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N u m b e r 265

The How-To Magazine

J u ly 2017 | s i g ns h o p.co m

SIGN BUILDER

illustrated

S i g n B u i l d e r I l l u st r at e d

C OV ER STORY

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Contents JULY 2017

Vol. 31

No. 265

How-To Columns

12 14 16

22

FACING UP

By Mark K. Roberts The challenges in owning a sign business.

IMPORTANCE OF INSPections

By Cara Eccleston Why aerial work platform inspections matter.

TWO AT ONE

By David Hickey A couple of issues were prevalent at ISA International Sign Expo.

departments

6 8 10 42 44

EDITOR’S COLUMN

Editor Jeff Wooten wonders if creativity is a disappearing art form amongst the general public.

IN THE INDUSTRY

A sign maker honors military veterans, a new LED system hooks the Longhorns.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Features

Shop Talk

18

Ashley Bray gets from Point A to Point B with awnings and backlit signage.

22 30 34

38 2

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July 2017

38

THE PEOPLES CHOICE

By Jeff Wooten A torch-inspired sign warms up the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home ice.

THE ART OF THE SIGN & GRAPHICS DEAL

By Jim Hingst Your step-by-step guide to pricing.

MAGIC TRICKS

By Jeff Wooten This year’s Sign Invitational contest proved magical.

POST-AND-PANEL CONSIDERATIONS

By Ashley Bray A look at the trends and applications for this versatile signage type.

PRINTING OUTSIDE THE BOUNDARIES

By Jeff Wooten Tips to keep in mind when printing graphics for the great outdoors. signshop.com


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What trend should sign makers pay more attention to?

July 2017, Vol. 31, No. 265 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Subscriptions: 800-895-4389

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

editorial Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 jwooten@sbpub.com “3D printing. It’s not a viable production method for most shops yet, but if the speed increases and the price decreases, that will change.”

“An increase in Web-only sign shops. Will having to compete against online entities affect your real-world pricing?”

Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220 abray@sbpub.com

Contributing Writers Cara Eccleston, David Hickey, Jim Hingst, Mark K. Roberts, Lori Shridhare

art Creative Director Wendy Williams Art Director Nicole Cassano Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Associate Publisher/East Coast Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233 jsutley@sbpub.com Publisher/Mid-West & West Coast Sales “Soft signage and its many Art Sutley applications—apparel, banners, 212-620-7247 tradeshow graphics, etc.” asutley@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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Editor’s Column

AGENDA

By Jeff Wooten

July 2017 JULY 26-30:

The Mid South Sign Association Annual Meeting and Trade Show takes place at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown in Memphis, Tennessee. (midsouthsignassociation.org)

August 2017 AUGUST 11-13:

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

A Kind of Magic

September 2017

Is creativity a vanishing art form?

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you can. Then there’s the client base that might be willing to spend the additional cost, but a lot of times, they don’t see the value in what they’re going to get. “We have great ideas for projects all the time, but they never go live because the client doesn’t want to spend the money. And you can’t work for free!” Which begs an interesting question: Is this customer mindset a regional or national philosophy? Are you finding customers more budget-conscious than forward-thinking? Do you think the public perceives sign shops as just print shops? If so, how are you addressing this? I guess one could always stand out in a cornfield and wait for a voice to tell them, “If you build it, they will come,” and hope for the best. But that doesn’t make business sense. If you’re eager to put your design and engineer caps on, are portfolio pieces and contests the way to go? Maybe the true creativity today is coming up with ways to successfully sell customers on more complex projects? Before signing off, I also want to point out that the photos used in the feature “Now for the Reveal” (January 2017) were not provided by the author Peter Perszyk. Sign Builder Illustrated apologizes for any confusion this might have caused readers.

Jeff Wooten Editor, jwooten@sbpub.com

SEPTEMBER 10-14:

The PRINT 17 exhibition and conference returns to McCormick Place South in Chicago, Illinois. (graphexpo.com)

SEPTEMBER 28-29:

The 2017 NSSA Northeast Sign Expo, featuring over seventyfive exhibits, will be held at the Connecticut Convention Center in downtown Hartford. (nssasign.org)

October 2017 OCTOBER 10-12:

SGIA Expo is taking place at the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. (sgiaexpo.org)

OCTOBER 19:

The Arizona Sign Association Tabletop Trade Show will be conducted at TopGolf in Scottsdale, Arizona. (arizonasign.org)

OCTOBER 31-NOVEMBER 3:

Photo: Douglas Hancock.

A

sculpture of a steam engine train bursting through a mural! A magically levitating sign inspired by Nikola Tesla! A pig’s fruitlessly foiled escape from the swinging Poe’s BBQ Pit and Pendulum! These are some of the entries you’ll find in our recap of the recent Sign Invitational (“Magic Tricks,” page 30), an annual event that invites talented sign makers to craft dimensional signs following a certain theme—this year, “sign magic.” I always love to watch when talented sign makers are allowed to really get creative and let their imaginations loose, but the money question is, do your customers? How often do these creative-type requests pop up out of thin air for you? One of the things we learned from a recent reader survey is that lots of you are thirsting for articles about business management. The good news is that you’ll find a comprehensive article written by Jim Hingst this month about pricing and selling jobs to possible clients (p. 22). But how is this translating to the artistic side for you? Douglas Hancock, vice president of Sign Pro of North Florida and the mastermind behind the aforementioned levitating sign, brought up an important point in our conversation about creativity and customers—in his experience, it’s all about the money. “Unfortunately a lot of customers don’t care about creativity or the final design,” he laments. “They just want you to churn out the project as fast as

The automotive SEMA Show rolls in to the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (semashow.com)

signshop.com


In The Industry

Sign Maker Honors

Military Veterans D avidson, North Carolina— Creating signs for the U.S. Armed Forces—including seventy-plus U.S. military installations across the country and several international locations—serves as a special source of pride for Justin Myers, COO of The Sign Chef (thesignchef.com) in Charleston, South Carolina. Myers is a disabled U.S. Navy veteran and Wounded Warrior Project® alumni. “My goal is to produce signs for every single U.S. military installation on the planet,” says Myers, who not only counts his father and grandparents as military 8

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veterans, but can trace family members back to the Continental Marine Corps. Myers decided to create a wall display for installation in The Sign Chef ’s lobby to honor military veterans. While Myers acknowledges the sacrifices that he and other wounded veterans have made in service of their country, he wanted The Sign Chef display especially to memorialize those military men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. “I’ve lost so many friends through the years,” said Myers. “It’s nice to have something to remind us every day of

what they’ve done.” Nikki Newsome, lead graphic designer at The Sign Chef, worked with Myers to create the 8-by-10 foot wall display. Dibond® Brushed Silver in the 3mm thickness was selected to create a 15-by-84-inch header featuring eight stars and a dedication reading: “In Honor of Our Military.” The header was reverse-cut with a CNC router and backed with red Acrylite® acrylic to emphasize the cutouts. The Dibond header was finished with Trim USA glossy black plastic edge capping. signshop.com


LED SYSTEM HOOKS UT

A

The Sign Chef display memorializes those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

My goal is to produce signs for every single U.S. military installation on the planet.

