the site is a crucial part of the survey. As the old saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For example, when surveying an existing monument sign for replacement with routed aluminum faces, photos of the sign’s interior will show how the structure was constructed and, in turn, help guide the fabrication process of the new faces. These photos will also help the installasignshop.com

tion go faster, as the faces will be made correctly meaning no modifications will need to be made in the field. However a complete sign survey doesn’t just consist of measurements and photographs—it should also contain an outline that explains the key aspects of the project. Answers to the following questions should be included in this outline and provided to your designers, fabricators, and installers: • What type of equipment will be needed to perform the scope of work safely and proficiently? • What type of access will the shop installers have at the site? Keep in mind this is not restricted only to the site itself but also the backside of a wall for wiring and mounting of the new signage. What kind of ground conditions do you have for access to the building or the pylon sign? Will you end up above the ceiling on the backside? If not, is

this a finished space that will create an issue with the install? • What type of building are you going to be installing the new signage in? Does it have a parapet wall or mansard roof? Does it have a brick, wood, or metal wall? What is the

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How To

Installation By Rick rossetti

depth of the wall? • What are the diameter, wall thickness, and length of the pole? Did you probe the ground around the pole to try to determine the size of the existing base?

• Are there overhead power lines within twenty feet of the sign or building that will stop your shop from being able to perform the install? • What are the proper color matches for the building or existing materials

of the sign, depending on the scope of work to be done? • What is the material thickness of channel letter faces, pole skirt materials, or the skin on the exterior of the sign, again depending on the scope of work to be done? • What type of material is used on the existing signage that you are going to be working with? • Is there a specific time that the owner would like for you to arrive and/or depart from the site to ensure that you are not in the way of their customers? • What is the best way to contact the customer? This contact information should include their name, phone number, and the best times you can reach out to them, if necessary. • Is there additional work that will need to be done for the installers to complete the work that has been described on the order? Now this list could go on and on forever to cover pretty much every type of sign survey. But the important thing to remember is that each survey you conduct is job-specific and provides the proper documents and tools needed to complete the project. When a sign company and its customer work together, great things happen! Rick Rossetti is vice president of full-service sign company Sign Effectz, Inc., in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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How To Sales

By Jim Hingst

Developing a Sales Team Finding the right people to boost your sales.

Photo: Shutterstock/fizkes.

W

hether you operate a new shop or one that is long established, if you expect to drive growth in your business, you need to bolster your sales effort. This involves recruiting, training, and supporting a sales team. Building a team, whether it consists of one salesperson or many, requires the right talent, plan, and leadership. Most of all, the success of your team requires what basketball coach Pat Riley calls a “core covenant” among everyone in your business. By embracing that covenant, an organization unifies with a common purpose or mission in mind. Only when your entire shop meshes together—and recognizes that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to your sales efforts—will your team realize its greatest professional accomplishments. As someone who has participated in many different sales capacities, I offer my perspective on what works and what

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doesn’t work as you build your sales team. Recruiting and Hiring Sales People While you might get lucky in finding a sales candidate through a job search, a better way is to ask other businesspeople in your community to recommend people who may be a good fit. Some of the best sales candidates that you can recruit are salespeople currently employed by your competitors. In his book Made in America, Sam Walton explained that he never felt any shame in going into another store to uncover and lure talented candidates for his business. Any experienced and successful salesperson, working for a competitor or in a related industry, boasts strong relationships and can convert them into sales. Before you hire a salesperson from a competitor, make sure that they are not bound by a non-compete agreement. When hiring a salesperson a competitor has let go, try to discover why he or she

was fired. If a salesman didn’t work out for the competitor, what makes you think that he will perform better for you? The Job Description When you are hiring salespeople, you should clearly define the specifics of the job. Explain in detail what you expect in terms of job responsibilities and outcomes. Both you and anyone you hire should understand that selling is not a part-time activity. If you expect your new hire will devote part of his time selling and part of his time marketing or doing office activities, he will likely spend his time doing what is easiest. That will not be selling. In some cases, when a salesperson gets distracted, it is not entirely their fault. Others in your organization can impose on his time. For this reason, in defining sales responsibilities, you need to write down what you expect them to do and what you do not want them to do. You should quantify sales activities and the sales budget that he

January 2020

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How To Sales

By Jim Hingst

or she must achieve. Make sure that the parameters of the job are cast in stone so that there is no future misunderstanding. Interviewing Sales Candidates Before conducting an interview, come prepared. Carefully read through the prospective employee’s resume and construct several questions to better assess the personality and character of the candidate. Below are some areas that you might explore in an interview. Sales Experience. Ideally the person that you hire will have some experience in sales; better yet is a salesperson with experience in selling signage and graphics. In interviewing your candidates, probe to discover what types of products and services they have sold in the past. How did the candidate rank in comparison to other salespeople? What did they like about their previous sales jobs? What did they dislike? You may also ask your candidate to describe their most significant sale. Personal Objectives. What lifetime and short-term goals has the sales candidate set for themselves? People who are successful, especially in sales, have established very specific goals and have written them down. As a follow-up question, ask the candidate about the plans they have made in order to achieve their goals. Salespeople who have devised plans for achieving those goals and act every day on those 18

Sign Builder Illustrated

plans have the motivation and the discipline to be successful. Finding someone who is goal-oriented, however, is a rarity. Ask your candidate to imagine that if everything goes right in their career, then what type of life will they be living in the next ten years? How much will they be earning annually? What assets will they have accumulated? If a salesperson is not motivated by money, there is not much you can do with them. Preparation. Ask the candidate what they know about your business. If they are worth their salt as a salesperson, they should have researched your company in preparation for the interview. If they have not researched your company, they are probably not the type of person who will do any pre-call planning if you hire them. Self-Improvement. Evaluate whether the candidate has acquired the skills necessary to thrive in a business environment. A salesperson must communicate effectively both in speaking and in writing. The person that you are considering also needs a good understanding of basic math. Finally, you need to determine if he or she has the reasoning skills to recognize a prospect’s problems and unmet needs and, in the role of a sales consultant, can develop solutions. Someone who can think on their feet and effectively communicate with business professionals is important. As technology rapidly evolves, everyone needs to sharpen their skills. Ask your

