5 Architectural Sign Projects with Key Details Explained

LIKE GEORGE COSTANZA from Seinfeld, I “always wanted to pretend I was an architect.” So, I contacted five companies from the Signs of the Times’ Brain Squad whose profiles included “Architectural Sign Mfr.” and asked each for a recent architectural sign project. Continuing my ‘facade,’ I also sought to know what they considered “architectural” about the signs. Their project settings ranged from a hotel to lofts to business developments and a university campus. What they all had in common were designs and materials to match or complement the look of the related building or area.

A simple vintage logo and I-beam design provide the feel of the original Ford Motor plant for these loft apartments.

A simple vintage logo and I-beam design provide the feel of the original Ford Motor plant for these loft apartments.

Ford Factory Lofts, ATLANTA

Residential lofts with retail and restaurant storefronts on the ground level completed January 2021

Henry Graphics
Buford, GA

Key Architectural Details

From Michael Johnson, senior graphic designer for Henry Graphics: “The architectural aspects of the sign package were inspired… by the time period of when the building was constructed and its original use as a Ford fabrication plant, which gave a very industrial feel to the environment. To carry this into the design, the sign structures were fabricated to simulate I-beams, which incorporated the industrial ‘feel.’ To provide a more ‘old-time’ look to the package, the logo was designed with the intent of having a simple vintage look. The back panels for the logo are acrylic with a digitally printed vinyl overlay to replicate green-edge glass.”

Equipment and Supplies

MutiCam CNC router, HanleyLED Peregrine Series P-2072 white LEDs and HanleyLED power supplies, .125-in. aluminum, 3/16-in. white 7328 acrylic

Despite 2-ft.-thick walls, the sign had to be bolted into the apartment spaces to keep from falling off the building.

Despite 2-ft.-thick walls, the sign had to be bolted into the apartment spaces to keep from falling off the building.

Interesting Fact

“The one unusual aspect of this project, which none of us involved had ever encountered before in our various decades of experience, was the condition of the building wall to which we had to install the main blade,” Johnson said. “The building is over 100 years old and had concrete walls that were roughly 24-in. thick but, unfortunately, once we drilled past the first 4-6 in. of concrete, the remaining 18+ in. was like drilling into sawdust, which obviously wasn’t going to support a sign of this size.” To rectify this problem, Henry Graphics was forced to bolt completely through the wall – into the tenants’ apartments, Johnson said – and add bracing there to prevent the blade from simply pulling right off the wall.

This “wall of discovery” on the University of Minnesota campus includes a “discovery gallery” of illuminated displays (lower right).

This “wall of discovery” on the University of Minnesota campus includes a “discovery gallery” of illuminated displays (lower right).

Scholars Walk, University of Minnesota, DULUTH, MN

Campus walkway that honors all the university academic awards, completed 2016-20



LA Ink (Minneapolis), Hart Howerton (Minnetonka, MN)


From Gary Stemler, vice president of Archetype: “All the candidates’ names are carved into glass and edge-illuminated. In 2016 we [originally created] the wall of discovery … a fabricated aluminum wall with printed graphics of the notes of notable scholars. Over the top of those panels are edge-illuminated glass displays to highlight certain discoveries. In 2019-20 we fabricated the discovery gallery, which included a series of freestanding illuminated glass displays as well as externally illuminated aluminum displays with printed scholar bios. Those panels were mounted onto a wall that complemented the original wall of discovery with additional scholar notes.”


AXYZ 5010 ATC and Infinite 5012 ATC routers, Elumatec radial arm saw, swissQprint Nyala 3 flatbed printer (for glass), OKi ColorPainter M-64s printer (for vinyl), SloanLED modules and drivers, glass, aluminum and structural steel


“One of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on in my 30-plus years in the industry,” Stemler said. Working with the graphic designer and viewing the amazing discoveries has inspired him to send his kids to the university. “It was fun to look at the original scholar notes and see music by Bob Dylan right next to sketches [for] the first pacemaker designed,” Stemler said.

Hotel Haya, TAMPA, FL

Boutique hotel that pays homage to its historic past while keeping up with the soulful atmosphere of Ybor City, completed September 2020

Tampla, FL


Aparium Hotel Group (Chicago), Studio Birdsall (Winter Park, FL) and Alfonso Architects (Tampa, FL)


From Melanie Harden, executive vice president of Creative Sign Designs: “In keeping with the history and theme of Ybor City and the building itself, architectural elements used materials, hand-pinged brass, etc., in order to give all the signs the old, vintage look of being at the building for many years and [having been] fabricated many many years ago. [The complete sign package included] hammered-brass panel, an illuminated blade sign with brass panels, brass flat cutout letters and retrofitting an existing blade sign with neon lighting, as well as hand painted distressed face panels.”


Multicam 3000 Series Router, OMAX Waterjet, Miller Tig and Mig Welders, Trotec Speedy 400 laser engraver, RAS Shear and Brake, Vanguard VK300D flatbed printer, HanleyLED Phoenix Series PF-2080 LED lighting modules and 12V power supplies, brass sheeting, aluminum sheeting, aluminum tube, AkzoNobel paint and clear coat finishes


“The existing historic blade sign was grandfathered into the property and the structure had to remain but the client wanted the sign to be used,” Harden said. In order to do this Creative Sign Designs had to add structural updates but also keep the sign’s vintage distressed look, so they updated the sign with actual neon and architectural hand faux finishes to retain the desired, somewhat dilapidated appearance, Harden said.