The remainder of the 48-by-96-inch Dibond Brushed Silver sheet was used to route five circular medallions representing the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Seals of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy were printed on Avery selfadhesive vinyl with a Seiko ColorPainter M-64 wide format printer and adhered to the medallions, which featured unfinished edges to display Dibond’s solid composite core. The header and medallions were installed over an 8-by-10-foot backdrop featuring the image of a soldier saluting signshop.com

ustin, Texas—The University of Texas (UT) has selected ANC to install and operate a new video display system at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium. A main video screen in the South End Zone measuring 55.85 feet high-by-134.38 feet wide will highlight the new system. Totaling more than 7,505 square feet, the video display will be the fourth largest in the NCAA and features a physical pixel resolution, providing the truest visuals possible across more than 2,723,840 physical pixels. “Upgrading to LED technology t h ro u g h o u t t h e sta d i u m w i l l enhance the viewing experience for our fans,” said Texas Men’s Athletics Director Mike Perrin. ANC has par tnered with Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc.’s Diamond Vision System Division to integrate more than 14,000 square feet of Mitsubishi’s XL Series LED technology throughout the stadium, which will be synchronized by ANC’s vSOFT™ operating system. In addition to the main video display, the renovation includes new LED displays on the sideline fascia, tunnels, and end zones. The video display system is part of a technology upgrade that also includes a new scoreboard for the University’s new tennis facility.

a waving flag that appears translucent against a cloud-filled sky. Additionally the backdrop features a statement recognizing The Sign Chef ’s ongoing support of the Wounded Warrior Project. The backdrop was printed with the Seiko ColorPainter M-64 on removable wallpaper designed for print applications. The Dibond header and medallions were blind stud-mounted to the drywall. People have had plenty of feedback. “We hear customer comments about the display every single day,” said Myers. July 2017

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Sign Show DIGITAL PRINTING equipment/supplies Mimaki USA Announces the Availability of Its TX300P-1800B Direct-to-textile Printer Mimaki USA's seventy-four-inch-wide TX300P-1800B direct-to-fabric textile printer includes new printheads with a high-gap setting that maintain accurate ink droplet placement and enable printing on thick or thin textiles, dimensionally unstable fabrics, woven patterns, or raised fiber surfaces. Mimaki original inks are specifically designed for exceptional color reproduction onto natural or synthetic fibers. The TX300P-1800B printer, along with its sister product the TX300P-1800 (without advanced belt transport system) printer, will be able to accommodate two different inks in one system, giving users the ability to output onto natural materials with textile pigment inks (Tp400) or on polyester materials with sublimation dye inks (Sb420). mimakiusa.com

ROUTERS/ENGRAVERS Techno’s New Wide Format CNC Digital Registration Cutting System Techno’s HD TechnoVision Digital Registration Cutting System is a heavy-duty, high-performance, affordable CNC System featuring an electronic oscillating knife, creasing wheel, drag knife, and an Optiscout Digital Software Suite. The machine registers, routes, and cuts with precision at high speeds. The operator loads the material and selects the image for routing, and the software automatically recognizes the media marks—compensating for skew, distortion, and image drift—and proceeds in cutting the pattern. The machine features a 4HP HSD high-frequency collet spindle, four-zone vacuum table, and all-steel construction and is available in various process sizes. technocnc.com

VINYL/VINYL FILMS/SUPPLIES 3M Introduces Ultra-removable Option to the IJ180mC Family The new 3M™ Print Wrap Film IJ180mC-10UR is an ultra-removable print wrap film that comes off quickly and cleanly. IJ180mC-10UR gives installers the freedom to make changes very easily because it is removed without heat or chemicals. The advantages of IJ180mC-10UR go beyond its ultra-removability and include fine-tuned slideability, initial tack optimized for wraps, and a smooth finish, courtesy of Comply™ Adhesive with micro technology. Available in 54-inch-by-50-yard rolls, IJ180mC-10UR is also backed by the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty, giving installers peace-of-mind that graphics will last and maintain their vibrant aesthetic. www.3M.com/IJ180mC

World Premiere: Arlon’s SLX™ Cast Wrap with FLITE Technology™ and Series 3270 Overlaminate Arlon debuts SLX™ Cast Wrap, a premium, gloss-white, repositionable cast film with FLITE Technology™. Designed for the single installer, this film allows for a fast wrap and superior repositionability for full and partial vehicle and fleet applications. FLITE Technology is a lite contact system allowing graphics to float over a substrate until firm pressure is applied. It guarantees the fastest installation while ensuring longterm bond. It conforms effortlessly around rivets, complex curves, and deep channels. Arlon has also launched a new cast overlaminate, Series 3270, which was designed to be used with SLX Cast Wrap for optimum performance of the film. SLX Cast Wrap’s unique features include vibrant and reliable print quality, effortless liner release, and clean removability and conformability. arlon.com

SOFTWARE- DESIGN/PRINT/ROUTER/ESTIMATING SAi Launches Efficiency-enhancing MyFlexi Mobile App Working in conjunction with SA International (SAi) FlexiSIGN and FlexiPRINT version 11 and 12, the MyFlexi mobile app is designed to provide print shop employees with efficiency-enhancing tools to improve throughput and minimize overall job production time—from set-up to completion. Integral to this is remote access to FlexiQuote™, which allows sign and print businesses to quickly create quotes for new jobs remotely when visiting customers. Another valuable feature is the MyFlexi QR and Barcode Tester, which enables print shop employees to quickly test the QR codes generated in Flexi’s QR Code Creator. The free MyFlexi app can be downloaded in the Apple App store and Android Google Play store. ThinkSAi.com

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How To

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT By MARK K. ROBERTS

Facing Up

A

s entrepreneurs, there are many challenges that every owner, of businesses large and small, faces day to day. Many times, sign shops have a client that provides the majority of their work and makes up over half of the income. While it’s wonderful to have that one great customer who pays on time, every time you make that delivery, that big client has to have a consistent need for your signs. This is why it’s important to diversify your client list in order to grow your business and pick up the slack when that big client quits ordering and paying. And it can be tough to do. When my wife and I began our sign business in 1980, we spoke with an attorney about some issues in starting a business. The attorney told us that our main problem with owning a business would be cash flow. We had to have enough cash to cover the bills. Sign business owners have to be heavily capitalized or have savings for those unexpected expenses. Running out of 12

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cash makes growing a business impossible. (Note: It’s also a good idea to have professional accountants handle your

there are many challenges that every owner, of businesses both large and small, faces day to day. business’s books and tax preparation.) A business that cannot operate without its owner can be deadly. There’s always a chance that the owner could be hurt in an accident or develop an illness, which keeps him away from the business for a period of time.

Many owners are reluctant to let go of certain decisions and responsibilities as the business grows, but they have to delegate some control to employees or partners. Doing this can be difficult since the quality of work can be compromised until the employees learn the proper techniques. Long hours are part of the job for most sign shop owners. For many years, I worked twelve- to fourteen-hour days, six to seven days a week. It does take a toll on your quality of life and the time you spend with your family. Many business owners fear that they cannot take long breaks away from work to recharge. That weariness can cause the business owner to make poor decisions. It can also cause mistakes, forgetfulness, and a poor attitude when dealing with clients and family. The owner has to find a pace that keeps him from burning out so that the business can grow. Take that weekend getaway. An owner may get some great inspiration from seeing signs in different cities or towns. It can also give a better prospective on current business decisions. Keeping employees motivated is very important for business. As an owner, it’s important to communicate clearly and always be approachable. Provide perks such as free tea and coffee, donuts, or fruit. Have staff Christmas parties and give gifts to your employees. This can cost relatively little and can really create harmony among employees. Most business owners start their business because of their competitive drive. With every challenge, there is an opportunity to compete. Challenges in business can always be overcome, but with proper strategies, they can be conquered! Mark K. Roberts is a thirty-nine-year sign veteran offering vehicle lettering, wall lettering, digital printing, and a lot of advertising ideas for your business. signshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/mavo.

The challenges in owning a sign business.