January 2020

Creating a Sales Plan The success you and your salespeople will enjoy depends on the sales plan that you develop. You may have heard the maxim: “Plan your work; then work your plan.” In applying this rule to your sales plan, here is a more elaborate explanation of how to put it into practice: Goals. Establish a specific goal for your shop, such as to increase annual sales by 150 percent. A large goal may appear to be daunting to your salespeople. For this reason, you may also want to set monthly revenue targets, which may seem more attainable. Planning. Determine which activities you need to engage in to achieve your goal. As best as you can, you should quantify these activities. For each account, you should develop a target account list, identifying its sales potential and the probability of successfully closing a sale. This account list could take the form of a sales forecast. One of the simplest ways to capture this information is to create a spreadsheet. If you have several salespeople, you could have a separate worksheet for each person. Make a specific number of cold calls each week to qualify the prospects, identify opportunities, and ultimately acquire new accounts. Network with your strategic partners (such as truck leasing salespeople) to pursue new accounts, as well as all your current customer base to limit account attrition and uncover new sales opportunities. Work on your plan daily. By doing so, you will ensure that your sales funnel is always full and generating the number of sales you will need to attain your goals. At the end of each week, you should measure your progress against your goals and milestones. If you are not staying on track with your sales plan and generating signshop.com

Photo: Unsplash.com.

prospective salesperson what sales courses they have taken in the past and what plans they have to improve their skills. Their Value Added. Your prospective employee should be able to tell you what value they can provide. Ask them what they can do to help you grow your business.


How To Sales

desired results, identify the shortcomings and problems and decide what corrective actions you need to take. Your Competition. You also should identify your competitors in your sales plan and assess your competitive situation. If your salespeople are doing their jobs, they will provide detailed input and insight about your prospects, customers, and competitors. As you look back at your sales efforts over the past year, which competitors did you compete with? How successful were you in competing with them? If a competitor was effective, what strengths accounted for their success? What were your competitor’s weaknesses? Marketing Support Plan Your marketing plan should not replace your sales plan. Instead your marketing program supports your salespeople.

The first step in developing your plan is to establish your goals. These goals could include generating sales leads, setting appointments, following up on sales meetings, or maintaining contact with your account base to minimize attrition. After determining your goals, you should develop specific and quantifiable activities designed to achieve your goals. Your goals may include generating a specific number of sales leads, which result in quotes and ultimately lead to an increase in sales. By recording your results, you can evaluate the effectiveness of your sales people based on quotes generated, closing percentage, and revenue.You can also use this information in forecasting sales. To reach your goals, your marketing program may include entering leads into your database, mailing direct mail packages acquainting your audience with your

By Jim Hingst

product offerings, or making telemarketing calls to qualify leads. Each of these activities must have specific targets. Other marketing activities may include monthly follow-up calls to your existing customer base to uncover new opportunities and prevent attrition, publishing a monthly newsletter, and updating your Web site and social media platforms to showcase programs your shop has handled. Conclusion Graphics sales is often time-consuming— both before and after the sale. Selling fleet and/or building graphics requires that the salesperson spend time surveying the vehicles or building sites, interviewing the prospect, or overseeing the implementation of the installation. Adequately compensate your salespeople for their time and effort, especially if you cannot afford to be out of the shop.

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January 2020

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SPECIAL By SBI STAFF

SBI’S YOUNG SIGN MAKERS 2020: THE NEW

Meet today’s up-and-coming sign professionals.

W

elcome to our thirdannual spotlight focusing on the young sign makers (thirty-five years old or younger) who we feel are making their mark in the industry—whether through design, sales, fabrication, man-

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agement, or community involvement. Each profile (presented in alphabetical order) begins with a bio about the selected young sign professional and then their views of the industry in their own words. They discuss a variety of topics ranging from the biggest chal-

January 2020

lenges they’ve found since joining the industry, things they’ve learned about the art of sign making, their opinions on why the sign industry is an attractive career for younger people (and how shops can recruit them), and their outlook on how they’d like to see the indussignshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/ OPOLJA

GENERATION


Samantha Aronow try evolve over the next few years. And to read more about their projects and perspectives, visit signshop.com. Samantha Aronow Business Development Executive SMI Sign Systems, Inc., Frederick, Maryland Samantha Aronow has been working in the sign industry for nine years now. She started at custom sign company SMI Signs Systems as a production assistant in the interior department. From there, she spent the next few years serving as the installation coordinator where she oversaw the schedules of the installation crew and coordinated installations, service calls, equipment rentals, and inspections. Samantha then moved on to project manager where she has managed the signage for projects like Museum of The Bible and the Science West Building at American University, both in Washington, D.C. Two years ago, she moved into her current position in sales. Aronow has also been a board member of the Maryland Sign Association since 2018. Sustainability is a big focus for our customers, and it’s fun for us to think outside the box to come up with solutions that meet our customers’ expectations. People in the business of buying and selling signage are quite passionate about their image and brand identity. We really get to make an impact with our customers, and I look forward to the “wow” factor after the project is completed. What I enjoy most about the sign insignshop.com

dustry is that every project is custom and unique. Similar to snowflakes, no two projects are the same! I also enjoy the ability to travel and meet interesting people—ranging from architects, CEOs, interior designers, engineers, and general contractors. Each person I come into contact with teaches me something new about our industry. The sign industry is ever changing, and it’s important to stay current on the latest technologies and product knowledge. I am glad to have picked a career that I’m passionate about and one that allows me to use my creative and interpersonal skills. It isn’t really work when you enjoy what you do. It’s very satisfying to take a project from rough conceptual ideas and turn that into a completed project. To see our customers thrilled at the end result is so gratifying on many levels. Mentors are also important! I have several who have taught me so much and have been generous in their support. The sign business is a great opportunity for young people. There isn’t a “glass ceiling” in this industry. You can progress as far as your own passion and desire takes you. Kyle Edmonds Co-Owner/Vice President of Sales Mitchell Signs, Meridian, Mississippi Kyle Edmonds has worked at full-service Mitchell Signs for just over fourteen years now—starting out as project manager then moving into sales to become sales manager and then growing into vice president of sales and (four years ago) part owner of the company. Mitchell Signs is a member of the Mid-South South Sign Association and operates out of an 80,000-square-footfacility complete with a “wonder family” of sixty employees with an average tenure of over 14 years. Kyle was selected as an ISA Elite member in 2016 and is very active with the World Sign Associates (WSA). His main focus remains on growing the sales and managing the outside sales reps and project managers. Kyle says that he is “only a piece of the puzzle” at Mitchell Signs, however he feels that their success in taking

