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The How-To Magazine

F ebrua ry 201 8 | signs h o m

Covering Experiential Graphics



Razzle Dazzle How To: Designing With HDU, EMC Display Future

Lighting Treatments LED and Neon

Architectural Standout wayfinding



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Contents February 2018

Vol. 32

No. 272

How-To Columns



By Jim Hingst Putting on the finishing touches.


6 8 12 42 44


Tax reform is here, and Editor Jeff Wooten tries to budget what this might mean for your sign shop.


Razzle DAZZLE changes San Diego airport, LED displays transform a health facility, FASTSIGNS CEO wins award, and this year’s ISA Board of Directors.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

ISA’s David Hickey looks at the next hot sign technologies on the horizon.

36 Features

26 30 32

26 2

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018


Funny thing about ExperienTial GRAPHICS

By Jeff Wooten Transforming an arcade bar to create an animated experience.


By Jeff Wooten Welcome to large format wall and window murals.


By Mike Antoniak Looking at the lights of Lower Broadway.


By Ashley Bray A wholesaler and a sign shop work together to create five sets of channel letters.


By Jeff Wooten Advice for making directional signs work best.

​Cover Photo: Racepoint Global.



We designed and manufactured the perfect material. The projects you specify it for is up to you.

The Simpsons are featured in our branding story on page 22. Who’s your favorite minor character from the TV series?

February 2018, Vol. 32, No. 272 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

“Sideshow Bob.”

editorial “​Comic Book Guy. Worst. Answer. Ever.”

Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244 Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220 Contributing Writers Mike Antoniak, David Hickey, Jim Hingst, Lori Shridhare

art Art Director Nicole Cassano Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Associate Publisher/East Coast Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233

“Gil Gunderson, the sales guy.”

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


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

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Editor’s Column


By Jeff Wooten

February 2018 FEBRUARY 15-16:

The Midwest Sign Association will conduct its Winter Meeting at the Renaissance Hotel in Toledo, Ohio. (


The Mid South Sign Association’s “New Ideas, New Possibilities” conference takes place at the Holiday Inn, Alexandria Downtown Convention Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. (


Graphics of the Americas 2018 will commence at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (

Are You Reformed?

Will the new tax code pay off for you?


Sign Builder Illustrated

and graphics companies may benefit from: 1. “Pass-through” businesses will receive a significant reduction in taxes, and since most sign and graphics businesses are “pass-through,” i.e., companies organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or S corporations that don’t pay the corporate income tax, they will receive a 20 percent deduction for the first $315,000 of joint income, on top of the lowering of personal income tax rates. 2. Short-lived capital investments can be fully and immediately expensed, and the new law will allow full and immediate expensing of short-lived capital investments for five years as well as increase the Section 179 expensing cap from $500,000 to $1 million. 3. Estate tax exemption will more than double, and with many sign companies being family-owned, there is now greater leeway for owners to pass their estate on to potential heirs. Of course, a lot of this really depends on your profits and goals. So do you expect your business to change and why? I’d love to hear your experiences. As George Harrison sang, “Be thankful I don’t take it all. ’Cause I’m the taxman.” I don’t say this often about The Beatles, but is it time for a redo to hit the charts?

Jeff Wooten Editor,

February 2018

March 2018 MARCH 22-24:

ISA International Sign Expo 2018 is scheduled to be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (

May 2018 MAY 7-11:

LIGHTFAIR International, the world’s largest architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow, happens at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. (

June 2018 JUNE 7-9:

Photo: Shutterstock/PhuShutter.


f you drive a car, I’ll tax the street. If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat. If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.” Although these lyrics by George Harrison for The Beatles’ song “Taxman” were written fifty-some years ago about the British Labour government of U.K. Prime Minister Harold Wilson, it also reflects U.S. tax policy through the years. And as you know by now (and have probably informed an opinion about), Congress and the President passed H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” just before the end of 2017 amid a flurry of behind-closed-doors volleys and returns to come up with something that satisfied the majorities of the Senate and the House. It’s being billed as the largest rewrite of the tax code in decades, and while this lengthy makeover required a lot to study in such a short period of time, things are starting to take shape. This tax reform is a new frontier for what it will mean to you and/or your shop and employees. But who will benefit more—Wall Street or your street? The intention is that larger corporations and entities will be encouraged to invest their profits into workers and the economy, but I’ve always been a cynical curmudgeon who always looks first at the finest fine print. Lower expectations and expect the worst; set the bar so low that I end up pleasantly surprised. The International Sign Association recently dissected the new tax code and found three interesting points that sign

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

JUNE 14-15:

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

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In The Industry

Razzle DAZZLE artwork

changes airport


an Diego, California—Last fall, electronic ink technology innovator E Ink Holdings, experiential design firm Ueberall International, and San Diego International Airport unveiled DAZZLE, a monumental public artwork project featuring the largest deployment of E Ink’s Prism™ technology. Located at the San Diego International Airport’s new Rental Car Center, DAZZLE is designed to enhance visitors’ experience through the installment of over 2,000 individual tiles that display custom, dynamic animations across the exterior of the building. The autonomous, solarpowered tiles use E Ink Prism, similar to the technology found in e-readers but 8

Sign Builder Illustrated

adapted for an architectural scale. DAZZLE transforms the 1,600-footlong façade of the new airport Rental Car Center into an interactive landmark mural, which will be viewed daily by hundreds of thousands of airport visitors, public transit users, and motorists on the Interstate 5 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway. Ueberall International designed the site-specific artwork with inspiration from Norman Wilkinson’s “razzle dazzle” camouflage technique used during World War I in the waters of San Diego to alter the perception of ships to the enemy by visually scrambling their shapes and outlines. The artwork is truly site-specific, as it responds to the unique, faceted geometry of the building architecture.

February 2018

“Our artist approach for DAZZLE was inspired by the historic form of ship camouflage, but our breakthrough came with the idea of applying e-Paper technology to the façade. We knew that E Ink technology was the perfect partner to help us achieve our design, given its flexible and extremely durable properties,” said Nik Hafermaas, co-founder of Ueberall International and principal project artist. “We’ve worked with E Ink on a number of projects, so we’re thrilled to reveal the largest deployment of E Ink Prism in the world.” The physical components of DAZZLE include e-Paper tiles, wireless transmitters, and a host computer. The e-Paper tiles are designed in a parallelogram

fastsigns CEO wins Award


a r r o l lt o n , T e x a s — Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS International, Inc., received the 2017 Distinguished Wo m e n Awa rd p rese n te d by Northwood University last November because of her achievements and true leadership in her community and in the business world. “It’s an honor to be recognized among Northwood University’s Distinguishe d Wom en Award recipients, both past and present,” said Monson. “I am excited about meeting the students and being part of this year’s Distinguished Women celebration.” Created in 1970 by the Northwood University Board of Trustees, the Distinguished Women Award honors role models by recognizing the enormous contributions women make to communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and public and private sector services worldwide. Honorees share a dedication to higher education and represent the values Northwood University espouses for its own students: commitment to free enterprise, the partnership of arts and business, and the management of global commerce.