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How To

SERVICE/MAINTENANCE By CARA ECCLESTON

The Importance of Inspections

A

erial work platform inspections might not be exciting, but these routine tasks collect critical information that helps operators, mechanics, and fleet managers keep equipment in service and ensure jobs are completed safely. Daily, weekly, monthly, and annual inspections act together to ensure all components of an aerial work platform are in working order while also providing peace of mind to owners whose businesses depend on these important assets. Among the criteria set for aerial work platforms by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the mandatory annual inspection of these units. Only experienced mechanics can perform these wide-ranging inspections, which cover structural components such as outriggers, booms, turrets, and substructures as well as safety items like decal legibility and placement. Authorized equipment distributors often provide inspection services. Annual inspection records must be retained for five years. If you’re consider-

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ing purchasing an aerial work platform, it’s wise to also research the unit’s annual inspection history. Be sure to consider the safe storage of inspection records. In the event of an accident, authorities, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will seek these inspection records and may levy penalties if the records cannot be located. For additional safety tips and more information on ANSI standards affecting aerial work platforms, refer to the OSHA A92.2 fact sheet at osha.gov/publications/aerial-lifts-factsheet.pdf. Aerial work platform manufacturers typically provide logbooks for daily, weekly, and monthly inspections. Daily logs cover items such as lights, parking brakes, safety features, engine and hydraulic oil levels, boom and turret function, and platform controls. Weekly logs assess items like battery function, winch brake operation, and pump, PTO, and driveline function. Monthly logs include evaluating cylinders and valves; checking the ma-

chine’s welds and pins; placement of control, safety, and capacity placards; and assessing boom wear pad fasteners and rollers. The logs also include space for mechanics to document problems, prescribe solutions, and record repairs. An advantage to keeping diligent daily, weekly, and monthly logs is that the logs make for a great reference tool during the preparation for and completion of a required annual inspection. Because these logbooks combine to cover a wide range of data points over time, the diligence pays off in a variety of ways: • Constant logging allows operators to become more familiar with the safe operation and maintenance of their aerial equipment. • Routine daily and weekly checks of equipment lets mechanics “see around corners” by identifying possible problems before they become serious issues. • Identifying and promptly resolving issues based on periodic log entries also increases the probability that equipment will sail through annual inspections with no trouble. This process is not only required by ANSI but also helps to minimize risks inherent in aerial lift operation. Making inspections a routine part of your fleet maintenance program is critical to keeping aerial work platforms in productive service, limiting repair and replacement costs, and reducing the risk of failures that can cause serious property damage or personal injury. Don’t put your assets or workers at risk. Take the time to perform these critical inspections. Cara Eccleston is marketing coordinator at Elliott Equipment Company (elliottequip.com). This article was originally published on the Elliott Equipment Company Learning Center. signshop.com

Photo: Elliott Equipment Company.

Why aerial work platform inspections matter.


WE’RE HERE TO ANSWER THE CALL! Sign Builder Illustrated is the “how-to magazine” of the sign industry. Each issue includes SBI’s signature “how-to” columns and features with detailed, stepby-step instructions covering a wide range of signage. SBI’s website (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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How To

TRADE ASSOCIATIONS By DAVID HICKEY

Two at One A couple of issues were prevalent at ISA Sign Expo.

W

alking through the tradeshow floor at ISA International Sign Expo 2017 in April, it was clear that our industry is on a roll. New LEDs, new digital print options, and new innovations were at virtually every turn. But what if none of those new products could be used in today’s signage? Or what if it became more difficult to even do business? Whenever the industry comes together, the International Sign Association’s advocacy team has an opportunity to hear in great detail about the concerns facing sign, graphics, and visual communications professionals at the local, state, and federal levels. We heard from some attempting to navigate complex sign codes, deaing with unfamiliar and increasingly sophisticted language in the wake of the 2015 Reed v. Town of Gilbert supreme court ruling. Sign, graphics, and visual communications professionals also brought up issues that coalesced around two particular areas. 16

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1. The impending crane operator certification rule. Due to take effect November 10 of this year, the OSHA regulation requires that all mobile crane operators receive certification.

The industry is concerned about two particular issues: cranes and electronic message centers. Those who expressed concerns to the advocacy team wanted to know how to get their operators certified and how much it is projected to cost. There also are some important considerations developing about the rating of the equipment. Mobile crane opera-

2. Regulations related to EMCs. It seems as if communities are finally getting the message: Electronic message centers are today’s technology, and codes must be updated to reflect the benefits that this type of signage delivers. But pushback tends to occur in two areas: concerns over driver distraction and brightness measurements. Whenever a sign, graphics, or visual communications professional asked about these issues, ISA was able to point those fighting these concerns to two pieces of research. “EMCs and Traffic Safety” and “EMC Brightness Recommendations” both provide academic research into these areas. The traffic safety study, conducted by Texas A&M University, found no direct correlation between the installation of EMCs and an increase in accidents. The brightness recommendations provide guidelines for setting brightness standards and help communities understand how to measure brightness. If this topic is of concern to you and your shop (as well as your customers), both of these resources are available at signs.org/local. David Hickey is vice president, Government Affairs, at the International Sign Association. signshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/Alex Alekseev.

tors do not have to be certified if the crane has a manufacturer-rated capacity of 2,000 pounds or less. There is no doubt that this regulation will have a significant impact on sign companies that operate mobile cranes. And failing to comply is not an option as OSHA violations will bring costly fines. To catch up on the OSHA regulation—and what you need to be doing now—check out ISA’s page (signs.org/ crane). We’ll keep this page updated as the November 10 certification deadline approaches.


IDENTITY SIGN By JEFF WOOTEN

The Peoples Choice Torch-inspired sign warms up the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home ice.

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P

ittsburgh Penguins fans that are attending the NHL team’s home games at PPG Paints Arena are taking notice of “Peoples Gate,” a thirty-foot-tall pylon sign (complete with a four-foot-tall bench at its base and a fully functioning flame at its top) that resembles an Olympic torch. In fact, this sign structure is a “go-to” destination on the property, where it’s common to find people enthusiastically posing for pictures around it even when games aren’t being played. The company responsible for a majority of this sign’s build and all of its in-

Shamrock Signs is also heavily involved in the Pittsburgh professional sports scene, doing work (such as Daktronics LED scoreboards) for the Steelers and Pirates at their respective stadiums. They had worked with the Penguins before on other signage projects, like architectural letters at their old arena as well as their current facility, when it was called Consol Energy Center. For the Peoples Gate “torch” sign, Shamrock Signs originally submitted a design featuring a color-changing goal lamp commonly found over hockey nets. “However Peoples Gas®, the main natu-

features an interior steel frame consisting of six five-inch-deep aluminum cabinets attached to each other via SignComp extrusions and push-thru 1/8-inch aluminum faces covered with 3M vinyl. The letters and Peoples Gas logo are made from one-inch-thick acrylic and pushed through the routed aluminum face. These letters and logo feature 3M black and blue translucent vinyl on the faces and 3M white diffuser vinyl on the back. They placed white Allanson LEDs behind the letters and color-changing Allanson LEDs on the corners of the sign. Shamrock Signs worked closely with

Photos: (Opposiie Page) James Ray; (This Page) © Pittsburgh Penguijs 2017/Justin Aller.