The designs and especially the materials recall the historically registered railyard originally built here.

The designs and especially the materials recall the historically registered railyard originally built here.

Northyards Business Park, ATLANTA

Property originally developed in 1911 for the Southern Railway company, converted to offices in 2002 when also added to the National Register of Historic Places, completed September 2021

Decatur, G


Sky Design (Atlanta)


From Jeff Grundman, creative director for Henry Inc.: “In recognition of the property’s rich history, Sky Design included motifs that bring to mind railyards and industrial warehousing, while still feeling clean and modern. To build these design elements, Henry used huge, rough-finished pressure-treated beams, along with raw steel, oversized hardware, and perforated square posts and angles. Where shapes did not exist ‘off the shelf’ Henry fabricated brackets and panels, cut-out directional arrows and dimensional letters. To complete the raw look, Henry further distressed the beams and stained them to add apparent age. The raw steel was rusted using a proprietary method developed by Henry, and then either painted in vibrant colors, or clear coated.”


MultiCam 1000 Series Router, skill saws, grinders, chop saws, other small tools, steel, aluminum, pressure-treated timbers and wholesale-acquired raw steel shapes


“To me the most interesting things about the job are the history of the site and Sky’s design work,” Grundman said. “We don’t do a lot of woodwork, particularly with massive 8 x 8-in. pressure-treated beams, so that was different.” Also, rust is something Henry avoids on most projects, but here it was a component in a finish system, Grundman added.

The same roof, siding and brick veneer from the building (right) were also used in the multi-tenant monument sign (left) for this development.

The same roof, siding and brick veneer from the building (right) were also used in the multi-tenant monument sign (left) for this development.

Multi-tenant sign for Ascent Real Estate, CHARLOTTE, NC

Development with tenants that range from a preparatory academy to dentistry, insurance agents and others, completed August 2020

Charlotte, NC


From James Neely, director of project management, RP Signs: “The architectural elements… in the sign [included] the hardboard siding, which ties into the building design. Also we incorporated a cantilevered roof structure, which was a design element of the building as well.”


MultiCam CNC router, hand tools, Acrylite acrylic panels, James Hardie siding, Brick-It brick veneer, International Lighting Technologies LED modules and HanleyLED power supplies.


“The tapered brick base was a nice detail that we completed in-house,” Neely said. “Just not [the] typical rectangular or square base you see on most signs.”


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Charlotte Signs Project Debuts at City’s Museum of History

The Charlotte Signs Project has debuted within the city’s Museum of History, spotlighting a collection of vintage signs from the Queen City’s past, WCNC writes.

Project founder Christopher Lawing curated the museum display, allowing city residents to see the signs that helped make Charlotte what it is today. “It’s amazing what these iconic signs mean to the Charlotte community,” he told the outlet.

The museum describes what visitors can expect to see at the exhibit: “Featured signs are from neighborhoods across the city, including Dilworth, Oakhurst, Plaza Midwood, Uptown, and the Museum’s own stomping ground: East Charlotte. Community partners like Charlotte East and the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association have come together to showcase their neighborhood’s culturally significant signage.”

The exhibit will be available at the museum for the next 18 months.

Read more at WCNC.

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32 Things to Be Grateful for as a Sign Pro

WITH THANKSGIVING DRAWING closer, we asked our Brain Squad members to share a paragraph on what they are grateful for, be it customers, employees, family and friends, or anything that has left an impact on their professional lives. Some are thankful for understanding clients or the ability to weather challenging times, while others greatly appreciate their employees. A few offered more unexpected gratitude.

For Customers

1.  I am thankful for our customers. We’ve found that our customers have become more understanding of our struggles as a small business. With material shortages and employee turnover, we are still able to exceed our customers’ expectations. It is nice to see their appreciation and understanding. — Cory Marcin, EP-Direct, Fond du Lac, WI

2. Grateful that we have so many customers wanting to purchase signs at the same time. It’s a daily challenge, but well worth it. Much better than the alternative. — Stuart Stein, ESCO MFG dba Stein Signs, Watertown, SD

3. The economy right now is good. Lots of new businesses starting up and new commercial and residential building. — Jean Shimp, Shimp Sign & Design, Jacksonville, FL

4. We are in business over 30 years and have a very loyal customer base and that is unusual in this business. — Stuart Matelsky, Westchester Sign, Yonkers, NY

For Employees

5. As I reflect on the past couple of years, impacted over and over by unforeseen and uncontrollable events… I am more than ever grateful for our incredible team. During the pandemic we embraced our #workfamily in new and exciting ways. Our team [was there] for each other, for our community and our business to become stronger than ever. — Bob Chapa, Signarama Troy | Metro Detroit, Troy, MI

6. We continue to be thankful for our work family. Everyone has remained committed to each other and the company… Our team’s dedication has helped ensure that the company was able to be a point of stability in otherwise unstable times. Thank you to the entire FLS team for your dedication and caring you show to each other and our clients. — Cain Goettelman, FLS Banners, Sturgeon Bay, WI