the company to the next level (2019 topped 2018 in sales) is truly a team effort. My favorite thing is seeing a sign come to life from a concept on paper to an actual structure that brings a smile to our client’s face when they see it. This is what makes me love what I do and eager to get to Mitchell Signs every day. I’m very proud to work with an amazing sales team and very talented project managers. I’m a “sign guy” to the core. I love the creative side of the sign design and fabrication and am very grateful for the many wonderful relationships with clients, vendors, and other sign companies across the nation. The sign industry, for me, is more than just a job; it has brought me many great personal friends and mentors that have fueled my own personal growth. I feel that today’s workforce is looking for a place they can solve problems through imaginative thinking and original ideas, and this is a benefit offered in the sign industry that needs to be made known. It’s my belief that one must incorporate faith, fun, play, and family into one’s life along with work. Having fun has a major effect on the output of a person and a company; play is the core of creativity. While I’m not implying that work is all play, I am saying that the way we approach problems we face should be with a creative and open mind. The sign industry is an open door for this outlook. We face challenges every single day; however we need the younger people to know and under-

Kyle Edmonds

January 2020 Sign Builder Illustrated

21


tle more than you’re expected, you’ll be ahead of the majority. Over time, those small extras add up; and while others are doing just enough to get by, you’ll rise head and shoulders above the rest! Malcolm Gieske Owner IDWraps.com Slatington, Pennsylvania

Malcolm Gieske stand that, in our industry, the creative minds will excel. Signs seem to just appear on a site or a building, yet the fact is a lot of inventive and innovative work went into creating the sign; this work is what makes our industry so much fun! I love the sign business for a number of reasons, but the main reason is the satisfaction that comes with completing a project. Our team at Mitchell Signs considers all projects to be unique. We recently worked to complete projects that took us to Aruba and Curaçao, managed multiple bank conversion by fabricating and installing over 700 bank locations, and have been involved with sign projects for a large number of professional and collegiate sports teams (such as the New Orleans Saints). As a football fanatic, I especially enjoy brining a football team’s brand to life and promoting school spirit with innovative signage. I was especially excited to have seen a number of the signs we produced at Mitchell Signs show up on ESPN’s Saturday morning College Game Day Show along with the College Baseball World Series! At Mitchell Signs, my goal is for our employees to learn to be a person of value finding ways to create, design, build then install the customer’s vision into a sign. That comes with challenges, and in order to excel as an employee and a sign company, you have to be willing to work hard while always doing the right thing that will generate a win-win outcome for any situation. I’ve learned that by doing just a lit22

Sign Builder Illustrated

Malcolm Gieske is not only the owner of Identity Group, Inc. (ID Wraps), a company that specializes in high-quality vehicle wraps, but he is also a PDAA Master/3M UASG/Avery CWI Certified Installer. He oversees all facets of the wrap and wide format process at his company where he has made sure to hire a quality team. Malcolm first drew our attention earlier this year through the vinyl wrapping of some miniature toy Volkswagen (VW) buses his shop installed and then presented to stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias at one of his stops at the nearby Sands Event Center last year (“Miniature Vehicle Graphics,” January 2019). I’m a car guy and a creative thinker, so I love it when these two passions merge, as they did with our miniature bus wraps for Gabriel Iglesias. Too often, creative folks are confined to cubicles where they design rectangles all day (traditional print, outdoor, and Web graphics). Our industry allows creative professionals nearly limitless canvases to apply their creativity. The diversity of projects is constantly refreshing in the sign industry. We’ve wrapped toys, airplanes, and, yes, even urinals with urinology jokes, and I believe our industry is attractive because of that diversity. However, to attract younger talent to sign businesses, driving awareness in secondary education and colleges is a must. My company participates with our local technical school (LCTI) where we hire co-op students to assist with production and installation. This has been an excellent learning opportunity for students, and a few of them have become permanent hires for us. This school is the perfect example

January 2020

of an educational institution where there is a strong connection with the job marketplace. As a member of LCTI’s Employer Advisory Board, it’s rewarding to assist in steering the program in a direction that’s in line with the realities of the real world. Too many schools are selling degrees and not preparing the students properly or advising of the true job market conditions. I would recommend that shops reach out to local educational institutions to drive awareness and also for job recruitment. My concern for those entering our industry though is the increased competition. Thirteen years ago, I was the only game in town, so it’s not too hard for one to imagine that our closing ratios were very healthy. Today we’re faced with many more players in the market, and this is creating downward pressure on pricing. When a younger sign maker enters a saturated market, it may be difficult to develop a compelling value proposition to potential clients. The usual proposition is: “I’m not able to offer an in-depth portfolio or validate any significant industry experience, so I’ll give you a very low price.” No one wins when pricing races to the bottom. This is one reason why there are so many printers available on eBay. It’s also hard to recover from being known as the “cheap shop in town.” Speaking of low pricing, as for an industry business practice, I would like to see change sooner rather than later. I’m looking forward to a day when there

Faye Rowell signshop.com


Roxie Schwochert is more pricing awareness regarding color-change wraps. We field many inquiries daily where the cost expectation on the other side of the counter is very low. There needs to be more knowledge among the customer base that a fullcolor change wrap is not just a few hundred dollars.

Photo (top): South of Indigo Photography.