this sign structure is a “go-to” destination at the arena, where it’s common to find people posing for pictures around it even when penguins games aren’t being played. stallation is Shamrock Signs (shamrocksigns.net), based out of nearby Carnegie, Pennsylvania (with a second location in Canfield, Ohio). The sign company is a division of Shamrock Building Services, Inc., a company that has been in Pittsburgh for thirty-five years. Shamrock Signs started up back in 2000, and today, it is well known in Pittsburgh as a premier company in sign fabrication, installation, and maintenance—especially the most recognizable signs seen on the vibrant downtown skyline. “We do everything from designing and permitting to building, installing, and maintenance,” says Michael Schell, project manager at the sign division. “Pylons and strip mall signs are our everyday bread-and-butter, but our real expertise shines on the huge custom signage we’ve built and put up all across the city and on high-rise walls in the downtown area.” For example, they recently used Makrolon® polycarbonate sheet and LED lighting to build a new twentyfoot-diameter logo attached to a fortyeight-foot-long hillside lawn sign for the North American headquarters campus of polycarbonate sheet manufacturer Covestro in Pittsburgh (“Sign Selfie,” April 2017). signshop.com

ral gas supplier in the area [and the sponsor of this sign], indicated they wanted a flame of some kind on it,” recalls Schell. “An architect that had designed some of the green space around the arena came up with the whole Olympic torch concept, and we used Adobe Illustrator to design it from there.” Most of the pylon sign Shamrock Signs built is below the bowl on top. It

Equipment Controls Inc. (ECI), a company in Monessen, Pennsylvania, which was contracted by the Penguins organization for controls and automation of the flame. “We designed the skeleton structure and sent this to ECI,” says Schell. “They assembled everything flame-related inside it. While they were doing that, we were building the outer boxes here.”

July 2017

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19


Engineering of this blazing sign required dealing with wind loads. “The boxes would not be able to stand on their own without the aid of the steel structure inside them,” says Schell. The sign is supported inside the steel skeleton by two eight-inch-square steel tubes with half-inch walls. There’s a one-inch-thick steel base plate, and then about halfway up and at the top, there are two quarter-inch-thick steel plates that were waterjet-cut. The entire struc-

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ture is tied together with three-by-three steel angles that extend upward from the base plate. “They hold everything together,” confirms Schell, “and that’s where we bolted our boxes in.” After some flame testing with ECI, Shamrock Signs decided to use brushed stainless steel to protect the box section of the sign above the cauldron. Because of restrictions, Shamrock Signs placed the power supplies for the flame and the LEDs inside the back tall panel of the sign. They also had to incorporate some rear access doors on the sign for ECI to perform quarterly maintenance and safety checks on the sign and its flame. “The only thing that is outside the sign itself is the master controller,” says Schell, “and that is located about 300 feet away in an electrical closet inside the arena.” The four-foot-tall bench, handled by a general contractor, was pre-cast. “They had that pre-cast in four sections, as well as the cap that was above the bench and below the sign,” explains Schell. It rests on a 10-by-10-foot, 3-footthick concrete mat. In the middle of that mat, tied in with some rebar, is a threefoot-diameter concrete column that came up in a second pour. “In that column, we have seven 1-1/2-inch anchor

bolts that protruded out of that and tied into the one-inch plate that’s in the bottom of that sign,” says Schell. Shamrock Signs had to make certain they had enough clearance to be able to set the cap in because the bench was being made at one place and installed later around their foundation. “The flame and everything controlling the flame was also made in another location,” says Schell. “Everything came together for the first time on-site during installation.” Speaking of the installation, the pylon sign was installed in late February, during the middle of hockey season. “We had to wait for the Penguins to be gone on a road trip for four or five days straight,” says Schell. Installation lasted Monday through Thursday, and the company used its bucket trucks and cranes to lift the torch sign into place. “We started at six in the morning and usually wrapped up around five or six in the evening,” says Schell. Schell credits having a great crew to work with, in particular his shop’s foreman Rob Mazza. “Without him, I don’t think a lot of these things could be built,” says Schell. “His hobby is metalworking, and he even has a forge in his garage. He makes some incredible things and historical items.”

Peoples Gas, the sign sponsor, wanted a flame incorporated into the sign.

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Installs in the Air Shamrock Signs has proven a master at the art of extreme installations in the downtown Pittsburgh area. They once installed fourteen-foot-tall letters and twenty-two-foot-tall LED puck logos on a halo around the top of investment company BNY Mellon’s high-rise headquarters, which involved renting a helicopter for removing the existing signs and installing the new ones (and, in turn, necessitated shutting down six city blocks every time the helicopter left the ground). “That was a four-day removal (two other weekends) and a four-day installation (two weekends),” says Project Manager Michael Schell. The challenge here was estimating the weight of the existing signs on the building because the helicopter had a certain load that it could lift. “Once you break the sign away from the building, there is no putting it back if it’s too heavy for the helicopter. The pilot said that it was coming down, it’s just a matter of how fast,” laughs Schell. Shamrock installers spent months inside the building painting and putting up 12-by12 steel structures to act as pins for the letters and logos. The letters were built at Shamrock’s Carnegie facility, the outriggers fabricated inside the building and pushed through the parapet, and the curved frame they sit on constructed in their Canfield, Ohio facility. “So the first time the letters met the curved frame was in downtown Pittsburgh in an empty lot. And the first time the frame met the outriggers was 750 feet in the air on a Saturday morning,” says Schell.

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Pricing By JIM HINGST

The Art of the

Sign & Graphics Deal

W

alk-in business is usually easy money. That is because it is more about the customer buying than about you selling. Real selling, in which you must hunt for new business, is not so easy. It fact, it can be a complex process. First you need to track down viable 22

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prospects—those who need your products and services and have the ability to pay for them. Then you must identify the prospect’s needs and develop a sign or graphics solution that satisfies those needs. Now here is the tough part that differentiates them buying from you selling: You have to close the deal. In the 1992 movie, Glengarry Glen

Ross, Blake (the sales manager from hell played by Alec Baldwin) explains in no uncertain terms what selling is all about. He berates his sales people telling them that the name of the game is to get the prospect to “sign on the dotted line.” Everything that you do in the selling process (from planning to intelligence gathering to needs analysis to your prosignshop.com


line and through phone prospecting. You can supplement this initial research with information gathered through networking with other salesmen in the industry. The help that I received from truck leasing salesmen was invaluable. Leasing salesmen will know, long before you ever will, who is in the market for equipment. They can also help in making introductions with key contacts within the account. Just as important, they can include the sales of the signs or graphics in the leasing package. This helps everyone involved. The cost of an expensive package can be amortized over the duration of the lease, making it easier for the customer to buy your program. The salesperson’s commission increases with every add-on to the lease agreement. The sign or graphics salesperson is happy, too. Not only is it easier for you to sell big programs, but vendors must be paid before the equipment is turned over to the customer.

Your step-by-step guide to pricing. posal) should lead to the climax of your performance—closing the deal.

1.

How to Prepare for a Sale Before your first meeting with a prospect, gather information about the prospect’s company, their industry, and their competitors. As you build an account profile, you also need to identify signshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/ Roman Samborskyi.

2.

those within the organization who influence the company’s buying process. Each organization is a little different. To help you find your way within larger organizations, as well as avoid any potential landmines that could sabotage your efforts, find an ally or sponsor within the account. Much of this research can be done on-

Site Surveys are Important Site surveys are also an essential part of pre-call planning, whether you are selling fleet graphics or dimensional signs. In your inspection, take plenty of pictures to document your findings. By asking questions during your survey, you can probe for any dissatisfaction, which you can use to drive a wedge between the customer and the incumbent vendor. You can also uncover any problems with the way their sign program has been implemented in the past. However keep in mind that if the prospect is completely satisfied with his or her current sign supplier, you have absolutely no chance of making a sale.

3.