DAZZLE is a monumental public artwork featuring the largest deployment of E Ink’s Prism™ technology. shape and arranged in algorithmic distances to create an overall dynamic visual effect, even when the pixels are still. Each tile is integrated with a solar cell for power, electronics for operation, and wireless communication to create each unique animation developed by the artists. The animations can evoke water ripples, moving traffic, dancing snowflakes, or shifting geometries. Unlike competing technologies, E Ink Prism does not emit light but instead reflects ambient light. E Ink Prism provides a print or paint-like appearance and a natural visual experience; requires ultralow power only during a visual change with no electrical outlets required; can be sized to be compatible with most

figurations, patterns, and materials; and is available in seven colors. “This [was] the first large-scale deployment of E Ink’s Prism technology that will be accessible to the public view. It’s a testament to the unique value Prism creates in architectural design, enabling designers to create eco-friendly, durable, and visually exciting designs that transform buildings and structures,” said Paul Apen, chief strategy officer at E Ink. “DAZZLE is the perfect example of how E Ink’s Prism can deliver a completely new and dynamic one-of-a-kind experience, transforming a once static space into something dynamic and spectacular.” For more information, visit and February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


In The Industry ISA 2018 Board of Directors

A Daktronics Display Transforms



rookings, South Dakota— Daktronics installed lightweight, freeform LED displays on the outside of Sanford Health’s new Imagenetics building in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The versatile LED technology brings an aesthetically pleasing design and artistic, genetic-centric content to the facility’s exterior. The project was completed this past summer ahead of the building’s grand opening in early October. “Sanford Health was looking to do something different and unique that would stand out at their Imagenetics building, and we’re excited that we were able to provide them with the solution they were looking for,” said Daktronics Sales Representative Matt Warnke. “This facility is focused on the future and the collaboration between genetics and primary care, so they wanted something to help match their image. This installation definitely does that for them.” The display wraps around the corner of the building at a 90-degree angle as it covers windows to a conference room and stairwell. It measures approximately 21 feet high-by-18 feet wide, which is 9 feet wide on each side of the building. The display was created using stickshaped LED elements with 50-milli10

Sign Builder Illustrated

meter line spacing. The sticks are then spaced 25 millimeters apart to create the transparency that allows people inside the building to see outward through the display. The lightweight design is mounted directly to the windows with no extra materials for support. The design leverages the versatility of Daktronics freeform products that can be used in a variety of ways to create a digital canvas. This installation features a panelized frame for easy installation onsite. The Daktronics Creative Services team produced digital content to bring the display to life. The content consists of relatable brand imagery signifying the purpose of the building and what’s happening inside. Two notable animations include a fingerprint representing the individuality of genetics and a DNA double helix indicating the research and genetic testing taking place inside the building. “We worked closely with [Sanford’s] team to understand the intent of their content,” said Daktronics Creative Services Account Manager Ellen Sandager. “They weren’t looking for advertising or logo animations. They wanted to visually represent the purpose of the building and the unique delivery of care happening inside.”

February 2018

lexandria, Virginia—The International Sign Association’s 2018 Board of Directors reflects the breadth of the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry, including representatives from local and national sign companies, international suppliers/ distributors, and end-user groups. The ISA Board of Directors is responsible for setting direction for the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry’s leading association and providing insight into issues affecting members. “We would not be this thriving association and industry without those who have given of their time in the past,” said Lori Anderson, ISA president and CEO. “I have no doubt that this board, with its vast experience and accomplishments, will set ISA on a course for success in 2018 and beyond.” Mark Granberry (pictured) of Graphic Solutions Group, Inc., in Dallas, Texas, will serve as Chair of the 2018 ISA Board of Directors. Visit to see the full list of this year’s ISA Board of Directors members.

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Sign Show ACRYLICS/PLASTICS LuciteLux: Captivating Colors for 2018 in the World of Design Pantone® recently revealed “Ultra Violet” as its design color of the year for 2018. Lucite International is passionate about color, and in turn, the company’s LuciteLux® cast acrylic is now available in a vast range of purple shades, textures, and effects to help you embrace the color of the moment: LuciteLux® Frost in Aurora Violet or Violet Heather (effortlessly cool style with a matte texture); LuciteLux® Impressions in Violet (the performance of LuciteLux cast acrylic with an extra dimension of texture); LuciteLux® Sparkle in Gleaming Violet (to add a little shimmer); and LuciteLux® Vario in Passion Flower Violet (striking, fluorescent live edge contrasts beautifully with the subtle surface color).

ADA/WAYFINDING Gemini’s Duets Laser XT Outperforms Industry Standards in UV Stability Testing Conducted at the company’s test lab facilities, Gemini’s technical team subjected Duets Laser XT product line to an extensive battery of xenon-arc UV exposure, accelerated weathering, and color spectrophotometer analysis comparable to southern-latitude U.S. conditions on its entire line of Laser XT color combinations. Test results prove that Duets Laser XT engraving substrates offer extended UV stability and resistance to fading. Post-test color analysis shows that, as a whole, Duets Laser XT outperforms industry benchmarks for Delta-E color shifts, with many samples exhibiting unnoticeable color difference and virtually unchanged visual condition.

GSA Approves Nova Polymers as the Leading Supplier for Photopolymer Sign Materials The versatility and durability of NovAcryl photopolymer material is a key reason why the U.S. government’s General Service Adminstration (GSA) has selected Nova Polymers as a qualified vendor. For signage companies, having access to approved materials from listed companies ensures consistency of product and helps ensure timely, accurate bidding. Designers and fabricators who would like to work on government projects now have a straightforward path to using Nova Polymers’s GSA certification to their advantage. When responding to a GSA RFP, include Nova Polymers as the lead supplier along with the GSA DUNS number 152325796 and the CAGE number 7WA95 (for Nova Polymers). This identification will make it easy to find in the GSA database and call up support references.

DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES XRite eXact Family Supports New ISO Standard for Spot Color Tone Value X-Rite Incorporated and its subsidiary Pantone® LLC have announced that its eXact family of handheld spectrophotometers now includes a Spot Color Tone Value (SCTV) feature that supports the latest ISO 20654 standard. The eXact SCTV configuration allows commercial and package printers to verify tone value for spot colors that correlate well with visual appearance. With this latest firmware update to the eXact family, printers will be able to more easily verify both spot and process colors that brands specify using the new standard. This software enables users to separately configure the tone value formula for spot colors as well as CMYK.

DIGITAL SIGNS/EMCS/VIDEO DISPLAYS Techno Signz Launches the Digi Pilot Sign Conventional traffic control signs resort to static or backlit signage, when every other industry is digitizing. Enter the Digi Pilot Sign from Techno Signz, a Canadian-based technology and signs company. The world’s first auto-dimming digital piloting sign, the Digi Pilot Sign boasts 175m viewing distance, is completely controllable through a smartphone application, and has a self-reacting message board, which dims when oncoming traffic is within a 100m range. Users can easily update the Digi Pilot Sign through the app and create their own customized message that instantly informs road users. Due the sign’s greater viewing distance, road users will also have more time to prepare and react.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

Look for us at the ISA Expo Booth # 2026





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Sign Show Rah, Rah, Rah! Watchfire Introduces a New LED Sign for Outdoor Sports Applications The Watchfire S16mm LED sign is designed for outdoor sporting venues to provide the ultimate fan experience. The sign features an ultra-high refresh rate of 4800 Hz and vivid, true-to-life images with 73.8 quintillion possible colors for smooth playback and broadcast-quality content. The sign's 160º horizontal viewing angle provides more uniform side viewing with a bright, crisp image. The S16mm modules are universally sized, making design, upgrade, and installation easy. Beveled modules and versatile mounting options make the S16mm an excellent choice as a video board within a scoreboard, an outfield panel, or any spectacular installation. Made for all-weather outdoor applications, LED modules are protected by encapsulation in silicone gel and are rated for temperature variations of -40º to 185º F.