Faye Rowell Southern Central Illinois Territory Manager Watchfire Signs, Danville, Illinois Faye Rowell has worked at Watchfire Signs for five years. She began working with Watchfire after her brother, who also works with the company, suggested she interview. Faye started as a sales development representative focused on inbound sales lead generation. The position was new, and she was able to start on the ground floor to grow an all-new team. Faye eventually became the company’s first outbound lead generator and then moved to the field, becoming one of the youngest female territory managers for the company. She was selected as an ISA Elite member in 2016. I think the industry is attractive because there is a lot of opportunity for young people to bring new perspectives. The ISA Elite program was a real game changer for me. It has been instrumental for me to bond with a group of young professionals who are dedicated to the signage industry. I have learned a lot from this group and benefit from being able to network signshop.com

with them and feel supported by them. I will likely spend the rest of my career in the signage industry, and the ISA Elite program is a big reason why. My biggest challenge has been overcoming the notion that I am young and inexperienced. I think I look even younger than I am, and I’ve seen how surprised some people are when I hop out of the Watchfire demo truck. However I’ve been tenacious in positioning myself as a trusted resource for our customers and sign dealers. I’m able to translate technical ideas into language that customers understand, and I’ve earned the trust and respect of our sign dealers. The best thing the sign industry can do to welcome the next generation is to be open to new ways of doing things. The younger generation has different ideas about how to communicate with signage, and they are not shy about thinking outside the box. We need to welcome the diversity and become more inclusive as a new generation enters the scene. I’d love to see more women and young professionals join the industry and excel. Watchfire has done a good job of recruiting and promoting women in middle and upper management positions, and I think the company is more successful because of this. The sign industry is predominately a family-owned industry, and I’ve seen more businesses being passed to children. It’s exciting! Groups like ISA Elite have helped a great deal to make younger professionals and women feel supported.

purchasing department that focused on quality control, spec consistency, cost reduction/value engineering, and working well with fabricators, estimators, suppliers, and freight companies. Over the last year and a half at AGI, Roxie has spent time focusing on and learning about the lighting and maintenance side of the industry. She is a member of the 2017 ISA Elite class. My career hasn’t been a straight line, and I love that. I see diversity as my biggest success. I was a temp hire looking to pay off my student loans; never in a million years was the sign industry my career choice, but now I wouldn’t trade it. Diversity is my strength because it gives me a basis to appreciate every person that goes into making these projects happen. The diversity in my career has allowed me to be able to have educated conversations across multiple platforms and has made me appreciate all the nuances that go into this incredibly vast and underrated industry. I was fortunate to start my career with a lot of people—from designers to management—that would stop and take the time out of their day to thoroughly educate me when I asked. That said, I’ve always been a “why” person. I wasn’t scared to be the stupid one in the room and asked a lot of questions. I asked to go to my local installs, as I was too young to rent a car. I asked to go to the shop for viewings/assembly, which was an hour away. I asked to have my company’s support in applying for

Roxie Schwochert Project Manager I, Lighting and Maintenance AGI, Knoxville, Tennessee Roxie Schwochert started in the sign industry in 2012 and worked at two sign companies before landing at AGI, a company specializing in immersive brand experiences. As a project manager, she has been tasked to work well with local teams, maintain a budget, complete projects efficiently, support client relationships, and more. She also was part of a team that developed a centralized

Rachel Wolfgang

January 2020

Sign Builder Illustrated

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ISA Elite. I asked my designers to show me how my signs were assembled and present advice for potential install issues. I asked for help, a lot, and still do in this ever-changing industry. I’m incredibly excited to see our industry addressing mentorship and education in various ways. AGI is in the beginning stages of implementing their mentorship program within the Lighting and Maintenance Division. Dave Clower, Mark Podgorski, and Diane Largent have been developing various ways they can transfer knowledge and engage our staff. I’m very excited to look back a year from now and see how that has helped with our young professional engagement. ISA and its affiliates are a great resource! They have been putting out various programs at the tradeshows: ISA Elite and Women Leading the Industry are two that I’ve participated in, and they offer classes and seminars on a regular basis. Over the last seven years, I’ve learned that branding is one of the most malleable, inclusive, “we got an app for that” type of industries out there. I’ve seen the companies I’ve worked for go from “We are a sign company” to “You need full exterior paint and electrical included? No problem.” With that said, there’s a home for every personality type in this industry. Creative: Designer; Technical: Engineer; Detailed: Project Manager; Hands-On: Manufacturer/Installer; Personable: Sales; Numbers Cruncher: Accounting/Estimating; and Leader: Management/Owner. I hope all companies take a fluid approach and allow their younger employees to find a position that suits them, because finding an employee that is passionate about their position will sell itself. Rachel Wolfgang Project Management SupervisoR Poyant New Bedford, Massachusetts Rachel Wolfgang joined Poyant in 2012 as the sales and marketing coordinator, 24

Sign Builder Illustrated

and she successfully delivered focused results that leveraged the company’s sales and marketing opportunities. As a result of her willingness to learn about the sign business, she was promoted to project manager in 2015 and project manager LEAD in 2018. Rachel has a proven track record of assisting in the hiring and training of new project managers and received her PMP certificate in 2017. This year, she was promoted to project management supervisor, and she is responsible for the leadership, coaching, and development of the Project Management Team in maintaining the highest level of performance in the department. She also creates, maintains, and im-

To attract younger talent to sign businesses, driving awareness in secondary education and colleges is a must. plements the Project Management Training Manual and leads the hiring/development of the Project Management Team. She is a member of the 2016 ISA Elite Class and the 2017 NSSA Elite Class. She was recently elected to the Executive Committee of the RI Sign Contractors Association as correspondence secretary. The sign industry is an attractive career for me because it’s always changing with the newest technologies and methods of construction. It’s exciting and interesting. There is so much detail that goes into signage including the planning, approvals, design, construction, installation, and logistics. There is a great sense of accomplishment in seeing a project come together in the field and knowing that you played a part in making it happen. I have learned so much about the