Prepare Your Questions As part of your pre-call planning process, prepare a list of key questions to raise in your meeting. The most important question is: What is the goal of the meeting? Unless you are focused on specific outcomes, the sales call usually becomes an aimless but congenial sales conversation. You end up leaving the meeting scratching your head, wondering what July 2017

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you accomplished. If there is something specific that you want to learn from the prospect, prepare your questions in advance of the meeting the way a good journalist prepares before an interview. As important as your objectives are, put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and imagine what he or she would like as an outcome of the meeting. Ask yourself, what questions will the prospect likely ask? When the meeting concludes, the final question in your preparation is: What is the next step in the negotiation of the deal? You can pose this question in a number of different ways. You can simply put the ball in the prospect’s court and ask his advice on what you need to do next to move forward on the program. His 24

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answer to that question opens the door to the follow-up meeting.

tage your efforts, and help direct your sales actions.

4.

5.

The Introductory Sales Call In the introductory sales call, you need to accomplish a number of key objectives: identifying the prospect’s problems and needs; understanding the prospect’s business goals; discovering who your competitors are; and determining the potential for your company. Above all, the most important task is to identify the key decision makers and influencers within the account. By establishing an initial relationship with someone willing to assist you, that person can sponsor your efforts by introducing you to key contacts, warning you of potential landmines that could sabo-

A Win-Win Agreement is Very Important Any type of agreement between you and your customer must result in a win-win conclusion. You must make a fair profit, and your customer must feel that they are getting reasonable value for the money that his company is spending. No other outcome is acceptable. Otherwise someone walks away from the negotiating table feeling that they got the short end of the stick. If the buyer feels that he paid too much for his signs, your chances for repeat business are slim and next to none. As veteran salesmen are fond of saying, “Anyone can make the first sale; a real signshop.com

Photo: Shutterstock/ karn684.

Above all, the most important task is to identify the key decision makers and influencers within the account.


salesman gets the next order.” Making a few concessions in the bargaining process can go a long way in building lasting customer relationships. I am not saying that you need to give away the store. What I am suggesting is that you can build a little leeway in your estimate, which allows you to give in on a couple of minor points. A concession on payment terms might be one way to make your customer feel that they have made a good deal. The key is to make sure that, after you make a concession, you immediately ask for something in return. This negotiating technique is often referred to as quid pro quo selling. “Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that literally means “this for that.” In selling, it is one of the best ways to establish an agreement: If I do this for you, you agree to do that for me. It is also an effective technique when you use it to close a deal. Here’s an example of quid pro quo

selling. On one large fleet graphics sale, I had quoted the pricing on two different quantities of trailer graphics—fifty sets and one hundred sets. The prospect could only afford fifty sets at that time. However, in six months, he would need

another fifty sets. To close the deal, I sold the fifty sets at the one hundred-set price, with the agreement he would buy the additional materials six months down the road. Both the customer and I were happy

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Always work to close the deal now. If you allow negotiations to drag out, your chances diminish rapidly, and it becomes less likely that you will be awarded the business. The quid pro quo selling technique is also a great way to stop a prospect from nibbling away at your initial offer by asking for one concession after another. Nibbling is a loathsome technique that buyers will use on unsuspecting salesmen to get just one more concession at the conclusion of negotiations.

6. deal at all because I was the high bidder. By meeting the customer halfway and closing the sale right then and there, I prevented my competitors from getting another opportunity to modify their offer and make their own deal.

Photo: Roland DGA.

with this deal. He purchased the graphics at a fair price, and my company made a reasonable profit. For a minor concession, I secured the business with this account for the year. For me, it was a win just to get the

Your Sales Proposal After you determine the customer’s needs, it is time to make your proposal. This often involves presenting design concepts. In making a presentation, I always felt more comfortable covering all of the details in writing. That way, I did not miss a trick. If a customer raised an objection, I could turn to the section in my pro-

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posal that provided him with the information that cleared up any question. Most importantly, people believe what is written.

7.

Presenting Your Pricing In presenting a price proposal, many successful sales people begin with a high price. There are two reasons for doing this. The first reason is that you just might get what you ask for. The second reason is that you can very easily make a concession and reduce your price. If your prospect doesn’t like your offer, they will probably let you know. On the other hand, once you have started to negotiate on price, it is nearly impossible to increase your opening offer. You will note that I said “nearly impossible.” The only time that I would be as bold as to ask for a higher amount is to stop the prospect from nibbling away at the initial proposed opening price.

What I am referring to here is a prospect that is asking for concession after concession. At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand. Before you make a proposal, make sure that you have decided in your own

mind the lowest amount that you are willing to settle upon. The negotiation must result in a win/ win. Your customer needs a price commensurate with the value that you provide in your sign package. As a sales

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person, you are responsible for demonstrating to your prospect how your proposal satisfies his needs. Just as important as a win for the customer, your company must also win. In other words, the agreed-upon price must

also be beneficial to your company. That price must not only cover any burdened costs (labor, material, and an apportioned amount of overhead), but it must also provide your business with a profit.

A win/win outcome is critical for developing long-term business relationships. No other scenario makes sense. A successful negotiation should inevitably lead to the next negotiation. If you cannot settle on a deal that provides value for the customer’s dollar and profit for your business, it is often best to walk away from the deal. If you have invested considerable time and design talent in putting together a sign or graphics program, it becomes increasingly difficult to walk away from the negotiating table the longer the sale takes. A smart buyer knows this. As a salesman, you need to be aware of this and how a prospect can use this to his advantage and your disadvantage. As a sales negotiation drags on, the more desperate many salesmen become, the more likely they are to cave in to making concessions. The concessions not only include price but also payment terms as well as concessions involving installation.

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8.

Closing Techniques While old-school selling techniques can smack of the deceptive sales trickery that a con artist would use, the fact is that many of these “manipulative selling” tactics actually work quite well. In the follow paragraphs, I will cover several of the closing techniques that I have used to seal deals. Settle the Minor Issues First. To paraphrase Donald Trump: big deals are often comprised of many small agreements. In selling, it is often much easier to first settle the minor issues such as the design, colors, delivery, and timing of the sign installation. After coming to an agreement on all of the details of the program, only one decision remains: “When can we get started?” After you ask a question like that, keep your mouth shut. Wait until the customer gives you an answer. Alternate Choice Close. In settling on the details of the program, use the

alternate choice close technique. The quickest way to reach an agreement is to present the prospect with two choices. For example, which color do you like, the red or the blue? The key to employing this technique is to never give customers more than two options. Otherwise the decision-making process can drag on and on. Take Action. I have used the tactic of taking action in the customer’s office to close many deals. It starts with a question. That question could be as simple as, “When do you need the graphics to be delivered?” After the prospect gives me a date, my response is, “I don’t know if we can do the job by then but let me find out.” I usually know that we can produce the job in time, but I will call the production manager and ask. By the way, it is always good if the production manager knows what you are doing. I would then tell the prospect: “Production is really busy right now, but we

can fit your job in if we get your approval now.” In many cases, the prospect will proceed with the order. Contingency Close. If the prospect doesn’t close at that moment, follow up with the contingency close. Have the contract prepared in advance, stipulating that the “order is contingent upon approval of color matches and the fullsize artwork.” Point this provision out to the prospect. Conclude with: “All I need is your OK, and we can get started.” Using the closing techniques suggested can help shorten the sales cycle. These aren’t the only ways that salesmen get to “yes” in a negotiation. You need to find what you feel comfortable with and what works for you. What is most important is that you find a way to finalize the deal as quickly as possible before your competition has a chance to respond. Good luck selling!

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CNC ROUTER Dimensional By By Jeff BradWooten Burnett

First Place: Magic Train.

This year’s Sign Invitational contest proved to be magical.