FABRICS HP Durable Backlit Fabric is the Softer Solution for LED-Backlit Signage Fabric signage is fast replacing polyester film for LED-backlit solutions. To satisfy this growing market, HP has introduced HP Durable Backlit Fabric, a lightweight, flame-resistant material engineered with ColorPRO Technology and created specifically to provide a soft, elegant, organic look. Designed to reduce accidental damage during finishing, shipping, and installation, this durable, enhanced fabric is also recyclable and REACH-compliant. Intended to increase profit potential for latex print service providers, HP Durable Backlit Fabric prints sharp, fine detail that is comparable to paper or polyester film, making it the perfect solution for displays designed for up-close viewing. (888) 893-4668;

MODULAR SIGNS New Products on Display from Orbus Exhibit & Display Group Orbus Exhibit & Display Group®, one of North America’s leading trade suppliers of display, exhibit, and event solutions, is proud to announce the addition of sixty-three new and enhanced portable and modular displays to its extensive offering of tradeshow, exhibit, and display products in its new 2018 catalog, The Exhibitors’ Handbook. One of these products is the Backlit Embrace™ Collapsible Display (pictured). Adding to the popular line of exclusive Embrace displays, these backlit displays feature easyto-install LED lights. Featured in four different sizes (from tabletop to twelve feet wide), the new Backlit Embrace displays are ideal options for attracting attention.

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SOFTWARE Worldwide Agreement for Software on Graphtec’s Full Range of Vinyl Cutters SA International (SAi) has announced a worldwide agreement with Graphtec to supply three newlycreated cutting software packages for the company’s entire range of large format vinyl cutters. Driven by SAi’s Flexi software, the feature-rich cutting solutions—Cutting Master 4, Graphtec Pro Studio, and Graphtec Pro Studio Plus—have been designed to meet the varied requirements of print service providers and sign and display companies. The new three-tier offering replaces Graphtec’s previous software solution (also named Graphtec Pro Studio) and provides users with access to the specific design and cutting tools to suit their respective needs.;


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

Sign Show VINYL/VINYL FILMS/SUPPLIES A Mactac Overlaminate Just Got Better With a new 3.2-mil clear PVC facestock that is known for its ability to eliminate color shifting and a 58# smooth white Kraft liner, Mactac’s PERMACOLOR® ColorGard™ LUV overlaminates are available in a variety of surface finishes, including the LUV8000 Gloss Series, LUV8100 Matte Series, and LUV8200 Lustre Series. They can be be laminated to photographic prints, UV screen-printed images, and latex, solvent, eco-solvent, water-based, and UV inkjet prints to impart protection from abrasion, moisture, and other potentially damaging effects in both indoor and outdoor environments. They also now boast longer outdoor durability, ranging from five to seven years.

Magic Digital Imaging Media: New Year, New Products Dietzgen Corporation has added to its Magic line of digital imaging media: FABTAC 6 (a 7.5-mil polyester woven fabric that will stick and remove from virtually any surface); FABBLOCK 6 (an 11-mil polyester fireretardant blockout fabric that eliminates image washout); GFPOSTER5S (a 5-mil economy poster paper with a low-glare satin finish); GFPOSTER8G (an 8-mil premium poster paper with a superior gloss finish); GFPOSTER8S (an 8-mil premium poster paper with a superior satin finish); GTAC (a low-cost paper with a permanent adhesive with a glossy surface); MTAC (a low-cost paper with a permanent adhesive with a matte surface); OMNI (a 7.5-mil, indoor satin poster paper); and WRAPITAQ (a 4-mil, durable, water-resistant paper designed to look and feel like traditional wrapping and wall décor paper).

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February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


How To


HDU Tiki Sign, Part Two Putting on the finishing touches. face debris with a chip brush and blew off any dust with an air hose. (Note: To read about how to apply TSF-45 to HDU material, check out my howto column “Decorating HDU” in the December 2017 issue.)


n last month’s issue, I started showing how I created a custom Tiki sign made out of Precision Board HDU for a bar. I discussed urethane glues, epoxies, and hardeners during the early stages of this fabrication process. In my final installment of reviewing how I designed and built this sign, I will detail how I transferred the Tiki appliqué to the HDU, as well as point out some other decorating tips. Roughing Out the Design After gluing up the HDU boards for the Tiki mask, I was ready to rough out the job. On the ends of the boards, I marked a semi-circular shape as a guide. Using a 4-1/2-inch angle grinder with an 80grit flap disk, I rounded the edges of the HDU block. An angle grinder can make short work of this stage of carving and is much faster than using a gouge. (Note: When using an angle grinder, be sure to wear your safety equipment including a tight-fitting respirator with a particulate filter and either a face shield 16

Sign Builder Illustrated

or safety glasses.) I then employed chisels, gouges, knives, rasps, and files to carve the HDU. Because HDU has no grain or

HDU has no grain or knots, so it can be easier to cut than real wood using tools like chisels and knives. knots, it was easier to cut than if I had used real wood here. To add some flowing texture to the torch flames, I used TSF-45 Texture Surface Finish on it. Before applying this, I made sure to clean off the sur-

February 2018

Securing the Tiki Appliqué One of the challenges in building the Tiki bar sign was affixing the heavy appliqué to the backboard. To mount the Tiki, I decided to use threaded rods epoxied into the body of the carving. After the rods had hardened in the epoxy, I made a pattern for drilling into the backboard using brown kraft paper. (Note: You can make the pattern in a number of different ways. One of the easier ways is to paint the ends of the rods and transfer the impression of the rods onto the paper.) Using the paper pattern, I drilled holes in the backboard. The next step was to make sure that everything fit together. Once I finished checking this, I coated the backboard with thickened epoxy and secured the two parts together. To ensure that no epoxy dries on the threading, you can use a number of products. Some people apply wax, cooking spray, and even Teflon® plumbing tape to keep the threads clean and workable, so you can screw on your washers and nuts. Doming the Letters with Epoxy For the copy on the sign, I wanted a nice, smooth finish. I had seen some signs where epoxy had been used to create an ultra-smooth finish. In fact, it looked as if the letters were domed. Precision Board makes a two-part modified clear epoxy resin that you can mix with paint that will create this effect. The resin and the hardener mix at a 1:1 ratio. The key to successful application





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How To


of this material is to measure exact amounts of the resin and hardener and thoroughly mix the components for two minutes. As you are stirring, take care not to whip any air into the mixture. Af-

ter mixing the resin, you usually have about twenty to thirty minutes of working time. In a warmer shop environment, you will have less working time. To extend the working time, you can place the con-

tainers of resin and hardener in a refrigerator fifteen minutes before use. After everything is mixed, you have plenty of working time. At 75° F, you should have about thirty minutes. After mixing resin and hardener, you


Sign Builder Illustrated



Sign Builder Illustrated

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How To


can color the mixture with lettering enamel. Little by little add the paint, testing the mixture for opacity on a printed page. “You should use as much paint as it takes to block out the printing, but no more,” advises Kellie Miller of Coastal Enterprises. As a general rule of thumb, you can mix up to a teaspoon to eight ounces of epoxy mixture. “For small batches, add the paint a few drops at a time,” recommends Miller. “Once the mixture is opaque enough, do not add any more lettering enamel. Too much paint can prevent the resin from hardening.” On a large area, you can pour the resin directly from your mixing cup onto the center of the graphic. For smaller copy, you may want to use a squeeze bottle or syringe to dispense the epoxy.