7. I am grateful for employees I can count on. Since starting my wrap business I have hired and let go several employees. There are three core employees that have been with me since the start and they are the base of the shop. Without them we would not be where we are now. There is always give and take in every type of relationship, even professional ones. When you have employees who are willing to give what the business needs to thrive, as an employer it makes you want to give back to them so they share in the success of the business. — Catherine Bacot, Wraps For Less, Orlando, FL

8. I’m very thankful for another year to be standing with a fantastic team of employees to serve our customers. — JC Aviles, Competitive Signs & Graphics, Montclair, NJ

9. This year I am most grateful for my hardworking and dedicated employees. We are a family-owned business and we do our best to treat our unrelated employees as if they were [family]. They reward us by working hard, working late, and being quick on their feet to solve problems and keep things running smoothly. — Melvin La Pan, Fastsigns Augusta, Augusta, GA

10. Extremely fortunate to have a talented hardworking team to work with here at Alpine. To be able to deal with all the garbage [in] today’s world is another plus. — Doug Bray, Alpine Sign & Lighting, Dallastown, PA

11. We’re ever grateful and thankful for our million-dollar staff! We have great equipment, spaces and services, but it’s our staff that makes the journey worthwhile! — Derek Atchley, Atchley Graphics, Columbus, OH

For Family, Friends and Mentors

12. My wife’s love, dedication, friendship, and her wonderful personality that our clients love. — Larry Mitchell, SignChef, El Dorado Hills, CA

13. Being handicapped my whole life, I’m very grateful for the customers that have become friends. And for the friends that are available to give me a hand when needed. But mostly for my wife’s help. — Jeffrey Cross, Cross Signs, Seminole, FL

14. I am grateful to work under a great owner who believes in personal growth and development. Over the past seven years I have been with the company, I’ve attended countless seminars, become tradeshow certified, digital marketing certified, and have had the opportunity to attend some of the industry-leading events like ISA multiple times. It is really fulfilling to work for someone who values you, your growth, and wants you to flourish. — Mallory Lynn, Signarama Brighton, Brighton, CO

15. I am grateful for the mentoring that got me started in the sign industry. Mary Ellen Kemmerer and Lois Stofko hired me as their first employee back in March 1989. I grew and learned so much from these two wonderful women. At times they may have even learned from me, but most of the time it was the other way around. They taught me all they could over the next four-plus years and made me love going to work. I’m proud to say that I am a sign guy thanks to them. — Gary Gower, Jr., G&L’s Sign Factory, Bethlehem, PA

For Giving Back to the Community

16. I am grateful to be able to supply every kid in my small community that plays hockey, football, swim club and/or baseball [with] all of their stickers, name tags or affiliated signs to help sponsor them. — Geoff Orlick, Quality Designs Ltd, Campbell River, BC, Canada

For a Combination of the Above or Otherwise

17. Here at Triumph, we are incredibly grateful for the continued support of all of our local installers as well as the support and trust from our customers. Without our installers, we could not meet the demands of the customers. Nor could we provide the exceptional service that we strive for. Without them both, we would not be here. — Laura Alsdorf, Triumph Signs & Consulting, Milford, OH

18. Grateful to keep all production going during these trying times and keep everyone employed. — Joe Gibson, Ramsay Signs, Portland, OR

1. Being in an industry that is pandemic-proof.
2. Customers that understand there is a pandemic.
3. My family for their understanding for all the extra hours worked to make it happen. — John Hotaling, Signarama Woodstock, Woodstock, GA

19. I am truly grateful for all of the employees that make our company such a great place to work. I’m also grateful for our ability to sell and produce through good times and bad. — John Johnson, A-Plus Signs, Fresno, CA

20. Thankful for Jesus Christ and His amazing grace in allowing us to serve through our business for 30 years now. We have great clients, great staff, and a great community to live and work [in]! — John Hipple, Sign Designs, Joplin, MO

21. I’m grateful for my family, my friendships, my co-workers, my pets and my health. — Michael Johnson, Henry Graphics, Buford, GA

22. My family, I get to work with them every day. It’s not easy, but it’s better than working for a stuffy corporation with a bunch of micro-managers. Our customers, who recognize quality service and products and keep coming back to us. Our vendors, who keep us well stocked and those who have acted as mentors helping us to navigate the landscape and challenges of business ownership. — Yvette Bryars, Sign Designs Now, Kingwood, TX

23. I’m grateful that our employees and their families have remained healthy through the pandemic. We are also blessed to have a team that cares about the quality of their work despite many of the challenges faced on a daily basis. Lastly we are grateful to have so many exceptional people we get to interact with as our clients. True professionals that have been very loyal to our company. They have been understanding of the challenges of obtaining permits, procuring material as well as the industry-wide cost increases we are dealing with. — Tom Dunn, Metro Sign & Awning, Tewksbury, MA

24. We are having a very good year, and for that I am grateful first to our customers who show their appreciation of our work by giving us more work and to our team members whose dedication to superior customer service allows us to have happy customers who keep giving us more work! — Vince Cvijanovic, Graphic Components, Greensboro, NC

25. We are grateful that we are [a] small family-run shop that does not have to adhere to the “big business” model. I am personally grateful for our customers and their willingness to come back year after year! — Nonnie Luther, Cadillac Sign Co., Norwood, NC