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T

he annual Sign Invitational competition invites sign makers to submit proposals of dimensional signs following a certain theme for entry, with the best-of-thebest selected to participate (“Quite a Contraption,” July 2016). Since this year’s contest was going to be held in Las Vegas, event organizers— James Dawson, owner/creative director of Synergy Sign & Graphics in Strasburg, Ohio, and Dan Sawatzky, owner of Imagination Corporation in Chilliwack, British Columbia—decided “magic”

would be the ideal theme (think David Copperfield and Criss Angel). Each creation had to fit inside a specific build envelope (24 inches longby-24 inches wide-by-72 inches tall) and be built in two sections—the sign sculpture and the shipping crate base beneath it. Each sign had to have the words “sign” and/or “magic” integrated in it in some fashion. There was no limitation to tools or substrates used. Motion was prohibited in last year’s entries, however that restriction was waived this year. Electric/battery power signshop.com

All Photos: The Sign Invitational.

Magic tricks


could even be integrated into the creation—which led to some amazing entries! In addition to sculptures from Dawson and Sawatzky, other pieces included Peter Sawatzky (Imagination Corporation); Doug Haffner (Haffner’s Fantastic Creations of Wyoming, Illinois); Aubrey Gealsha (Synergy Sign & Graphics); Douglas Hancock (Sign Pro in Alachua, Florida); and Janey Freid (Atlas Signs and Plaques of Lake Mills, Wisconsin). Like last year, the event was held in the MultiCam USA booth at ISA International Sign Expo. (Note: MultiCam USA, Coastal Enterprises, SAi EnRoute, and Laird Plastics were some of this year’s sponsors.) After more than 900 votes were cast by show attendees, only twenty-five votes differentiated First and Second Place. First Place: Magic Train—Dan Sawatzky. As the contest approached, Sawatzky thought about his early days in the industry painting historical murals. “I often heard people marveling how these giant images seemed to come right off the walls, even though they were flat,” he explains. “I used every trick in the book to make that illusion of dimension through perspective happen through my work. It is real ‘magic.’” Many of these murals featured Sawatzky’s favorite subject—steam trains. “I thought it would be fun to have a sign painter painting a mural with the steam train busting through the billboard,” he says, noting that the sign painter featured in the bosun’s chair was inspired by a painting by one of his favorite artists, Norman Rockwell. Frames were built from plasma-cut and welded steel. The train was routed out of thirty-pound Precision Board HDU using a MultiCam CNC. All the paints and glazes were hand-brushed acrylic. Sawatzky found the vertical build envelope particularly challenging as there wasn’t much space at all. He also had to consider the piece not only surviving a long trip but also the many guests at the show handling and touching it. “The key here was to build a strong internal structure of steel,” he says. “All the detail was hand-sculpted using Abracadabra Sculpting Epoxy, which is exsignshop.com

tremely tough.” According to Sawatzky, the key to completing a world-class piece of this size and detail is to start early and work on it a few minutes on a very regular basis. “I would sneak five or ten minutes to design a file, cut some pieces, or do a little welding and sculpting,” he says. “Those few stolen minutes each day really add up in a hurry!”

The whole reason we’re doing this contest is so that sign shops can show people what they do. Second Place: Tesla Electric Sign Company—Douglas Hancock. Hancock didn’t want to do a typical “rabbit-outa-hat” sculpt, so he explored different “magic” ideas. Wanting to keep his piece tied into the sign industry, Hancock thought about inventor Nikola Tesla. “He invented wireless induction lighting, which is

pretty direct to our industry,” he says, “so we started thinking about ways of demonstrating that.” Someone at his shop tossed out the idea of levitating a sign with no wire attachments. “We all thought it was a great idea, but then you have to figure out how to do that,” laughs Hancock. He researched some new methods that had been developed over the last couple of years to balance an object over the top of a magnetic field and found a way to execute something within the appropriate size and scale for the contest. The top floating portion of the sign is made from fifteen-pound HDU. Its faces are made from 316 acrylic. It also features 23k gold leaf, LED string and puck lights, and acrylic paints. The two-piece base was made out of PALIGHT® PVC. “We chose paint colors and textures that would provide the look of iron and rust to achieve an 1800s look,” says Hancock, who also came up with a backstory and Web site (teslaelectricsigncompany. com) for the Tesla sign shop. “Given the choice between gold paint and gold leaf, we think Tesla would have chosen the gold leaf every time.” Bas relief designs were pulled from actual Nikola Tesla patent diagrams, fed through software, and routed out on a CAMaster Stinger II. Keeping the weight as low as possible was important, so that meant milling the HDU material very thin. “There was a

Second Place: Tesla Electric Sign Company.

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Third Place: Poe’s BBQ Pit and Pendulum.

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We have a huge passion to see this are crucial to backlit signs. event grow, in order to inspire and encourage even more creativity in the sign industry. lot of double-sided machining and a lot of interesting toolpaths to get us what we needed weight-wise,” says Hancock. Hancock nested a magnetic levitation unit and a magnetic ring underneath the base of the sign that repels the HDU sign up top. Through the process, Hancock learned they couldn’t wirelessly light the sign because the magnetic field wasn’t strong enough to transmit enough power the distance they needed. “Had we increased the power, it would’ve done harm to credit cards and

pacemakers nearby,” he says, noting that they opted instead to use battery power. The levitating sign is currently hovering in his storefront showroom. “We’re using it to show what’s possible for customers,” says Hancock, “and if someone wants to buy it, they can.” Third Place: Poe’s BBQ Pit and Pendulum—Jim Dawson. Dawson had come up with the idea for the Poe’s BBQ Pit and Pendulum mash-up sign during discussions with his designer awhile back as a lark, so he figured the Invita-

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tional would be an ideal time to finally follow up on this. Dawson carved everything from thirtypound Precision Board, while a few elements were created via Smooth-On FreeForm Habitat epoxy clay. “We also used a fair amount of 1/8-inch steel that we plasma-cut,” he says. A 12v reduction motor placed on the top powers the swinging sign, which is powered from the same power supply running the 12v LEDs on the piece. “It was a super-slow 5rpm motor made for remote control cars,” explains Dawson. The actual pendulum was just weighted and mounted on a sealed bearing. “We push it so that it undulates back-andforth for twenty minutes, before needing to be pushed again,” says Dawson. A big challenge was being able to generate smoke for it. “We didn’t want anything that would dissipate quickly, but with the Invitational in a show hall, we also didn’t want something that would bring the fire marshal over,” says Dawson.

Their solution: an ultra-sonic fountain piece that generates water vapor instead of smoke. Conclusion Next year’s contest theme will be “Marvelous Machine,” and it will be held at ISA International Sign Expo in Orlando, Florida in March. The build envelope will remain the same, and movement and special effects will still be permitted. You can even include your shop’s name in the piece. If interested, visit thesigninvitational. com and click the “Apply Now” button on the home page to submit portfolio pieces. These will all be reviewed before invites are sent out in early August. “The whole reason we’re doing this is so that shops can show people what they do,” says Dawson. “We have a huge passion to see this event grow, in order to inspire and encourage even more creativity in the sign industry,” says Sawatzky.

Aubrey Gealsha sets up her sculpted piece.

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POST-AND-PANELS

POST-AND-PANEL CONSIDERATIONS T A look at the trends and applications for this versatile signage type.

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the versatility of post-and-panel signs has made them a mainstay of the sign industry, but there are still materials, styles, and applications that have proven most effective for this product over the years. Material Meditations Post-and-panel signs can be made of

a variety of materials—wood, plastics, metals—but aluminum is the most commonly used because of the material’s durability and flexibility. “You can make things happen in aluminum with channels and provisions that could never happen in a piece of wood,” says TJ VandenHeuvel, vice president of Market Development at alusignshop.com

Photo: Howard Industries.