After allowing the mixture to flow out, you can coax the resin to the edge with a craft stick—being careful to pull and not push the liquid. To ensure that the resin levels out evenly, make sure that you work on a level surface. “If the surface is not level, you will break the surface tension of the resin, and it will spill over an edge,” says Miller. Usually a smooth, flat letter only requires one coat of epoxy. If you need to apply a second coat, wait for the first coat to dry. Complete curing takes about twenty-four hours, after which you can paint or gild the surface. Clear resin must be painted or it will yellow. As the epoxy is curing, air bubbles sometimes develop as a result of the chemical reaction. Misting the applied resin with 91 percent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) will burst the bubbles. If bubbles

continue to appear, continue to lightly spray the resin. I then painted and primed the HDU. (Note: For details about this, check out the December 2017 issue.) Applying Smalts Smalts, which are composed of either crushed glass enamel or colored sand, were used by old-timers to decorate the background of signs many decades ago. Glass smalts are usually preferred because of their shiny, eye-catching appearance. For the background of this sign, I ordered Peacock Blue smalts from Artisan Signs in St. Louis, which stocks thirty-six different colors. To adhere the smalts to the sign substrate, many sign makers commonly use a 50:50 mixture of Smith’s Cream and Lettering enamel. The lettering enamel should match the color of the smalts that

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February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


you are applying. For convenience, Artisan Signs provides a chart on their Web site ( matching smalts with lettering enamels. After a thick, uniform coating of the adherent was applied the sign, I sprinkled the smalts over the wet surface in a thick and uniform layer. Do not apply the coating of adherent thicker than 1/8inch or it may not dry properly. One pound of smalts generally covers between one-and-a-half to two square feet. My advice, however, is to order much more than you think you need. Apply a generous coating of smalts. Any smalts that have not adhered to the sign can be dumped off onto a drop cloth and reused. Repairs and Modifications If you make a mistake or want to modify your design, epoxy clay is a godsend. Like other epoxies, it consists of two parts. One part is the resin; the other is the hardener. When the two parts are mixed together, a chemical reaction occurs. Working time is typically forty minutes. Heat accelerates the curing process. So if your shop is hot, the epoxy clay will cure much more quickly than in a cold shop. Within two to three hours, the material is usually hard enough to be carved, sanded, and abraded with rasps and files. To mix an epoxy clay, such as Magic Sculpt, take two equal parts of the resin and the hardener and roll each into two separate balls. Then “smush� or press the two balls together, rolling the components to form a cylinder or rope shape. The color of each component is noticeably different, which is a good characteristic. Continue to fold and roll the epoxy clay until the two components are blended into one uniform color. What’s important is that the two parts are mixed well together. If the two parts are not blended sufficiently, the epoxy clay will not cure properly and harden to its ultimate strength. After mixing the epoxy clay, you can adhere it to your carving and mold it into whatever shape you like. For my sign, I used it to form the head of the Tiki torch. Wetting your fingers allows you to smooth the surface of the clay. Hardened clay can be primed and painted with the same paints that you use on your HDU. 20

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

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the funny thing about

Experiential Graphics R

eplay Lincoln Park in Chicago is already a fun place to visit thanks to its mix of pop culture, alcoholic drinks, and arcade games. However Owner Mark Kwiatkowski was looking to find a way to make his trendy establishment stand out even further. 22

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This past October, he decided to transform the interior into a real-life version of Moe’s Tavern straight from the popular, long-running animated television series The Simpsons. According to Kwiatowski, his goal was to “bring attention to his bar and his brand” and attract people to visit it

February 2018

around Halloween. Needless to say, the end-result exceeded his expectations! Simpsons-inspired artwork and iconography could be found throughout Replay Lincoln Park during this shortterm branding campaign. Painstaking research into details of the TV show combined with the latest

All Photos: Shira Kollins.

Transforming an arcade bar to create an animated experience.

nology resulted in large 3D wall murals, floor and window graphics, foam-core cut outs, and blackout and textured vinyl applications. There was a printed stand-up of Moe the Bartender cut out from black foam-core, as well as a foam-core replica of the Love Tester featured in some

episodes. Bar taps were wrapped with Duff Beer logos. A vinyl-covered cocktail menu promoted Moe-themed drinks like the “Flaming Moe” and the “Frozen Squishee.” Colorful posters for the Isotopes baseball team and the Android’s Dungeon comic book shop were adhered to the refrigerated glass doors of the bar area. A wall mural recreating the Moe’s Tavern mirror lined up behind the counter. A graphic of a drunken Barney was sprawled on the floor. And there was much, much more for Simpsons fans of any level to appreciate! The even funnier thing about this project is that Kwiatowski initially had no idea what he wanted to do in order to transform his bar. The only sure idea that Kwiatowski had was that he wanted something fun that would completely change his bar environment. So he started searching for a set designer to help him accomplish his vague vision. Enter Shira Kollins, owner of SpeedPro Imaging Chicago ( Kollins graduated from DePaul University in 1998 with a degree in graphic design and started work in the marketing world at an ad agency where she ran their large format output for years. She later became an art director for CS magazine, a national publication focused on modern luxury. Kollins opened her “boutique” SpeedPro Imaging Chicago location back in 2010 and has been doing lots of set designs and backdrops for local theaters, corporate events, and even the Joffrey Ballet. Kollins and her team have also created large format graphics for other Chicago landmarks like Soldier Field, Field Museum, and Hilton Hotels. One of her first jobs involved designing, producing, and installing 60,000 square feet of signs and 3D lettering for the Mario Batalia’s Eataly restaurant. Today Kollins runs her shop with two other employees—a production designer and a sales manager. (Note: She brings aboard another production manager during busy periods.) Their projects are 100 percent designed by them from scratch. “Our production and design strength is stellar,” says Kollins, noting that she also has a

network of twenty installers nationally and five installers locally. “You have to really celebrate the team when you have a good team.” They also do lots of office space buildouts with wall murals, frosted glass, and abstract designs. “We specialize in [projects] that aren’t normal,” she says. “However transforming people’s workspaces with experiential graphics is one of my favorites.” The trend of Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) is improving the consumer experience and the bottom line for businesses nationwide, as they connect people to a place or brand, boost sales, and create memorable experiences through graphic design applications. Kollins starts her projects going over the budget with her client. Her goal in these initial conversations is to arrive at more than just a generic work order. “I’m very involved,” she says. “I make stock art folders of what my client will like and share those with my team to see what we can do.” One of the things Kollins likes to do is get her clients to think creatively with her and her team about what can actually be produced. “I explain the process to them,” says Kollins, “which sometimes helps us get a lot of information.” While Kollins had never met Kwiatowski before this project, she was already familiar with his Replay bars when he approached her asking for ideas about what her business could do for his establishment.