For a Dash of Sarcasm and Humor

26. I’m oh so thankful for: Project managers who have never turned a screwdriver in their life but know exactly how something should be done. Project managers who sit in their office and just say that we need to work 16-hour days to get a job done when they didn’t order the correct materials/plan out the job correctly. Customers who do a custom build-out of their store but spend most of the sign budget on wallpaper. Then they ask if we can do the signs for half price. Oh, and also throw in the permit costs and sales tax plus have it done in three days. Engineers who insist on calling out raceway channel letter hardware as 3/16-in. Hilti togglers because there is published data on those anchors. Site supervisors who will tell any lie in order to get you there when it’s on their schedule, even if the walls aren’t ready for the signs. — Rocco Gaskins, Abco Signs, Pennsauken, NJ

27. There are signs things are better. We still have customers and they still want signs. In 2020, we were the turkeys and being roasted; this year they are served to us — this year is better. In 2020, just getting toilet paper was a problem — this year is better. In 2020, customers were as rare as Republicans on CNN — this year is better. — Frank Murch, Signs for San Diego, Oceanside, CA

For the Ability to Do What I Do

28. We are thankful in a world where everything seems to be an online experience that signs are still very much in demand and needed. — Chad Lawson, Sign Pro of Skagit Valley, Mount Vernon, WA

29. I am thankful for an industry that continues to provide work both locally and nationally. It’s not easy and yes, pricing can be a challenge, but the work is there. Our industry is blessed. — Brad Turpin, Jr., Ruggles Sign, Versailles, KY

30. I am grateful to be in an industry that is always challenging me and my team with new and more creative ways to make a sign. — Heather Jack, Fastsigns of Oklahoma City, OK – South, Oklahoma City, OK

31. The ability to adapt and choose opportunities as economies shift. The ability to create customized client solutions out of thin air. The depth of diversity across our team, yet continuously aligned in definite purpose, provides solid, stable income for all. — Bob Persichetti, Effective Sign Works, Burlington, NJ

32. A job that gives unlimited creative expression. One of the most important pieces of my work life. — Peter Poanessa, Keene Signworx, Swanzey, NH

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Why Small Signshops Should Order Their Supplies as Late as Possible

POSTURE Two-Second Fix

1 Your parents were right: Stop slouching. “If you take on a collapsed position, it really shifts the physiology,” Erik Peper, a professor of health education at San Francisco State University, told Bloomberg, adding that tests have shown that slouchers’ testosterone levels go down, cortisol levels go up, and they have more helpless thoughts. Luckily, the opposite happens when you sit up, stretch or even better, jog in place for just 10 seconds.

SIGN SUPPLY CHAIN Order Supplies as Late as Possible

2 For the smaller shops out there that have lost supply orders to larger companies, wait until the last day before your supplier does their regular delivery run to place your material order. This tip from Jake Zani, Rule Signs & Graphics (Randolph, VT), like many we receive, came from a recent Brain Squad survey. By ordering at the last moment, Zani wrote, you will know right away if your order will be on the delivery truck the next day or if the materials you need have already been reserved by larger organizations.


3 “We’ve added a very large metal sheet to our office wall with 135 active projects on it,” wrote Signs by Van (Salinas, CA) owner Jeremy Vanderkraats. With a comprehensive project wall, the whole team can see what is going on at any point. “It really helps to identify bottlenecks,” he wrote.


4 If risk-taking, innovation and transparency are habits you want to promote in your business, you may want to install a “failure wall” — a flat space preferably in your back room where you and staff can share your “growth lessons” with each other. “Something magical happens to failure when it’s openly acknowledged,” wrote business author Jeff Stibel in a column for bizjournals.com. “Paradoxically, it becomes less of a big deal. The idea of failure is often the elephant in the room that no one wants to mention.”


5 If you use a to-do list to guide your task choices through the week, leave your “done” items at the top even after you complete them, suggested productivity website Lifehacker. The feeling of accomplishment will help you get through the other items over the course of the day or week.

STAFF Lessen Stress with Gratitude

6 Is your staff showing signs of stress? Ask them to do this simple act: spend 10 minutes at the end of the day writing about three things (work-related or personal) that went well that day. According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, a University of Florida study found that this gratitude exercise lowered stress levels and physical complaints by roughly 15 percent.

ONLINE This Email Will Self-Destruct

7 Ever wanted an email address that you could discard like a pair of disposable chopsticks? 10 Minute Mail (10minutemail.com) is for you. The service sets you up with a self-destructing email address that expires in — yep — 10 minutes. Your temporary inbox works just like regular email, allowing you to forward and respond to messages, and you can add extra time if 10 minutes isn’t quite long enough. Whitepaper downloaded, anonymous comment posted, whatever — once you’re done, pull the pin and walk away.

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Thank Goodness for the Help We Have

SO THIS IS WHAT it’s like… being short-staffed. You’re reading the second straight issue of this magazine completed without a managing editor. For a two-person editorial team, being down one has been pretty significant!

Most of my planning work has been sitting in “call park,” though not all of it. (We’ve worked up our feature-article schedule for 2022 and I really think you’re going to like what we have lined up.) Instead, I’ve been busily putting together all the little editorial pieces that come together as Signs of the Times magazine, as well as contributing to our now five-times-weekly bulletin newsletters (sign up at signsofthetimes.com/bulletins), online posts and more.