January 2020

sign industry from my experiences so far. I never would have imagined what goes into designing, building, and installing signage. The design, materials, fabrication, and logistics are unique to each project, and working for a custom sign manufacturer, we design and build a lot of cool signage. It’s also interesting to me to not only learn about the history of the industry and how it has changed over the years, but also to see the newest technologies integrated into the design and construction of signs. The ISA and NSSA Elite programs have also taught me a lot. They have allowed me to attend the sign expos, participate in the learning sessions, and network with the best in the industry. I have made so many great connections with other young professionals in the industry, sharing in their experiences and growing together as the next generation of the business. The knowledge and skills that I have gained through the ISA and NSSA has greatly impacted my career in the industry. I had never considered project management as a career, nor did I know of the opportunities available in the sign industry before joining Poyant. I am fortunate to work for a company that supports my professional and personal growth and development through training and advancement. It’s important for the sign industry to promote the career opportunities available to younger people. I certainly wish someone would have educated me sooner on the career opportunities that were available. The sign industry can recruit younger people through education and community outreach. For example, National Sign Manufacturing Day, which is held every October, has been a great effort to connect sign companies with local vocational schools to expose teachers and students to the different careers available in our industry. It’s a great event, and I’ve seen first-hand, at Poyant, the recruitment of staff that was connected through tours conducted at our facility during National Sign Manufacturing Day. signshop.com


STAND OUT

FROM THE

CROWD

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

@SBIMag

Sign Builder Illustrated

SIGN BUILDER

ILLUSTRATED


CNCROUTER ROUTER CNC By By Brad JimBurnett cirigliano

EQUIPPED FOR

When and how to lease.

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A

s you might have noticed by the end of last month, it wasn’t uncommon to hear retailers offering special financing deals to try to draw customers into stores to purchase big-ticket consumer items from televisions to furniture to new vehicles. Although they may not face the same

January 2020

intense level of advertising as does the consumer, sign shops often also have some important year-end, as well as start-of-the-year, spending decisions to make regarding big-ticket equipment purchases, such as CNC routers. When cash flow is strong, making a large equipment purchase outright can seem like a fairly straightforward decisignshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/Andrey Armyagov.

Financing



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Sign Builder Illustrated

averse to the idea of debt or borrowing, question whether leasing or financing equipment is a viable option, and worth the cost. “If acquiring equipment will increase your revenues or allow you to make your business better, and the payment makes

January 2020

signshop.com

Photo: Grafix House of Garner, NC.

sion, but there are pros and cons to parting with so much cash in exchange for a piece of equipment that you hope will last and stay relevant for many years to come. Even when cash is tight, investing in important equipment can be a wise decision. Some business owners,

sense, it’s usually desirable,” says Mark French, president of Crest Capital, an equipment financing and leasing company based in Atlanta, Georgia. “There comes a point in every successful business where leveraging credit is a solid business move. “If you’re enhancing production capability, it almost always makes sense to spread the cost out over several years.” One of the major benefits of leasing is the preservation of working capital, allowing sign shops to control a larger amount of equipment without tying up cash and lines of credit. The lower monthly payments on a lease are usually spread out over many months or years rather than consuming cash in a lump sum. Leasing also may enable a sign shop to upgrade to more advanced machinery than it might otherwise be able to afford. In addition, many commercial equipment leases can include service agreements or add-ons that reduce or eliminate the costs for in-house technicians and repairs. CNC routers are a prime example of a type of equipment that can pay for itself rather quickly in the sign-making industry. They can greatly improve turnaround time over manual processes, significantly reduce human errors and waste, and eliminate the need for outsourcing. “Many times, the equipment can pay for itself immediately,” says French. “For example, adding a new CNC machine can, right away, increase revenues more than the monthly payment—that falls under the ‘no-brainer’ category. “Add in the Section 179 deduction, and the numbers look even better.” In the U.S., Section 179 of the tax code allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of certain property as an expense when the property is placed in service. The Section 179 deduction applies to tangible personal property such as machinery and equipment purchased for use in a business. Beginning with the 2018 tax year, the maximum Section 179 expense deduction increased from $500,000 to $1 million, and the phase-out limit increased from $2 million to $2.5 million, according to Internal Revenue Service guidance on Section 179 expenses issued in late 2018. These rules were amended by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017, and the amounts are indexed for in-


flation for tax years beginning after 2018. When financing large equipment, many companies default to loans and lines of credit. This does provide ownership of the equipment, much like buying it outright. (Under a lease, the lessor holds the title to the equipment, and provides you with the

option to buy it when the lease is up.) Unfortunately loans often come with onerous terms—significant down payments and variable interest rates. “The biggest misconception is that rate is everything,” says French. “Your local bank may have the lowest rate but will also slap a blanket lien on your business, require you to keep 80 percent of the loan value in the bank, and also make you requalify for the loan annually while reserving the right to call in the entire loan at any time. “An equipment financing specialist might be a point or two higher but have none of those restrictions, making it a far better option for many companies.” Companies that specialize in equipment financing may be able to offer compelling alternatives, even if the interest rate appears slightly higher at first glance. Many of these companies provide flexible terms, progress payments, and fewer restrictions. The application process tends to be much faster and simpler than applying for a bank loan, often not requiring tax

returns or a personal credit inquiry. Many manufacturers and equipment vendors will also offer financing options to customers; some vendors even partner with one or more equipment financing companies to offer simple financing options without additional cost. Check with the equipment vendor to see what kinds of financing packages they can offer— many will be able to tailor a package to suit your needs. This often can be a simple alternative to help fund new machinery. Before choosing a lessor, especially on a large purchase, experts recommend getting quotes from at least three companies and comparing not only rates but also upfront costs, other financing terms, and tax incentives. (Note: It’s also good practice to review the lending companies’ financial statements, any pending litigation, credit history, and corporate relationships.) “Rates are not everything—always check the restrictions and covenants, too,” says French. “It’s often the second or third lowest rate that’s the best overall deal.”