February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


Customer Service shira Kollins says customer care requires doing a lot more tests than ever before, thanks to pickier clients these days. “If we get people who say they don’t care about different aspects of the project and we print something, it’s then that they’ll have an opinion about what they wanted,” she says. “So we always charge for design time.” Kollins also passes out sample books with matte and gloss laminates to show customers. Speaking of brand consistency, Kollins’s shop places their blackand-red brand on the back of every sign they produce and deliver, to remind existing customers and attract new ones.

One of Kollins’s main goals for any project is to figure out the client’s personality and what would work best for them. “I spent five hours measuring Mark’s bar, taking photos, and talking about what would appeal to him,” she says. “I found out that he was a Simpsons fan, and that really clicked. One of the big icons featured on the show is Moe’s Tavern, so this seemed perfect!” Kwiatowski had a trivia night scheduled, so Kollins and her team pulled out all the “bells and whistles” to make sure that he would have his Moe’s Tavern recreation up and running by then. There was never an exact list of what needed to be included in the project. “I really just culled the best imagery I could find and then our production manager redrew it from scratch,” says Kollins. For the Moe’s Tavern EGD transformation, Kollins studied the areas where she thought graphics would make sense and designed from there. She spent half the day picking out the artwork and making sure it was what Kwiatowski wanted, retouching it and adding Simpsons-related hidden Easter eggs for die-hard fans of the series to notice. 24

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“It was the best five hours I could spend with Mike. He was pulling up Simpsons stuff on his phone, and I was taking pictures of these images while measuring,” says Kollins. “I then used the Omega app on my phone to upload and share all the pictures with my project manager and sales manager. Our sales manager transferred them to our server while reviewing them to come up with a quote for him.” The entire bar transformation took place at once. Designs were quickly worked up in half-an-hour. Everything was manufactured on their Roland SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640 printer, a seventy-inch plotter, and a GBC cold laminator. (Note: These are the sole pieces of equipment in Kollins’s SpeedPro Imaging studio.) “We ran the big stuff during the day, and we paired up the material to run overnight because it ended up being less than forty-eight hours until the install needed to happen,” says Kollins, noting it took a full day to trim, laminate, and cut the vinyl. General Formulations White Matte Concept® 202 flexible calendared vinyl

February 2018

film was used for most of the project wraps, while Concept® 234 GraphiTex™ wall fabric was utilized for the textured vinyl pieces and Concept® 226 matte semi-rigid calendared vinyl film for blackout vinyl over the doors with porthole windows on them. Concept® 222 was applied onto the Moe the Bartender and Love Tester black foam-core stand-ups. This excellent, full-immersion Moe’s Tavern EGD drew media coverage in newspapers and on television, which resulted in more than a million dollars in media value for the bar. Social media provided an added boom in exposure, as well, thanks to customers experiencing the nostalgia of being at Moe’s Tavern and sharing this with their friends. Meanwhile this short-run, Simpsonsrelated EGD campaign ended up being such a success that Kollins completed another full bar transformation for Kwiatkowski this past Christmas. And the popularity of EGD is continuing to put her shop at the forefront thanks to the combination of designers and graphics providers working under Kollins’s guidance.


Into the Woods with



recent massive rebranding of the Welcome Center at Hewlett Packard’s Worldwide Headquarters in Palo Alto, California involved six different large format graphic projects, including thirty-eight-foot- and fifty-foot-long wall murals, oversized window graphics, and multi-dimensional wall treatments. Long corridors and glassed-in meeting rooms were transformed into award-winning “habitats” (home, office, office-of-the-future, etc.) Images featured in these colorful graphics makeovers included area scenery (the San Francisco skyline at dusk, redwood trees, etc.); abstract designs (pixels and shapes); and HP branding. The company responsible for the output and installation of these interior environment-transforming prints was SpeedPro Imaging - Marin, an independently owned franchise that has been serving the San Francisco Bay Area for seven years now. Owner Steve Moran-Cassese has been blanketing walls with large format graphics for clients such as Facebook, NBC Sports Bay Area, and San Francisco restaurants and hospitals. Their production area features a 104-inch HP latex printer, an HP flatbed printer, a Roland eco-solvent printer, and an Esko CNC contour cut26

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ter, etc. “We also print white ink every day, which is a premium commodity that’s now common on flatbeds,” says Moran-Cassese. An ad agency out of Berlin that had worked with HP for fifteen years now was looking for a printer to partner with on the interior décor project at the Welcome Center. They chose SpeedPro Imaging - Marin for a variety of reasons. For one, Moran-Cassese had spent eighteen years in the agency world before deciding to open his SpeedPro Imaging studio. So not only did he have a couple of agency contacts he could reach out to for work, but more importantly, he understood what agencies expect from a print partner. “Agencies work with high-end clients, so they need to know that they can count on their vendors (whether it’s print or otherwise),” he says. “I’ve been on both sides, so I can talk the talk with them and provide solutions that will make their job a little more easier, which is, in the end, what they want.” Another reason Moran-Cassese and his shop were awarded this project was because they are experts on the media types that are available and what can be done with them. This is a business that prints on materials that can mimic any finish such as silk, suede, metal, and wood, as well as do gradations of

February 2018

white ink on clear if a client wants to see shadows. “We knew which texture to use for the true images of redwoods featured on the lobby wall to make them look and feel like wood,” he says. They were also able to answer questions such as what type of vinyl to use

Photos: SpeedPro - Marin.

Welcome to large format wall and window murals. on large meeting room windows with HP and the Berlin ad agency via Skype. One of the reasons for these graphics is that HP wanted to highlight the unique area scenery. “But they also wanted to showcase their inks and materials,” says Moran-Cassese. “Not all the wall coverings were HP products,

but in those cases, we printed them on HP machines.” Traditional matte and gloss vinyl were used in areas that needed them, but a majority of wallpaper materials featuring different textures were used throughout. “It goes on with paste,” says Moran-Cassese. “It’s very durable and

fire-retardant.” The ad agency provided all the artwork, created in Adobe Illustrator. Challenges included making sure the correct Pantone® colors were used to consistently meet brand colors as well as converting panel measurements from the Berlin ad agency’s centimeters

February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


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to U.S. inches. “We had to make sure those measurements were accurate,” says Moran-Cassese, “because one missed calculation could leave us a little bit short.” The entire project took a couple of months starting with pre-planning. Of course, there was also the wait for approvals between the client and the agency, and then the agency had to develop and finish the artwork to send to SpeedPro Imaging. But installation had a firm, set date. “The ‘beauty’ was that the printing aspect is always the last in line, so the client can get as much time as possible to make decisions or get approvals to produce the design,” says Moran-Cassese. “By the time it gets to us, we can’t say, ‘Hey, we need two more weeks on the back end! So there’s going to be a squeeze, but successful shops have to be able to punch it out.” The ultimate goal for HP was to showcase their products and capabilities in large format while also creating a visual experience for their clients. The images will be periodically rotated out with new scenery and branding prints to keep things fresh. Moran-Cassese has noticed that wall coverings are extremely popular these days. In fact, he cites HP internal research finding that environmental graphics that transform surroundings and help connect people to a place is the fastestgrowing sector in all of wide format. “Now not only can you pick the image that you want, but you can pick the surface look that you want it to appear on,” says Moran-Cassese. “You can pick a huge glass atrium—it doesn’t matter how big or how wide—and run optically clear polyester vinyl panels with very ornate prints using white ink,” he says. It’s important for shops though to understand that this is a premium product. “We’ve done the research, and you can basically yield a higher dollar square foot amount for this type of work because it’s considered typically high end,” says Moran-Cassese. “The clients even are going to be typically higher end. “We are seeing an increasing interest in environmental graphics among architectural design firms, which is petty exciting.”