Thank goodness for Mildred Nguyen, the intern I introduced you to last month (See St, October 2021, page 6). Though her internship with Signs of the Times — which is split with our sister publications Big Picture and Screen Printing — amounts to just one work day spread across the entire week, those precious hours provide not only the extra copy and second set of eyes so vital in publishing, they also remind me just how important it is to have another member on your team.

The good news is that help should finally be on the way. If fortune can smile upon me — and I think I’ve earned it! — a managing editor will be joining me for the December issue. And for all of you out there reporting that “trained staff or labor” is what’s in “shortest supply at your sign company right now,” (see page 46), I hope Christmas comes early for you as well, in the form of much-needed help.

mark-signature updated

5 Smart Tips from This Issue

  1. Save time — and your back — by employing specially designed tools for installing or removing sign posts. (Tech Products, p. 14)
  2. Use the same materials as well as a building’s design or environment in architectural signs. (To Be an Architect, p. 18)
  3. Order materials as late as possible from your supplier so you’ll know if they’re in stock. (Tip Sheet, p. 34)
  4. Charge more for your lowest-priced work to eliminate time-consuming, unprofitable orders. (Maggie Harlow, p. 38)
  5. Have backup systems in place in the event a computer, program or printhead fails. (Mark Kissling, p. 39)

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Here’s Why 84% of Signshops Close on Black Friday


Is your sign company closed on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving Day?

Yes: 84%

  • I was an employee before I became the owner of the company. Playing games and bonding with traveling family members late on Thanksgiving sucked when I knew I had to be at work at eight the next day… and most companies have that as a four-day-off benefit. — Jennifer Boyd, Artsign Design, Boise, Id
  • It is a union holiday. — Ken Becvar, Integrity Sign Co., Mokena, IL
  • This is a great time to allow our employees time with their families. Football, family, friends and free time. We work hard to create a great family-oriented company culture. We strive to be the opposite of corporate America. Employees come first. — Christopher Meinsen, Perspective1, Tampa, FL
  • My clients are closed and I’m not a brick-and-mortar business. — Lisa Havniear, LA Designs, Mabelvale, AR
  • We have a long tradition of closing the Friday after Thanksgiving. This allows our team to spend more quality time with their families and makes traveling a bit less stressful. — Cain Goettelman, FLS Banners, Sturgeon Bay, WI

  • We are most thankful for the love of family and we spend the holiday as a weekend celebration. — Herbie Nally, Walldogs Dba Mason Signs, Mason, OH
  • I do usually keep an eye on the email just in case someone is needing us, I can run in. The rest of our staff is off to celebrate the holiday. — Heather Jack, Fastsigns Oklahoma City, OK-South, Oklahoma City, OK

No: 16%

  • If employees want off that day, they can use PTO time but, for the most part, the guys here want to work that day. There is always too much work happening to take the day [off] unless you have something planned. — Michael Johnson, Henry Graphics, Buford, GA
  • This is not a big deal in Canada. — Geoff Orlick, Quality Designs Ltd., Campbell River, Bc, Canada


What are you finding to be in SHORTEST supply at your sign company right now?

Trained staff or labor
Time to fit in all the work
Vinyl, magnetics, or other substrates
Electric sign components
Other (Both time and trained staff, aluminum and 3M vinyl)


What are you finding to be in GREATEST supply at your sign company right now?

Estimates not being acted on
Delays from customers, permitters, etc.
Orders on backlog for the rest of 2021
Accounts that haven’t paid you yet
Other (Sales leads, aches and pains)

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a signage and graphics company in the US or Canada, you’re invited to join the Signs of the Times Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute survey each month, you will receive access to some of the industry’s freshest data on sales — including your fellow members’ comments on what’s selling and what isn’t — and can make your voice heard on key issues affecting the sign industry. Sound good? Sign up here.

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These 6 Food Trucks Were Wrapped to Reel in Customers

THE WRAP GAME can be lucrative and quick, but as every creative will tell you, there is still joy to be found in enjoying the art of your craft, even if that means working “slower” to make a project perfect. That was the case for Two Awkward Birds’ mobile bar wrap, a break from the norm for Wraps For Less (Orlando, FL). “We decided to work with this client because we enjoy challenging projects,” owner Catherine Bacot said. “It’s fun to do something different [as] it gets everyone in the shop involved and we end up with something we’re all proud of that makes [us] stand out from the rest.”


Wraps For Less (Orlando, FL), recently tackled a large mobile bar/food truck project, giving an old Airstream trailer the look of newly polished chrome, via wrap. To give Two Awkward Birds the look the clients wanted, owner Catherine Bacot said she and the team researched which chrome wrap material would work best for the trailer. “Airstreams have a lot of round edges so we needed something that would conform well and could be heated and stretched around all of the curves,” she said. “We [settled] on 3M Wrap Film Series 2080 Gloss Silver Chrome. It gave us the chrome color and mirror look the client was looking for as well as the conformability we needed.” They then added a border of water and grass along the bottom of the Airstream using Arlon Graphics SLX+ to save money and give it a distinctive look.


To help set the Sweet Jazz Treats Bakery truck apart, Paradise Graphix (Monroe, OH), incorporated professional photos taken of the bakery’s cakes and cupcakes into the wrap’s design rather than use run-of-the-mill vector art, Sales and Production Manager Kaylen Marsh explained. The wrap was designed, printed and installed in-house using Avery Dennison MPI 1105 Super Cast Film material and 1360Z overlaminate, then printed on their Epson large-format printer.