By ASHLEY BRAY


Photo: iZone Imaging.

minum extrusion provider SignComp. Another popular material is durable custom high-pressure laminate (CHPL). Thicknesses of 1/2-inch or greater allow for concealed fasteners and a more streamlined look, which is important when the signs are being viewed up close. When selecting a material, it’s important to consider whether the sign will be outdoors or indoors. Most post-andpanel signs are found outdoors, so a durable material that can stand up to the elements is a must. Materials can also be treated to survive outdoors. “We use automotive grade paint and apply a UV-protective laminate to our solvent inkjet-printed graphics; both extend the longevity of sign performance,” explains Bill Freeman, vice president of Architectural Sales at Howard Industries. “Also, depending on climate and location, a sign may require an additional protective clear coat. For instance, a sign located seaside is battered with saltwater-filled high winds.” Interior signs aren’t exposed to the elements, but they still require a level of durability. “With indoor, you can be a lot more flexible.” says Grady Brown, president of iZone Imaging, a manufacturer and supplier of CHPL. “You can use less-durable materials, depending on how much public interface it’s going to receive. The general public [can be] very destructive.

angle down. “They’re angled back away from the reader so that someone in a wheelchair can easily read them as well as someone walking by.” Freeman sees interpretive signs growing in popularity. “In order to increase the aesthetic appeal and attract viewers, these angled back interpretive signs are often embellished with custom panel shapes, eyecatching graphics, and vivid paint colors,” he says. “Non-illuminated or internally LED-illuminated campus map signage is another prominent application of angled back post-and-panel signs.” Brown also sees many post-and-panels in parks and open spaces, although it’s a market that few sign shops serve. Design Decisions The application of the post-and-panel sign usually dictates the design and style. For example, due to the angle they stand at, interpretive signs are always onesided, with visible fasteners often used on the back. “It’s not so much about what the location is as much as the purpose or functionality of the sign,” says Brown. Sometimes that purpose can lead to a struggle between designing signs that stand out or blend in with their surround-

ings. This is especially true in parks. “That’s one of the biggest arguments in the parks and open spaces—am I here to enjoy nature, or am I here to be inundated with information and signs? It’s a very gentle balance,” says Brown, who notes that parks signage is typically done in browns, blacks, greens, and sometimes blues. And yet, they are becoming much more brand-sensitive. “They spend more time on the content of what the sign is saying, showing, and conveying than the structure of it,” says Brown. On the structure side, anything is possible in terms of post-and-panel shapes, sizes, and content. However, VandenHeuvel finds the traditional post shapes sell better than custom offerings. “The basis of all post-and-panels will always go back to the round and the square posts,” he says. “You’d think that [custom shapes] would capture more designers’ attention, but they’ll still gravitate toward the rectangle, the radius, the circle, and the square as the core.” VandenHeuvel has seen sign makers aim to be as creative as possible on the panel of the sign, but he cautions to be careful that form doesn’t overwhelm function.

Apt Applications For the most part, post-and-panels are generally used for outdoor applications. “Post-and-panel sign systems are quite versatile and are commonly used for identification, directional, parking, and regulatory applications,” says Freeman. “Many times, post-and-panel signage systems are designed to serve a dual purpose of providing navigational information as well as brand identity reinforcement.” Interpretive is another application that can be added to the list of uses. “Interpretive is typically used to educate a user group—pedestrian in almost every case—in either history, environment, nature, animal life, or something of that nature,” says Brown. “They are generally at a 30-degree or 45-degree signshop.com

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“The post-and-panel is there for a purpose—to lead people,” he says, “and they need to see this and have it relay the message as quickly as possible.” Brown agrees, “Understand the general principles of good wayfinding and legibility and apply those factors.” Modularity also plays a huge role in post-and-panel design.

“Any of the post-and-panel systems that we produce and supply to the market are intended to be modular systems so that the graphic component can be changed without removing the whole post and everything else,” says Brown. “Most are bracket-mounted with exposed hardware on the back of the panel, strictly for single-sided applications.

“If they want a double-sided post-andpanel, then it goes to a slot configuration.” Budget also plays a role in the design and even the selection of materials. Often the client will choose a more expensive material for more visible post-andpanel sign systems and a cost-effective material for those not at the front of the house or campus. “If it’s a corporate, education, or healthcare environment, post-andpanels are going to end up being a very tertiary application,” says Brown. “They save a little bit of money and don’t spend it by doing high-design, high-end, custom-fabricated elements to identify the maintenance building, for example.” Budget can also dictate whether a postand-panel has one or two posts. “Obviously using one post is much less expensive,” says VandenHeuvel. “They have to dig a hole in the ground for each one of those posts, so there’s even additional costs every time you talk about a post going into the ground.

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“But a single post can only hold so much, and when you start getting into your 90 mph winds calculations, you have to be careful.” Placement Points The best design in the world will be for naught if your post-and-panel is not visible, so the right install spot is crucial. “Visibility is key for signage placement; if a sign will be located near a roadway, consider traffic patterns and the rate of speed in which passing vehicles travel,” says Freeman. “In general, post-and-panel sign orientation should be perpendicular to the roadway, in order to appear in drivers’ lines of sight.” Lighting is also important since most post-and-panels are not illuminated. “If it’s expected to function at nighttime,” says Brown, “look at ambient light sources and maybe locate that sign closer to a streetlight.” It’s also important for a sign shop to be aware of regulations and zoning ordi-

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nances that may affect installation. “Is your post-and-panel sign set back far enough to avoid plow damage? Is the panel or cabinet raised far enough from grade to clear snow buildup and/ or ground foliage?” says Freeman. “And possibly most importantly, call local utility companies before you dig, in order to avoid colliding with buried utilities.”

Interior post-and-panels aren’t usually installed in the ground or the floor in interior applications. “Once you get inside, these signs are wall-mounted and overhead-suspended,” says Brown. Whether outdoors or indoors, one thing is for certain—post-and-panels are an enduring form of signage.

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DIGITAL PRINTING BY JEFF WOOTEN

Printing

Outside The Boundaries

A

dvances in inkjet technologies, print media, and ink formulations have really opened up the options in how graphics are being used outdoors today, venturing beyond vehicles and banners. “Wraps are now everywhere—building fronts, bus stops, walkways, sidewalks, windows, etc.,” says David Conrad, director of sales and marketing at Mutoh America, Inc. “There is so much opportunity to take advantage of prime outdoor ad space to reach out to hundreds of thousands of people.” With all these options, it’s important to 38

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July 2017

make sure you’re providing the right type of outdoor graphic campaign for your client. “The environment and the length of display time are going to [play] key factors with this,” says Matt McCausland, product manager, Professional Imaging, at Epson America, Inc. Trending Outdoor Opportunities One emerging outdoor graphics trend that Daniel Valade, product manager, Color Products, at Roland DGA, is noticing is the availability of vinyl that can be applied directly to concrete, brick, and stucco buildings.

“In addition, notable improvements in the quality of window films have resulted in increased demand for this type of media,” he says. This observation is echoed by Nick Thompson, sales manager at RDH Supply, Inc., as he points towards municipalities utilizing graphics more and more in urban settings for city beautification projects. “The revitalization of downtrodden neighborhoods of cities by both independent and government projects swings open the door on potential print graphic uses,” he says. “And the restoration of historical buildings generally signshop.com

Photo: Roland DGA.

Tips to keep in mind when printing graphics for the great outdoors.


Photos: (top) Epson America, Inc.; (bottom) Roland DGA.