Increased productivity without added manpower. ShopBot Desktop MAX ATC

Photo: Shutterstock/ reddees

This CNC tool has industrial precision with the added efficiency of an Automatic Tool Changer (ATC). An ATC reduces production time by quickly and robotically changing cutters between tool paths. This eliminates the need to change and zero tools individually and allows you to complete jobs in a fraction of the time. A ShopBot tool equipped with an ATC can perform operations that would typically require several other pieces of equipment. The ShopBot Desktop MAX ATC has a 36” x 24” work area, and is available with two different deck options: an aluminum Desktop MAX ATC with aluminum t-slot deck, t-slot deck, that can be partially or partially removed. completely removed, or a Universal Vacuum hold down deck, which works well for large parts and sheet goods. Take full advantage of our tool flexibility and the productivity of automation in the small footprint of a ShopBot Desktop MAX ATC. For more information on our full line of CNC tools, call 888-680-4466 or visit www.ShopBotTools.com. We’ve got the right tool for the job.

signshop.com

January 2020

Sign Builder Illustrated

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PROJECT MANAGEMENT CNC ROUTER BY STAFF By SBI Brad Burnett

to success

A

fter seventy years’ experience providing signage for California’s highways, municipalities, and businesses, Safeway Sign Company (SSC) is now in its fourth generation as a family business. Occupying a 60,000-square-foot production plant in Adelanto, California, SSC provides a full range of signage and fabrication services for its customers. Using a combination of digital, screen, and cut vinyl solutions, the company outputs up to 40,000 square feet of signage each week in a three-shift operation. Producing highway and other traffic management signage to ensure the safe, timely flow of people and goods is a huge logistical challenge. Akin to printing money, the demands for quality, color, consistency, finish, and durability are met by closely coordinated teams following detailed standards. There are also health and safety issues, as well as the responsibility to provide value for taxpayers’ money. 30

Sign Builder Illustrated

“We are a low-bid, made-to-order, variable-quantity-job shop,” says SSC Operations Manager Kolby Moore. Son of Current President Michael Moore, Kolby is proud of the business’s history and achievements. “My greatgrandfather, Forrest Moore, worked with the state of California and 3M and likeminded engineers to develop standards for highway signage, as well as the substrates and methods for producing durable signage with high levels of recognition and legibility,” he explains. “[Forrest] had been involved in transportation logistics for fuel for the War Department in World War II and saw the need for improved highway signage, [so] he established Safeway Sign Company in 1948.” In the 1950s, the company secured the contract for highway signs from the California Division of Highways, now the Department of Transportation (Caltrans). It also benefitted in the late ’50s and ’60s from the rapid development of the feder-

January 2020

ally funded Interstate Highways program. “In the early days, the signs were enameled steel,” says Kolby, “and the contract was on a single sheet of paper.” Today the Caltrans contract is the largest single contract in California, and SSC’s products supply all twelve districts of California, various contractors, and city, county, and municipal transportation organizations. In addition, SSC supplies signage to neighboring states such as Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas. Following expansions and moves from Culver City to Inglewood, Gardena, and now Adelanto, SSC is a versatile company that can respond quickly and undertake a wide variety of standard and custom jobs. “My father began working with the first Apple Macs in the 1980s,” explains Kolby. “This began with production-ready plans, production tickets, inventory, and customer information. We never looked back and were among the first to use digital drafting and CAD tables. We still operate a vintage signshop.com

All Photos: Safeway Signs.

on the road

Traffic signs have proven to be a lucrative market for this family-owned sign company.


Wild-Leitz TA41 cutter, along with our much newer Zünd systems.” In 2006, SSC became an SAi Flexi customer, originally using it to cut tissues for screen printing then for cut vinyl signage. The company has moved from Flexi 6 to the current Flexi 19 standards with FlexiPRINT Authorized 3M™ Traffic Edition. Today FlexiPRINT Authorized 3M Traffic Edition is being used on a number of different printer types at SSC including solvent, latex, and UV-curable inks, while SAi Flexi is used for cut vinyl and screen print to cut signage. “These two methods still account for up to 85 percent of our work,” says Kolby. “Digitally printed highway signs weren’t introduced until 2016, but we immediately knew it would become an important part of the business. While cut vinyl remains a big part of our business, digital production means that we can print and cut full-size signs and multiple smaller pieces in a single, smooth process.” Printing signs digitally enables the

shop to remain competitive. “Less waste, less manual work, significant reductions in time, and increased throughput all deliver savings,” says Kolby. “Highway signage is printed in forty-eight-inch widths, but we have the capability to print up to sixty inches. Signs are printed roll-to-roll then cut, mounted, and laminated onto

various aluminum alloys.” SSC performs all processes in-house. For example, the company operates 1,500-gallon tanks to apply chromate conversion coating to passivate aluminum to retard corrosion, a process that is frequently contracted out.This increases the shop’s control over quality, material availability, and costs.

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Sign Builder Illustrated

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SIGN CODES CNC ROUTER By BY Brad DAVIDBurnett HICKEY

CHICAGO WAY

S

ometimes a hard-fought success provides a road map for the way ahead. Such is the story in Chicago, where the International Sign Association (ISA), the Illinois Sign Association, and a coalition of business groups have worked for several years to unwind a laborious sign permitting process. It is a story of commitment and collaboration that could pay off in virtually any city

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Sign Builder Illustrated

and town, no matter the size. Recently we were able to celebrate another positive step forward in this lengthy process in Chicago. This victory was not only good for sign, graphics, and visual communications companies there, but it also provides insight into building ways that we can work together to improve the codes and permitting process anywhere. Let’s back up a bit: Chicago has long

January 2020

had one of the most challenging sign code processes, with mazes of approvals needed (“Going Against the Wind,” September 2019). Even the councilmember in the area where the sign would appear had to sign off. Adding to the complexity, a recent requirement was that every sign appearing in the public way (the majority of them) had to be reapproved every five years. This process was difficult for small signshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/f11photo.

THE NEW

Chicago provides a long and winding road to improving the sign permit process.


HELPING YOUR SHOP

GROW PROFITS!

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

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chambers of commerce are an obvious first place to start. While ISA and affiliated associations are building these relationships, it is important for local companies to get involved too.