The Hard Facts About Dye Sub Last month, we showed you how dye sublimation is used for soft signage (“Getting Soft About Sublimation”). But Robin Kavanagh, public relations manager for Sawgrass, says hard signage applications are often overlooked. “Metal panels [and outdoor panels] are now designed to withstand outdoor conditions and UV exposure, which makes hard signage applications more versatile than ever,” she says. “Metal photo panels easily turn into static menus. Tabletops, ceiling tiles, and large floor mats can be sublimated into promotional signs. Point-ofpurchase signage applications are endless, as are the opportunities to create every sign a customer needs: directional signs, identification signs, decorative artwork, promotional signs, custom giveaways.” Randy Anderson, product marketing manager at Mutoh America, Inc., adds, “These can be on any number of substrates— metal, HMDF, acrylics, etc. Blanks are made for phones, awards, belt buckles, and virtually anything you can imagine.” Dye sublimation technology can also be used to transfer to hard surfaces, though just like fabric, the final medium must be 100-percent polyester-based/ coated material. “Hard surface transfer will also require a clamshell-type heat press, as rigid material cannot be processed through a roll-based heat press,” says Tommy Martin, product manager, Textile & Apparel Business Development & Marketing at Mimaki USA.

In turn, Moran-Cassese’s SpeedPro Imaging - Marin is building up their reputation in environmental graphics stepby-step. They send out portfolio books to potential clients about the work that is possible with these graphics and educate them about their capabilities. LinkedIn and other social media avenues are also employed to build their reputation in

this field. “But a lot of it is just picking up the phone and trying to reach those architectural firms and interior designers and share the vast opportunities that environmental graphics can provide,” says Moran-Cassese. —Additional reporting by Graham Chapman

February 2018

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Looking at the lights of Lower Broadway.



long Lower Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee, a neon revival has helped transform a downtown historic district into Music City’s top destination—drawing tourists and country music fans the world over. “You couldn’t have too much neon along Lower Broadway,” says Ed Smith, owner of several western boot and ap30

Sign Builder Illustrated

parel stores announced by prominent, retro neon signs featuring boots and cowgirls. “That neon is part of the excitement of the area and says we’re part of the country music scene.” Tom Morales agrees. He owns Acme Feed and Seed, a feed store he converted into a trendy multi-level restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue, which is an-

February 2018

nounced by a neon rooster atop the building. “Neon speaks to what the area is,” he says. “The colors, the electricity of neon— it says fun, entertainment, and action.” Bobby Joslin, owner of Joslin & Son Signs (, estimates that his company has designed, fabricated, installed, and serviced 90 percent of the dozens of neon signs that have gone up

All photos: Joslin & Son Signs.

neon revival

in the area the past twenty years. “When you see opening shots of downtown for the NFL, hockey games, or the CMA, it’s all those lights along ‘Lower Broad’ that represent Nashville,” he says. Music City Mecca Visitors flock to “Lower Broad” to experience the country music, lore, and lifestyle those lights help suggest. Their tourist dollars support thriving blocks of honky tonks, restaurants, and country-themed museums, souvenir shops, and stores. When the sun goes down, all that neon comes to life, adding its vibrant, colorful glow to the district’s distinctly southern charms and festivities. Twenty-five years ago, it was a much different place. The district, in the shadow of the Ryman Auditorium, was only beginning to emerge from hard times. When the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman for a new, more spacious hall at Opryland in the mid1970s, the area slipped into a long decline. The faithful still made pilgrimages to the mother church of country music, but their numbers dwindled. By the 1980s, a few honky tonks survived, alongside abandoned buildings, pawn shops, and adultonly businesses. As far as neon, a distinct guitar-shaped sign announced Ernest Tubb Record Shop (and is still there). When Pigs Fly Then began a turnaround, sparked by construction of an adjacent convention center and a concert arena. Joslin credits restauranteur Jack Cawthon (pictured, right), proprietor of Jack’s Bar-B-Que, as the visionary whose persistence opened the streets to all the neon now so integral to the area’s nighttime appeal. “Jack knew a neon sign would help bring in the tourists and tradeshow people to his business,” says Joslin. “But he had to fight to get that sign.” Cawthon’s proposal for an 8-by-12foot neon sign featuring three animated pink pigs with wings was not warmly received. He wanted the sign to draw attention to his new location after being forced out of his original site for construction of a Planet Hollywood. Planet Hollywood had put up a large, brightly lit globe just before opening, without

curing the required city permits. “The Metro Council had to vote to allow or not allow them to keep it,” recalls Cawthon. “When it went to the Metro Council meeting to vote on the Planet Hollywood sign, a councilman was quoted as saying the next thing will be pigs over Broadway. That was when the idea [for my sign] was born.” Ultimately, the council’s approval of the Planet Hollywood sign played in his favor. Cawthon, petitioning for his sign, asserted it was wrong for them to allow a company from outside Nashville to put up a sign without prior approval, while denying a local businessman complying with all permit requirements. He prevailed, and his neon pigs were installed in the spring of 1997. “The rest is history,” says Cawthon. “Everyone else wanted a neon sign, and the city had to allow them.” Homegrown Neon As more tourist-oriented businesses crowded into Lower Broad, there was renewed interest in neon to help each stand out. Joslin estimates there could be as many as fifty neon signs hanging over the streets of the district now, with several more on order. The overwhelming majority were produced in Nashville at Joslin & Son Signs. Joslin credits the skills and talents of some long-time members of his staff as key contributors to this neon resurgence—designer Alex Torrejon, tube bender Skeeter Whited, and fabricator Terry Williams. The process can take some time. “When someone sits down with us to talk about a new neon sign, I let them know this is a journey,” says Joslin. “It’s a six-month process before we have all the approvals we need, get the sign(s) fabricated, and installed.” Along the way, each design has to be approved by Nashville’s historical commission and Metro Council and reviewed by Nashville Electric, public works, the planning commission, and representatives of Comcast and AT&T. Joslin says mastery of this complex application process is crucial to the services he provides and getting the neon approved, built, and installed. For instance, codes stipulate a sign can be three square

feet for every linear foot of street frontage. “Some of those buildings are only twentyfive feet wide,” he says. “It’s our job to take our customers’ ideas and turn them into a sign that meets all requirements.” For his sign, Cawthon took a drawing of three flying pigs on a roller coaster to Joslin. “Bobby took the idea and cleaned it up,” he recalls. “He said keep it simple red with your white building background, and it will pop!” Other collaborations have resulted in award-winning neon promoting the Betty Boots store and AJ’s Good Time Bar. For his retail outlets, Smith wanted something fun, suggesting a ’40s-era cowgirl pinup to promote his ladies’ boots stores. He presented a pencil sketch of what he had in mind. The Joslin team created two similar, yet distinct designs for both Betty Boots and Broadway Boots. More recently, Morales chose a strutting rooster as the symbol for his venue, Acme Feed and Seed. “We came up with the design, and Bobby put it into codes for us,” says Morales. “We’re down at the end of the block, and when people see that neon, they want to see what’s there. The look of all that neon harkens back to the area’s past, and what we still are today, as an entertainment center.” Joslin says, “Neon makes a statement. It allows us to create excitement in ways no other kind of sign can.”