When Taco Monster, a Red Deer County, AB, Canada, taco joint wanted to open a mobile version of their popular restaurant, they called on local shop TNT Customs Graphics and Signs to see if they could help transform a trailer that owner Jonathan Strome had purchased, Shop Manager Margaret Chartrand-Poteet explained. Strome gave TNT the design and they were able to print it with their top-of-the-line Roland DG TrueVIS VG-640 wide-format printer and install without a fright.


Oink Mobile is a family-run, bacon-themed food truck out of Austin, TX. While the concept was initially used to compete in Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race with Tyler Florence (season 13), the truck now rolls around North Austin serving up all your bacon-y needs. Georgetown Sign Co. (Georgetown, TX), President Mike Volling explained that they used cut graphics printed with an HP Latex 365 printer on 3M IJ35C Scotchcal Graphic Film with 3M Scotchcal 8509 Overlaminate to really make the truck… er, squeal.


“Taste Buds needed a visual identity created as they were a new business and served only private movie sets, so we started by working with them to get a feel of who they were as service providers and their personalities and [also] how to complement those details visually,” Canawrap Imaging Inc. (New Westminster, BC, Canada), President Jonathan Glen said of the wrap his company created. Canawrap made the brightly colored wrap using 3M materials and overlaminates and printed it on an HP Latex.


Carolina Blue Smokehouse & Taproom in Pitman, NJ, needed a food truck wrap for their new restaurant on wheels, aptly named Baby Blue. As Designer Wraps (also in Pitman) President Sean Tomlin told it, they got the job in a life-imitating-art fashion: The client drove by their location, saw their sign, and stopped in. The Baby Blue wrap design required creating “real-looking” stacked firewood on its back end, a nod to the restaurant’s actual smokehouse. The wrap was printed on a MUTOH Eco-Solvent printer using Avery Dennison 1005 EZ RS film with DOL 1360Z laminate, then installed over the course of two days.


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Use Light to Make Your Sign Design Stand Out

ACCORDING TO SIGNAGE statistics compiled by the Economics Center, University of Cincinnati back in 2012, a visible sign has a significant, positive and most importantly, measurable impact on a business’s sales and profits: “Roughly 60% of businesses reported that changing the design or enhancing the visibility of their signage had a positive impact on sales, number of transactions and profits, with an average increase of about 10%.” That’s good news! Also, it stands to reason that illuminated signs are more visible for more of the time than non-illuminated signs. So, does that mean a sign should be illuminated for it to be visible? The obvious answer would be yes but this is real life; nothing is ever that easy.

However, knowing some of the benefits of illuminated signs can make that decision much easier. Ready? Signs with light components increase visibility at night. Duuhhh, Mars… well, I’m always surprised by the number of people who actually think just because their business doesn’t operate at night, the visibility of their sign shouldn’t matter. To that I say: Illuminated signs are your business’s salesperson 24/7. With a noticeable sign, people passing by after hours will see that business and know where to find them when needed.

In addition, illuminated signs extend visibility to greater distances and through various weather conditions such as rain and fog. Lastly, vibes. (Yes, I said vibes. Give me a break, I’m from Los Angeles!) Light creates an atmosphere. The lighting components of a sign contribute to moods from calm professionalism or luxury to strobe-lit excitement. Of course, the atmosphere works in reverse if an illuminated sign fails in part or entirely. Don’t tell me you don’t think twice before stopping at a gas station with flickering lamps or half-lit letters.

Thankfully, visibility and illumination are not the same thing. There will be times when even if the budget for an illuminated sign is on the table, the building location, placement of the sign or sign permits aren’t compatible with the electrical components necessary for the sign to be properly connected. In those cases, ensure your non-illuminated sign has enough contrast against the wall color/style and refer to simple, legible font choices. Be mindful of a proper sign size in relation to its overall surrounding space.

Illuminating a sign is more than shining a light on it. Understanding how light plays into a sign’s design can elevate its visibility too; not only because it’s obviously illuminated but because it actually stands out as a unique, cool piece among other signs. I have had situations where I designed signs around obstructing objects like trees, windows and non-removable parts of a building’s structure to salvage visibility. I try to learn from the most iconic, successful signs and how they complement the building or their environment. (For five examples of architectural signs, see page 18.)

Ideally, a sign should be equally as visible and clear during the day as at night. While internal illumination helps, it’s not always possible or practical. In those instances, spotlighting and simple contrast will have to suffice. Whether it’s neon or LED… just as long as the EMERGENCY ROOM and “HOT NOW” Krispy Kreme Donuts signs are always bright and clear for me to see — hopefully not one because of the other, though!

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Lightfair Innovation Awards Announced

LightFair today announced winners of the 2021 LightFair Innovation Awards (LIAs) with three of the 14 lighting category winners —Lazer Line by PureEdge Lighting, TruTrack by PureEdge Lighting and Infinity by Edison Price Lighting— receiving special overall excellence distinctions: Most Innovative Product of the Year, Technical Innovation and Design Excellence awards. The 2021 LightFair Conference & Trade Show runs Wednesday through Friday at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

“The LIA winners are those companies that raise the bar for lighting innovation and design every year,” said Dan Darby, show director. “Our 2021 winners have highlighted current needs in the market and designed new ways to utilize lighting. There is no end to the upward trajectory in which our award winners are launching the lighting industry.”