Changing color management settings within the RIP can make a sign “pop.”

includes keeping the original structure (brick, concrete, wood, etc.) while improving and enhancing design—and sometimes even architecture—by the simple application of print graphics.” Meanwhile constantly changing laws and regulations regarding vinyl are leading to the release of more “green” alternatives—such as non-PVC films and soft signage—that are also growing popular for outdoor use (flags, banners, etc.). And increasing interest in flatbed UV hardware is leading to more instances of shops printing directly to unconventional surfaces like wood, stone, and metal, as well as oversized objects. “Outdoors this includes personalizing outdoor tables and chairs with more vibrant, detailed graphics,” says Jay Roberts, product manager, UV Printers, at Roland DGA. There are still a few production challenges to note with UV printing though. “Printing on an unusual object demands thorough evaluation of an item and, ultimately, the end-user’s expectations for the finished product,” says Roberts. “Some substrates may require adhesion promoters or special preparation prior to printing. Post-print finishing may be needed as well.”

With such a vast array of media options, Valade advises to always consult the brand’s application guide for best results. “These manufacturer guides can also help in selecting the correct film for the application surface,” he says. “Always make sure you start off with the correct film, as trying to make a film work on a surface that won’t cooperate can result in a lot of wasted time and effort.” According to those interviewed, ecosolvent inks are the ideal solution for outdoor signage use due to their chemistry, which creates a more permanent bond between the substrate and ink ideal for outdoor exposure to the elements. “Use a higher ink density for maximum longevity,” says McCausland. When it comes to employing eco-solvent inks for outdoor soft signage, make sure the fabric is coated to accept the inks. “If you’re working with UV inks, you can use either coated or uncoated fabrics,”

says Lily Hunter, product manager, Textiles and Consumables, at Roland DGA. “For dye-sublimation, you will need to use polyester fabrics. The only limitation with dye-sublimation is that the inks are not as lightfast as eco-solvent or UV inks, so they will fade more quickly.” Sublimation is popular with flags if they’re going to be used short-term (up to six months). Also gaining traction here are customized event tents. “These are commonly used at functions to display company logos and other advertisements,” says Hunter. “When the event is over, the tents are taken down and reused at a different event. Since they’re made of fabric, they can be easily cleaned.” Color Management Valade says the level color accuracy in outdoor graphics is really dependent on your client. “If your customer is just looking for bright, vivid colors (and an exact match of specific colors isn’t crucial), changing color management settings within the RIP can definitely make a sign ‘pop’ after printing,” he says. “This can also help the graphic last a little longer in outdoor environments before fading.” Conrad points out that lighting at the final installation site will help you gauge color profiles. “Lighting can affect the image and how it appears based on location and exposure to both natural sunlight and manufactured lights,” he says. “Then you have

Exterior Consumables Before printing onto vinyl or fabric for outdoor use, consider the durability of the ink and media being utilized. “Think about the length of time the graphic will be outdoors and how much direct sunlight it will get,” says Valade. Environmental conditions play a role here too. “This includes weather, foot traffic, possibility for vandalism, and life expectancy of the image,” says Conrad. signshop.com

UV hardware allows shops to print directly to unconventional surfaces.

July 2017

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Eco-solvent inks are ideal for outdoor prints thanks to their bonding chemistry.

different types of manufactured lighting that you need to be sure you understand before you print the graphics. “Take readings where the graphic will be installed and incorporate those into your profile to be sure you deliver exactly what the customer is expecting.” Conrad adds that lightboxes can really enhance an outdoor graphic, whether the image is printed onto vinyl or fabric. Surface preparation is key to an outdoor graphics install. “Consult an application guide for the media you’re using to determine if isopropyl alcohol, a mix

of IPA and water/vinegar, or another pretreatment is best,” says Valade. The Lamination Process Lamination promotes longevity and protects the print from weather and abrasion. “You wouldn’t buy a brand-new vehicle without a protective top coat on the surface of the paint, and the same rings true for printed graphics for outdoor use,” says Thompson, noting that laminates range drastically from economy to intermediate to premium to new super laminates. Need for lamination will depend on

the environmental conditions and the campaign length (more long-term than short-term). “However the added protection [lamination provides] is a good idea if you don’t know what to expect at the installation site, assuming it does not take away from the visual expectations of the customer on the image,” says Conrad. Thompson advises to choose your laminate wisely. “Like laminates and vinyls should always be joined—cast with cast, calendered with calendered,” he says. Hunter says, “Cast and calendered films behave differently; cast is generally more flexible than calendered vinyl. Also, if you’re overlaminating a viewthrough window film, be sure to use an optically clear overlaminate.” She adds that some people use liquid coatings, such as Marabu or SuperFrog’s Frog Juice, instead of an overlaminate film. “If you do, always test to ensure that there are no adverse chemical reactions and allow enough time for the coating to cure,” she says.

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VISIT

Photo: Epson America, Inc.

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InfoDirect Your Direct Source for Sign Information Receive vital product and service information from manufacturers and distributors by visiting www.signshop.com/infodirect

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Shop Talk Flexible substrates | BY Ashley bray

The latest trends in awnings and backlit signage.

A

dvancements and new products are always changing the way signs are made, and things are no different with awnings and backlit signage. Awnings Awnings are one of the more functional sign types because they provide protection from the elements, energy savings, and architectural aesthetics. But even as signage alone, they offer quite a bit of versatility. “What is unique about awnings, unlike typical signage, is that usually you are illuminating and advertising on at least three sides,” says Joe Lupton, sales representative at Yorston & Associates, “so three times the amount of real estate to promote your business and better visibility for the brand or products offered.” Lupton urges sign shops to think big-

ger on the awning design and go beyond just letters. Incorporating lighting is one way to do this. “Technology, as always, is advancing and breathing life into building accents,” says Lupton. “This is partially due to the versatility of LEDs. LEDs have provided limitless possibilities of size, shape, and depth of awning.” As more and more illumination is used, Lupton cautions shops not to feel restricted by the lighting. “Use the mindset of trying to build an awning around the limitations of a lamp,” he says. Ariel Chang, upstream operations manager for Arlon Flex, and Joseph Leon, customer service/product manager for Arlon Flex, say many shops are using single-source and multi-source lighting more and more, which enhances the applied graphics. They have also observed the increased use of inkjet and digitally printed graph-

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Backlit Developments in illumination are also playing a big role in backlit signage. “Some of the trends we are currently seeing include the development of LED lighting and flexible substrates designed to accentuate graphics,” say Chang and Leon. “We are also seeing manufacturers developing whiter/ brighter flexible substrates.” Lupton adds that advancements in LEDs have resulted in shallower cabinets and letters. He also sees improvements on the substrate side. “There have also been many advancements with extruded shapes, and retainers are making these shapes far easier to work with,” he says. As with awning design, Lupton urges sign shops to be creative with backlit signs. “Think outside the box, no pun intended. We have all fallen victim to old habits,” he says. “Technology is advancing so fast that you must make a strong effort to keep up.”

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

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Photo: Arlon Flex.

From Point A to Point B

ics versus screenprinted graphics. Lupton has also observed this change. “We are seeing more than just eradicated material. Now we are seeing textural and artistic use of awnings with the common use of grand format printers,” he says. (Note: Arlon Flex has products and capabilities to handle any flexible substrate decoration need, including topcoated flexible substrates, digitally printable wide width flex, and large format screenprinted graphics.) Chang and Leon have some other tips for shops working with awnings: create single-piece structures/cabinet systems; avoid hinges if possible; minimize the length of the awning to be a maximum of twenty-five to thirty feet; and minimize the width of the awning to be under eighty-four inches.


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SIGN BUILDER

ILLUSTRATED


July 2017 Sign Builder Illustrated  

This issue features stories on regulations, identity signage, pylon signs, pricing and business management, post-and-panel signs, vinyl, and...