February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated





A wholesaler and a sign shop work together to create five sets of channel letters.

acroGenics is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing innovative antibody-based therapeutics for the treatment of cancer, as well as various autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases. When the company decided to reno-


Sign Builder Illustrated

vate its headquarters, it needed highquality channel letters that reflected its valuable and important work. CRB, a global consulting, design, and construction firm, was responsible for the renovation of the new headquarters as well as another facility. They contacted Creative Edge Signs and Graphics in

February 2018

Rockville, Maryland and brought them onboard the project. “CRB was excellent in facilitating the dialog with MacroGenics at the design stage and provided support for installation logistics,� says Barry Wolitzky, owner of Creative Edge Signs and Graphics (, a sign company

All Photos: Creative Edge Signs and Graphics.

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Time and deadlines are very important, and by subbing some manufacturing to a wholesaler, shops can handle other tasks or work on the next project.


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

that has been in business since 2012. The company has rapidly grown and currently meets the signage needs of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia. (Note: This wasn’t the first project that Creative Edge Signs and Graphics has completed for MacroGenics. The sign company has also provided wayfinding signage, lobby signs, lab and office signs, and updated monument signs.) Between the two MacroGenics locations, Creative Edge Signs and Graphics was responsible for providing five sets of channel letters. The shop used SAi Flexi software to design the letters, which spell out “MacroGenics” and feature artistic representations of an antibody and a cell. Creative Edge Signs and Graphics provides a wide range of interior signage, and their relationship with wholesale manufacturer ABC Sign Systems allows them to also provide channel letters and sign cabinets. They brought ABC Sign Systems in to handle the fabrication on this job, as well. ABC Sign Systems (abcsignsystems. com) in Pennsuaken, New Jersey has been around since 1952 and specializes in exterior signage like awnings, channel letters, pylons, and more. The company ships nationwide from its 25,000-square foot facility. Expanding a shop’s manufacturing capabilities is one obvious benefit of partnering with a wholesaler, but there are others as well. “Time and deadlines are very important in this business, and my customers can sub some of their manufacturing to me and handle other tasks on the project or work on getting the next project,” says Mike Fulforth, outside sales/ project management at ABC Sign Systems. “Cost advantage is another benefit. With the various equipment, employees, and volume, we can make the letters at a lower price point than a customer who is only building a set or two per week.” On the MacroGenics project, ABC Sign Systems fabricated the returns out of standard five-inch channel letter coil and painted them with Matthews Paint. The backs were routed out of .040 white aluminum using a MultiCam CNC router. ABC Sign Systems used its AccuBend channel letter bending machine to fabricate the five sets of letters. The

wholesaler also recently added an AdamsTech bender and an EasyTrimmer trim cap machine to their shop. “For the faces, we used 2447 acrylic because the faces have full vinyl coverage,” explains Fulforth. “The 2447 white acrylic allows more light through the acrylic compared to the standard 7328 white acrylic.” The letters are illuminated with wide-angle Everylite LED modules in 6500K white. In total, the fabrication took about three to five days once the channel letter backs were all routed out. When the letters were completed, ABC Sign Systems delivered them to Creative Edge Signs and Graphics, who then went to work on the vinyl graphics for the faces. “MacroGenics provided us with the specs for the orange vinyl, and we used 3M™ Scotchcal™ Translucent Graphic Film Series 3630-141 in Gold Nugget to match PMS 138C and 3M™ Scotchcal™ Translucent Graphic Film Series 3630129 in Bronze to match PMS 167C,” says Wolitzky. “We created the gray gradients, which were used in the sign elements.” ABC Sign Systems advised Creative Edge Signs and Graphics on the best installation methods, and with the exception of one set of channel letters, the individual letters were all flush stud mounted with interior access required for the electrical connections. One set of channel letters posed a bit of a challenge, however, due to the architecture of the building it was being installed on. “This particular set of letters had to be mounted onto the narrow face of a flat roof,” says Wolitzky. “[Wolitzky] and I came up with the idea of a pan to float the letters above the entrance,” explains Fulforth. This turned out to be the perfect solution for supporting the letters. “The sign elements, which are artistic representations of an antibody and cell, hang significantly below and above the pan and required the addition of support brackets,” says Wolitzky. On all of the installations, Creative Edge Signs and Graphics used an Elliott Equipment bucket truck and a sixty-foot JLG boom lift. Each installation took about a half day to complete.

February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


Feature sign systems Name By JEFF Author WOOTEN

DIRECTIONS Advice for making directional signs work best.


nterior directional and modular sign systems encompass a wide variety of possible components—wall-mounted signs, projecting signs, suspended signs, directories, and more. Regard36

Sign Builder Illustrated

less of the solutions utilized or the facility (healthcare, education, government, etc.), the important thing is that these systems must adopt a uniform approach in order to help visitors quickly navigate

February 2018

and find their destination. While today’s market demand for interior wayfinding is trending more toward sleek, streamlined solutions, there are still some questions sign makers and

Photo: Sign Pro Systems.



installers would like to have answered— particularly when it comes to readability and visibility. This month, we proposed some of the most-asked questions in this field about design and installation to a couple of experts, and in turn, they have provided answers that are intended to help direct you to the best outcomes. How should sign makers design directional signs for environments that experience heavy foot traffic? Bill Freeman, vice president of Architectural Sales at Howard Industries (, says that signage size and placement are key factors in providing navigational success here. “Signs need to be large, highly visible, and placed strategically to allow passersby to easily read and comprehend them at a glance,” he says. Natalie Whited, vice president of Marketing at Sign Pro Systems (, says that all areas of the building need to contain directional signs for visitors to view and use. “By installing wall signs, projecting and suspended signs, pylons, directories, and more, all with a consistent appearance, visitors are able to easily identify and utilize the sign systems to help them quickly navigate to where they need to go,” she says. Whited also points out that utilizing multiple sign solutions simultaneously assists with visibility—for example, identifying rooms or locations with suspended signs in crowded hallways and also with wall signs for room identification—ensuring that visitors will be able to find the correct destination.