Winning Strategy #1: Refuse the Status Quo. Alex Perry with Right Way Signs of Chicago was a driving force behind these changes. A former Chamber of Commerce executive, Alex brought ISA and the Illinois Sign Association into the issue—and that was the first step to emulate. While ISA and affiliated associations monitor news of sign code changes, in some cases, we don’t know about it until you tell us. In the case of Chicago, sign companies had encountered these 34

Sign Builder Illustrated

challenges for a long time—and put up with it because that was the way things were done. Alex was named the 2017 ISA Sign Code Champion for his tireless work on the issue. His unwillingness to accept “the way it’s always been done”—and his hours of involvement throughout the years—was important. Yes, it’s hard work and it takes time away from doing day-to-day operations. But who knows how Alex has transformed his business—and the industry as a whole—for the future? Winning Strategy #2: Find Others Impacted. Because this issue had so many tentacles, it impacted businesses small and large—and not just in our industry. Working alongside the Small Business Advisory Council and local chambers of commerce put a lot of weight behind our argument. It wasn’t just sign, graphics, and visual communications companies wanting to sell more signs that made the case for change. New businesses—the lifeblood of any local economy—were able to talk about how much this had cost them, or how it had impacted opening day. Those are powerful stories, and for local officials, it’s their constituents and voters doing the talking. This is a strategy that ISA is implementing throughout the country: collaborating with like-minded groups. Area

January 2020

Winning Strategy #4: Stay the Course. This was not one meeting and victory. It took place over nearly four years. There were small steps forward, such as a 2016 victory in removing the public comment period from the approval process. While that helped, it was not enough. Council members still held too much power. Lightfoot had indicated a willingness to listen on the issue when she was running for office and, thanks to ongoing work, was convinced that these changes would better all of Chicago. That is perhaps the biggest lesson of all. Working with local officials—whether in a city the size of Chicago or the smallest town in your market—is rarely one-and-done. Progress is slow. Education takes time. If we go away after the first minor step forward or first setback, we often won’t ever see the end result.

David Hickey is Vice President of Government Affairs at the International Sign Association. If you are tired of putting up with the status quo, he urges you to reach out to him at signhelp@signs.org. signshop.com

Photo: Unsplash.com.

businesses to follow—creating layers of complexity for sign, graphics, and visual communications companies too. In some cases, businesses opened without having a sign installed. In other instances, they did so without the sign legally permitted. When Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor in 2019, it looked like things would change. When Lightfoot presented her first budget address in October, it became clear that she took this issue seriously. “I heard about the regulatory mess that businesses of all sizes face in merely getting signage,” she said. “I want the business community to know that we heard you, and we are fixing this problem today.” It took a good while to get to that statement, but there were a few key reasons we got here. And these steps can be implemented anywhere.

Winning Strategy #3: Put Competition Aside. One of the biggest steps forward in the ISA/Illinois Sign Association/ Small Business Coalition effort was a June 2018 Chicago Sign Summit. The event brought dozens of Chicago-area sign companies to generate ideas. The group identified several key areas of Chicago’s sign code—and how it is administered—that needed to be updated and streamlined. Companies that may compete for that new restaurant project or the new corporate campus signage were able to put aside that competition and focus on the bigger picture. Improved sign code changes would allow a bigger piece of the pie for everyone—or at least a reduction in the time and cost of the frustrating permitting process.


CNC ROUTER ADA

By BYBrad JEFF WOOTEN Burnett

Compliant in Design

Things to keep in mind when designing ADA signage.

D Photos (this page): Howard Industries.

aunting for some and ambitious for others, ADA compliancy is probably the strictest form of sign making. Shops have to follow font sizes, color contrast, stroke thickness, and symbol placement within ADA Accessibility Guidelines

signshop.com

(ada.gov), but they’re not so restrictive that you cannot still get somewhat creative with these signs. We spoke with some ADA signage specialists and manufacturers to have them answer some pressing questions in this field, including: Are there any new design/decoration trends they’ve noticed? How can different materials be incorporated into the design of an ADAcompliant sign? What factors do sign shops need to keep in mind before trying to add ADA-compliant signage to their product offerings? What are some misconceptions they’ve noticed from enduser customers about ADA-compliant signage that should be cleared up before beginning on this type of sign project? Their answers should help “guide” you through the design aspects of ADA—regardless of your level of familiarity.

Design/Decoration Trends Bobbi Payne, fabrication and technical supervisor at Rowmark, notices that many installed ADA-compliant signs feature a single-color base with contrasting tactile letters, Braille, and pictograms. Although they’re effective, she laments that they offer a very utilitarian appearance. “Introducing different colors, textures, and shapes will create depth and give signs a more aesthetic appeal,” she says. “Layering in shapes like ellipticals, waves, wedges, or crescents can offer a more interesting effect.” Charles Kelly, Jr., president of Clarke Systems, says that UV-LED and solvent-based Direct Color printing technology, which outputs direct to the substrate, has made a world of difference and proven to be a real game-changer in

January 2020

Sign Builder Illustrated

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Sign Builder Illustrated

have gained popularity in areas such as schools, hospitals, and other business environments. “It offers an aesthetically pleasing way to identify rooms and spaces while continuing to be cost effective,” she says. And it’s important to think beyond the actual sign itself when it comes to getting creative with ADA-compliant designs. Payne says that many shapes, colors, and sizes can be attributed to your mounting options. “Stand-offs offer an excellent way of both accenting and mounting your design that will offer a modern, lasting impression,” she says. “In the event your project calls for a simple, elegant style, you might consider a frame mounting solution that gives you many styles and colors for selection. Some frames even offer the option of creating slider signs, if that is needed in your next project.” Incorporating Different Materials When it comes to incorporating unique substrates into your ADA-compliant sign, Payne says that one of the easiest ways is to use the material of your choosing as the base to build your compliant sign on. “You can also use the assorted substrates in compliant accent pieces on your sign that can add both depth and texture,” she says. “Wood has been an

January 2020

extremely popular ‘accent’ substrate to use in signage recently.” Stewart says that one recommendation that ADA controls do not impact would be items such as the type and materials used to “cap” off the aluminumframed design, citing his company’s HID series line. “HID use a variety of accent caps, such as natural hardwoods or marbled acrylics, that add warmth and beauty,” he says. Adding ADA Offerings As you’re aware, mistakes can be very costly and time consuming. If you’re new to this field, Kelly, Jr., says that outsourcing these jobs first can help you learn ADA signage while you’re selling it. “Think of it as on-the-job training,” he says. “Take ample time to understand compliance, set-up, and production. Research and select the best fit for a manufacturing method and determine if you can accommodate the capital expense for equipment.” In addition to the guidelines set in the DOJ Americans with Disabilities Act, Payne comments that you also want to be familiar with any additional regulations set by your local municipalities. “One recent example of this is the California Building Standards Code, Title 24, which outlines the states standards for signage that complies with the signshop.com