The 2021 awards recognize the most innovative products across 14 categories introduced in the past 12 months and were judged by an independent panel of lighting professionals: Jim Levy; Sarah Snodgrass; and Howard Wolfman of Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and Michael Marvin and Diane McNabb Rodriguez of International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD). Judging criteria included the product’s clarity of purpose, versatility, adaptability, sustainability, ease of use, design efficiency and aspects that enhanced human wellbeing, among others.

Winners were announced online via a video presentation. Trade show attendees can take part in the LightFair Innovation Award Tour, led by Mark Roush of Experience Light LLC, on October 27 from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. The 14 categories, and winning products and companies are:

Most Innovative Product of the Year – the program’s highest award, recognizing the most innovative new product – Lazer Line by PureEdge Lighting, Booth 1647


Dynamic Color, Theatrical, Cove, Strips & Tape – Lazer Line by PureEdge Lighting, Booth 1647

Lazer Line creates a paradigm shift with how we use lighting design within the environment. Lazer Line, an LED lighting system, connects wall-to-wall or wall-to-ceiling, up to 60 ft. before refeeding, with no visible pixilation. It utilizes heatsink tape which is fastened and tightened by turnbuckles plastered into the wall or ceiling for a seamless look. it allows the light to go up, down, or both, achieving ambient uplight and also functional lighting. It enhances any space with pleasant soft light and delivers designer quality color rendering, creating a space that is visually spectacular.

Technical Innovation Award – recognizing the most forward-thinking advancement in lighting technology ­– TruTrack by PureEdge Lighting, Booth 1647

Track, Display, Undercabinet & Shelf – TruTrack by PureEdge Lighting, Booth 1647

TruTrack is a patented, recessed track lighting system that installs cleanly into the ceiling, achieving a truly flawless finish. The innovative system easily installs into 5/8” thick drywall, eliminating the need for joist modification. TruTrack can incorporate an integral LED strip which is field cuttable for customized lengths. Adding minimal architectural track heads make TruTrack perfect for residential and commercial applications. TruTrack lighting is available in Warm Dim to promote relaxation and wellness, as well as standard static white and multiple color temperatures.

Design Excellence Award – recognizing outstanding achievement in design – Infinity by Edison Price Lighting, Booth 1947

Indoor Decorative – Infinity by Edison Price Lighting, Booth 1947

Infinity is the first linear/curve lighting system with limitless design possibilities. Any length or degrees can be configured, in any combo of linear, curved or twisted models. Infinity can be suspended, recessed, surface or wall mounted. Form shapes include interlocking loops, half moons, linear waves, and architectural swirls. Each model is available in different light source directions, achieving multi-directional lighting when combining models for a luminaire that doubles as an architectural element and a powerful source of illumination.

Non-Luminous – Research, Publications, Lighting Software & Specialty Hardware – The Lighting Library by Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), Booth 1776

The Lighting Library is a comprehensive set of Illuminating Engineering Society standards plus Handbook content updated for 2020 in an online, subscription-based service. It contains nearly 100 annotatable standards and includes two exclusive features: the Reference Retriever for finding links to the references themselves, and the Interactive Illuminance Selector that allows users to quickly find lighting criteria that can be saved in an unlimited, user-defined project library. The Lighting Library is the first globally accessible online platform for continuously updated lighting standards.

Lamps – Conventional, Retrofit & Replacement – Color Select Power Select HID LED Replacement Lamps by Keystone Technologies, Booth 1804

Keystone’s Color and Power Selectable LED HID Replacement Lamps feature energy-saving LED technology and are an ideal replacement for conventional metal halide lamps. More importantly, Keystone’s Power Select and Color Select technologies allow users in the field to quickly select from three lumen output and three color temperature options with the flick of switches located on the lamp housing – a versatile feature that allows substantial SKU reduction for distributors.

LED/OLED – Chips & Modules – H6 Series by Nichia America Corporation, Booth 2148

Nichia’s H6 series takes advantage of a unique narrow band red phosphor technology to develop LEDs which achieve a color quality better than traditional 90 CRI LEDs with R9 content greater than 50, while maintaining an efficacy as good as 80 CRI LEDs.

Ballasts, Transformers, Drivers, Systems & Kits – Smart Current Drivers by Keystone Technologies, Booth 1804

keystone technologies
Keystone Technologies’ Smart Current LED Drivers can be adjusted by simply connecting to a smart phone or computer with a USB cable, making installation simple. This feature makes the driver even more convenient to install in the field, since there’s no need for computers or special software. It’s available in multiple output power options, features a dim-to-off mode — enabling dimming to 1% — for precise tuning of output current, and includes a 12Vdc/200mA max auxiliary power output.

Recessed Downlights, Wall Washers & Multiples – M2 Recessed Downlights by Nora Lighting, Booth 1824

Nora’s M2 Mini offers an array of exclusive features in a small aperture package without the need for a housing. M2 luminaires come ready to install with a pre-wired junction box and quick connects. The M2 Mini delivers up to 850 lumens per luminaire in round or square apertures with numerous accessories for multiple appearances, available in 2700K or 3000K at 90+ CRI, and modular system accepts accessories for greater customization. Trim options include open downlight, recessed or adjustable gimbal, elbow, lensed downlight and multiple lighting systems.