environment. “By placing directional signs in conjunction with the lighting that is in place, sign makers are able to leverage the resources available to them and ensure that signs are made visible,” she says. Freeman recommends utilizing bright, contrasting colors, as well as incorporating internal or backlit LED lighting. “Thin, internally-lit LED sig-

copy size; bold, contrasting colors; and easyto-read icons provide quick navigation on overhead signs. nage cabinets would work well, along with LED backlit acrylic panels with standoffs,” he says. “Standoffs add aesthetic value to signage and are available in an array of colors” Whited says that incorporating lighting for interior sign systems through the the use of backlit or illuminated frames

provides a “pop” to content and the display component. “This ensures it will stand out in any environment,” she says. How should sign makers design directional signs that hang overhead, where the visitor has to look up? “Copy size; bold, contrasting colors; and easy-to-read icons and symbols work best for providing quick, straightforward navigation here,” says Freeman. Whited suggests double-sided curved and flat suspended signs increase visibility. “These are perfect for use in hallways to help identify wings, exits, and destinations ahead in both directions,” she says. “They can identify offices, serve as directories, and help navigate visitors for different areas of the facility.” What essential information should be included on interior wayfinding sign systems, particularly when it comes to readability? The needs of each modular sign system project vary, depending on the application, when it comes to essential readable information that should be included on them. “Standard must-have information identifies the suite/room number or name, office occupant, restrooms, exits, and important areas and features within a space for directories,” says Whited. “Take into account the location of the wayfinding sign, the color scheme being


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

Photo: Sign Pro Systems.

What do you need to take into account when designing directional signs for environments with low lighting conditions? The first thing Whited suggests is incorporating a reflective substrate for use as the graphic insert material. “The reflective material allows messaging to be printed and displayed as is in standard uses, but it also allows for light to catch and reflect, identifying the signage,” she says. The second recommendation, according to Whited, is to take advantage of lighting that is already present in the



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




used—for example, white text on a yellow background may look nice up close, but will not be legible from a distance— and the distance from which the sign would be ideally read. These factors will determine the minimum size that the frame and text should be in order to be legible to the target user.” Safety also takes precedence with in-

terior wayfinding signage. “It is extremely important to properly and clearly identify stairwells, exits, and evacuation routes,” says Freeman. “Beyond safety concerns, signage should convey only necessary information to guide visitors to their destinations. The use of universal symbols to save space and attract attention is also recommended.”

What new trends for interior sign systems can be utilized in current modular or wayfinding designs? Freeman has noticed an increase in requests for custom-shaped interior signage utilizing acrylic and other laserengravable substrates. “Customers like to incorporate exaggerated arrows and other symbols to add aesthetic value to their signage,” he says. Meanwhile Whited has seen a shift towards divided or split frames when ADA inserts are requested. “This allows for the top portion to be used with the ADA-compliant inserts, while the bottom portion is for use with the standard non-glare transparent lens,” she says, “in turn, providing flexibility for the client to feature standard and ADA-compliant messaging in the same frame.” 40

Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2018

Photo: Howard Industries.

How should color be utilized in interior sign system designs? Are there combinations to embrace? To avoid? According to Freeman, bold, contrasting colors aid in readability. “Avoid tone-ontone designs,” he says. Whited recommends coordinating colors with those used in a business logo or school theme and also to use color to help draw attention to the sign. “Bold, dark lettering pairs well with patterned or solid backgrounds to add dimension and interest to the sign, as do more simple backgrounds when a large amount of information needs to be displayed on the signs,” she says. While these decisions are ultimately left up to the customer, Whited adds, “It is recommended to avoid difficult color combinations such as white lettering on a light background, too-similar shades in the same color family, and black lettering/backgrounds paired with darker colors such as navy or purple.”

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4over. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C3


Ornamental Post Panel & Traffic. . . . 42


ADA Central Signs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43


Piedmont Plastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7


AdamsTech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Principal LED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33


Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


Sign America Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43


Biesse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

30 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4


Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


Sinalite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


Chemical Concepts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28


Southern Stud Weld. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20


Duxbury Systems Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


Stamm Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


Echod Graphics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43


TRC Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

InfoDirect #


Elliott Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37


FASI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29





FASTENation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18


Biesse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


FASTSIGNS International . . . . . . . . . . 35


Dietzgen Corp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


Gyford Productions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13


Gemini, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Howard Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34


Graphtec America, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Imagine This . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17


HP, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


International Sign Association . . . . . 21


Lucite International. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


J. Freeman Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20


Mactac. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


JDS Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C2


Nova Polymers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Keystone Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5


Orbus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Lidco. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


Pantone LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Nova Polymers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


SA International. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


ORAFOL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11


Techno Signz. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


Watchfire Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


X-Rite, Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

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February 2018

Sign Builder Illustrated


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February 2018

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Sign Builder Illustrated


Shop Talk


The Future Looks Bright

Looking at the next technologies on the horizon.


ach year, people like Stewart Curtis of Component Signage, Inc. (CSI) bring the latest products to ISA International Sign Expo. In 2017, CSI introduced a 12-volt neon replacement, which promotes energy savings over traditional neon. Products like these provide many benefits and give sign, graphics, and visual communications companies a full arsenal of tools with which to serve their customers. But they also can create challenges for communities that must keep up with the rapidly improving technologies. Businesses want to use these tools, but sign codes may not have been revised to keep pace. Just how big of an issue is this? According to new research from the Sign Research Foundation, on average, most communities haven’t completed a major sign code revision in twenty years. Just think back to how long ago twenty

years was. In 1997, most of us paid for Netscape to navigate the internet. (Not that it really mattered, as most of us didn’t have a computer at home anyway). Technology hasn’t just touched home computing, of course. Two decades ago, EMCs might have been used to display time and temperature or a gas station’s pricing. LEDs were limited in color—and expensive. It was a far cry from the quality we see today. In many cases, without a major overhaul, these technologies are not fully permissible in codes, or they may be allowed only by variance. Some local officials don’t fully understand how these technologies work—and therefore want to ban them altogether, fearing that their communities will become like Las Vegas. That’s one of the reasons ISA published its Night-time Brightness Recommendations for On-Premise Electronic Message Centers and has developed a re-

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

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

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Sign Builder Illustrated

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

February 2018

source page to help local communities understand EMCs. (See for those resources, which include the brightness recommendations.) We’re finding that these tools are extremely helpful to local communities—and, by extension, our industry. What is the next coming technology? We continue to see improvements in EMCs and LEDs, among others. Print is undergoing a technology revolution all its own. ISA International Sign Expo 2018—March 22-24 in Orlando, Florida—will include a larger-than-ever tradeshow floor. As in years past, we expect a number of exhibitors to announce new innovations. These will continue to transform the products and services we offer communities. As the industry develops these new technologies, ISA’s advocacy team will be there, working in conjunction with local officials to help them understand what they are and why their communities should allow them. A lot of times, seeing is believing. We often take an EMC to a community meeting to demonstrate how it works. The same can be said for seeing the latest products at ISA Sign Expo 2018. “Seeing it with the human eye helps show you what the technology is capable of,” said Curtis. “Seeing it in person is invaluable.”

Rapidly improving technologies can create challenges for communities that must 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.

Photo: Shutterstock/ Color4260.



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Sign Builder Illustrated February 2018  

This issue features stories on LED and neon lighting, HDU, EMC displays, wayfinding, vinyl graphics, and more!

Sign Builder Illustrated February 2018  

This issue features stories on LED and neon lighting, HDU, EMC displays, wayfinding, vinyl graphics, and more!