Photos (this page): Clarke Systems.

today’s ADA signage industry. He cites the professional level of detail offered by this hardware “unmatched by any historical means” of creating ADA signs. “Benefits include reduction in the physical materials in inventory, infinite color options, and reduction in paint steps,” says Kelly, Jr. “They also have the ability to print Braille instead of having to do it by hand with a raster pen tool. [Direct Color printers] also reduce cleaning time during the sign-making process, as well as offer a high degree of detail capability.” Size stills appears to matter. Although the ADA size rules are very specific, Jeff Stewart, vice president of Architectural Sales at Howard Industries, stresses that the guidelines do allow some level of flexibility to the designer when it comes to character size, pointing out that smaller is better. “Clever designers can utilize this to their advantage by creating smaller-sized signs based on the lower end of the character size range,” says Stewart. “A small letter can be made to look much larger for the non-visually impaired by adding an outline or ‘shadow.’” Meanwhile why think only flat surfaces here? Did you know that curved signs are also an option for use as ADAcompliant signage? Payne says that curved ADA signs


Americans with Disabilities Act,” explains Payne. “This standard requires the use of 1/4-inch-thick geometric shapes to be placed directly on the door leading to restroom facilities. Recurring requests from our customers was one of the deciding factors in Rowmark’s recent addition to the ADA Alternative product line of a 1/4-inch gauge in six of our most popular colors.” Another consideration is whether or not you need to invest in any additional equipment for the ADA sign fabrication. Payne mentions Grade 2 Braille translation software programs and a Raster Braille pen kit and license. “As with other business decisions, you’ll want to understand what the opportunity is in your local market prior to making these additional investments,” she says. Misconceptions to Clear Up Kelly, Jr., figures the biggest misconception concerning ADA signage is re-

lated to exactly what signage is subject to compliancy rules. “Directories are subject to visual ADA compliancy,” he explains, “while directional and informational wallmounted signs, which provide direction to or information about functional spaces, are not required to have tactile and Braille lettering. “However they must still meet requirements for fonts, color contrast, stroke thickness, character height, and symbol placement.” Signage not required to comply with ADA standards includes menus, seat and row designations in assembly areas, occupant names, building addresses, and company names and logos. “In addition, temporary signs used for seven days or less are not required to comply with ADA standards,” explains Kelly, Jr., “nor are evacuation maps.” Perhaps the most head-scratching, what-should-you-do form of ADA-compliant signage might very well be cubicle

signs—mainly because cubicles are built in a modular fashion and can therefore be reconfigured. “If cubicle furniture is not bolted to the floor, ceiling, or any other part of the architecture, then it is a movable piece of furniture and not covered by the Standard,” explains Kelly, Jr. “If the cubicle is not fixed, then the sign attached to the cubicle is not permanent and therefore would not need to comply with the Standard.” Still Clarke Systems recommends following compliance as if the sign were fixed. “You have an obligation to provide effective communication and possibly reasonable accommodations for employees under the regulations,” explains Kelly, Jr. If cubicle furniture is affixed to the structure, Kelly, Jr., says, “Alpha-numerical addresses are acceptable; only the number must be ADA-compliant, not the changing name.”

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Shop Talk

BRAND INK OF ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA By JEFF WOOTEN

Find your way through better planning.

B

rand Ink is a graphics and branding specialist (handling design, print, and install all under one roof) that works on vehicle and fleet wraps, floor and wall graphics, and event signage (“A Solid Branding Approach,” September 2019). They also implement wayfinding graphics systems, and because of this, we spoke with Nick Lowry, president of Brand Ink, to learn some of their best practices in this area. When it comes to wayfinding graphics, Brand Ink works both in dimensional (door and wall placards, cut letters, directional panels, etc.) and graphic films. For 2D wayfinding purposes, Brand ink uses 3M graphics films, whether placed directly onto the walls themselves (many times, Controltac™ IJ180C with 8915 overlam) or utilizing it as part of a different layer. “We also apply films to Sintra®, Dibond®, and acrylic,” says Lowry. They will typically work with the ar-

chitectural firm designing the building or space and often be in charge of installing the wayfinding system provided to them matching the space. (Note: They also come up with systems on their own, although Lowry says this is less common.) Brand Ink performs site surveys as well as accepts specs from the architects. Their approach here really depends on what phase the project is in. “If it’s a large construction project, you’re usually involved much earlier in the process, so the space might not be in a state where there’s any point in going out to review it since there are no walls in place,” says Lowry. “Once everything is in place later on, we can then come in and make sure that materials are compatible and look at how we’re going to fasten things to the walls. It’s about going through the process of working our install team through the space efficiently.” With design, Lowry says the number-

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COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2020. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information, contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or asutley@sbpub.com

January 2020

The number-one fundamental element of designing wayfinding graphics is that they must be readable and logical.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 1407, Cedar Rapids, IA. 52406-1407. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to-activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.

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Photo: Brand Ink.

Best Wayfinding Practices

one fundamental element is that the wayfinding graphics must be readable and logical. “Beyond that, it’s more about being creative and what you do in terms of materials, finishes, etc., to complement the space,” he says. “It’s about having a high contrast ratio to what’s behind the graphic or letter. My personal preference is to use Sans Serif. “It depends on whether you walk into a situation where you have the creative control to pose those ideas and breathe life into it or if it’s someone that has come to you with a project where they already have an expert enlisted in that and are just looking to have someone make that a reality.” Lowry finds that the most important component is having a plan of attack when it comes to doing the actual installation and having lots of communication with the building reps to make sure one’s team will have easy and immediate access to the property upon arriving. You’re probably going to have a whole lot of unique items that need to go in very specific places. “It’s important to pack things in a way that the installers can unpack them logically and quickly on-site and see where they need to go accurately,” he says. “Whatever you can do to make sure communication is excellent across your team before they show up will pay dividends over the long term.”


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