Parking, Roadway & Area Luminaries – Nebula by Neri North America, Booth 2010

NEBULA by NERI – designed in collaboration with Architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – provides pole and ground mounted, high performance lighting solutions including numerous beam patterns for architectural effects lighting as well as area/site lighting. Source illumination choices include dimmable, remote controllable, warm white LED, tunable white LED, RGBW LED and “turtle friendly” LED illumination. Non-lighting functions can include speakers, cameras, WiFi, distress stations, planters, banner arms and motion/proximity sensors. Sleeve and core pole system delivers strength and flexibility.

Sports, Step, Landscape, Pool & Fountain Luminaries – Chromabeams LED 900 by Sportsbeams LED Lighting, Booth 1922

Chromabeams’ advanced technology allows facility owners to light their venues as they would a stage. Powerful color can saturate the facility, evoking emotions and excitement like never before. These same fixtures also provide the highest quality of glare-free lighting available for any activity. Combining both attributes in one affordable fixture is changing the way that sports and events are presented.

Control Components & Hardware – Smart Interface Control (SI C) Series by LTF Technology, Booth 2142

SI C series are unique and easy to install wireless control devices for IoT applications with a high power density of 30W / Cubic Inch. SI C series can be added at the output of any standard constant voltage driver. Every standard LED driver can be converted to a Wifi/Bluetooth IoT device, enabling two-channel Color tunning, Dimming, Zone controls, Scheduling, Google Voice control, Alexa and RGB controls via Bluetooth or Wifi protocols.

Commercial Indoor – Troffers, Suspended & Surface Mounted – NatureConnect by Signify, Booth 1447

NatureConnect is a lighting innovation inspired by nature to make people feel happier and healthier. The system is built on biophilic design principles, which use elements of nature in interior spaces to create healthy, engaging and inspiring environments. NatureConnect combines various LED luminaires — Daylight, Skylight and Lightscape — with intuitive control to create lighting scenes tailored to people’s needs based on proven and valued natural experiences such as mimicking the rhythm of the sun, providing a view to the sky, mimicking the colors and dynamics of natural environments.

Industrial, Disinfection, Vandal, Emergency & Exit – Invisi-X Exit Sign by Concealite Life Safety Products, Booth 2213invis-x exit sign
Invisi-X Exit Signs offer a new invisible solution for building directional egress signage which illuminates only the visible EXIT of the Code-required directional signage. It features a patented, cloaking design which causes the remaining signage to disappear from view. Multiple mounting options for blending into wall and ceiling materials including gypsum board, marble, granite, brick, concrete and sloped ceilings. Features long-life, illuminated, flat screen directional image and smart emergency power technology.

Control-Enabling Technology, Connectivity & Software – ITM by Samsung Electronics, Booth 1538

Samsung ITM is a compact dual-protocol wireless IoT module that provides fast and easy lighting conversion to smart luminaire in residences, representing the best of smart home connectivity such as ZigBee and BLE. ITM has an embedded firmware that supports flexible onboarding via SmartThings App either with or without a hub. ITM also has a native functionality to enable connectivity to ZigBee speakers from Amazon or BLE speakers from Google. ITM is unique in that it supports the highest level of smart home lighting connectivity and functionality at the module level for luminaire makers.

All 2021 submissions, winners, product information and images can be found here and in the virtual awards directory. The video presentation will also be displayed in the LightFair Innovation Awards lounge for the duration of the LightFair trade show.

For more information on the process for submitting to the LightFair Innovation Awards, please visit https://www.lightfair.com/lightfair-innovation-awards-submissions.

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Questex Announces New Media Artist, Director and Pioneer in the Aesthetics of Data and Machine Intelligence Refik Anadol to Keynote DSE 2022

Questex’s Digital Signage Experience 2022 (DSE), the preeminent event and digital platform for the digital signage industry, announces Refik Anadol – new media artist, director and pioneer in aesthetics of data machine intelligence – will keynote the event. DSE takes place March 22-24, 2022, in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

refik anadolAnadol produces enthralling and immersive media art, which lies at the intersection of art, architecture, science and technology. His body of work addresses the challenges, and the possibilities, that ubiquitous computing has imposed on humanity, and what it means to be a human in the age of AI. Anadol also explores how the perception and experience of time and space are radically changing now that machines dominate everyday lives.

Anadol owns and operates Refik Anadol Studio and RAS LAB, the Studio’s research practice centered around discovering and developing trailblazing approaches to data narratives and AI.

Anadol’s global projects have received numerous awards and prizes. He has been engaged by leading tech companies, groundbreaking researchers and cutting-edge thought leaders to produce projects that have been featured at iconic landmarks, museums and festivals shown in over 50 cities, spanning six continents.

“We are honored to have visionary Refik Anadol deliver the opening keynote presentation at DSE 2022,” said David Drain, Director of Event Programs for DSE. “His work is revolutionary and world renowned. Since he uses digital technology as a medium, it makes him the perfect person to launch the event.”

“I am thrilled that my source of constant inspiration, Refik Anadol, the contemporary guru of world leading new media art will be joining us at DSE 2022. His work stands on the shoulders of giants, to borrow a phrase, of science, technology and beautiful art,” said Dorothy Di Stefano, Global Thought Leader, Digital Immersive Experiences and DSE Advisory Board Member.

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