September 2021

september 2021 coverThe Sign Builder Illustrated September 2021 issue features stories on lighting, eps foam, digital signage, resin printing, digital printing, sign codes, visual branding, and more!

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Allegra Acquires 150-year-old Printing Company

Mark Goslen (L) and Perry Clark (R) at newly merged Allegra Printing.

One of the country’s oldest printing companies has merged with one of the Triad’s most technologically sophisticated marketing, mailing, and printing companies after 150 years as a family-owned business. Goslen Printing, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Allegra Marketing Print Mail, also of Winston-Salem, have come together to serve nearly 1,000 businesses.

The Allegra operation in Winston-Salem is part of a franchise network founded in 1976. Allegra’s president, Perry Clark, and his wife, Kelli Clark, acquired their franchise in 2007 after years of working in the printing, display, and packaging businesses.

“Starting Allegra allowed me to come back to Winston-Salem after years of being on the road in the printing and promotions businesses and living in New Jersey,” said Perry. “We learned that the strongest growth opportunity in our industry comes from acquisition of new talent, technologies and resources. Goslen will be our fifth strategic acquisition.

“We are much stronger together.”

About Goslen

A mere fifty years after the first printing press came to Winston-Salem, Junius Waitman Goslen started his printing business in 1872 with a wood-fed, steam-operated printing press to publish newspapers and other commercial printing projects.

For the past 150 years, the company continued as a successful family business with four generations of Goslens involved. The company has been known for notable projects including the printing and publishing of Blum’s Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac, as well as other garden and weather products that continue to be printed today.

“We are proud of our longevity and strong history of printing in Winston-Salem,” said Mark Goslen, president of Goslen Printing. “We feel fortunate that our legacy of consistent service and quality will be continued through our new partnership with Allegra. We will continue to operate out of both locations for the next several months while merging our operations.”

The Future

Printing services account for an estimated $178 billion in annual sales in North America.

“As we look at the future of printing, marketing and related services, diversification is the key to success,” added Clark. “Allegra uses the newest advancements in technology that provide a competitive advantage. For instance, we have an all-new platform that features an advanced and scalable cloud-based management information system (MIS) with an intuitive interface that integrates an e-commerce storefront technology and a prepress portal. With this technology, no one can make direct marketing any more precise or easier.

“Also, the addition of Goslen’s expertise will now allow us to better serve businesses of all sizes.”

Both companies have been very active in the local community helping non-profits with their ongoing events.  For example, Allegra’s FootPRINT Fund® helps nonprofits by donating $20,000 annually in free print, marketing, and mail services to local, community-based organizations.

—Press Release 

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FASTSIGNS Hosts Eleventh Annual Outside Sales Summit Virtually

FASTSIGNS International, Inc., the world’s leading sign and visual graphics franchisor with more than 750 FASTSIGNS® locations in eight countries worldwide, hosted its 11th annual Outside Sales Summit August 9-13 in a virtual setting. There were over 400 people from 5 countries in attendance.

With a Rebound theme, the 2021 Outside Sales Summit celebrated the FASTSIGNS network’s sales achievements between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. At the virtual awards event on Friday, 195 Outside Sales Professionals were recognized, including 24 who received the prestigious Platinum Award for achieving over $1 million in individual sales during the 12-month period.

Additionally fifteen individuals became Certified FASTSIGNS Sales Executives after completing an extensive certification program during the same period.

2021 marked the third year for presenting the Catherine Monson Salesperson of the Year Award. With this award, FASTSIGNS recognizes one Outside Sales Professional who best represents the concept and the spirit of the brand, both in the business community and within the FASTSIGNS network. Patrick Pennell from FASTSIGNS® of Jacksonville-St. Johns Bluff was recognized as this year’s recipient of the Catherine Monson Salesperson of the Year Award.

“We were thrilled to host our 11th annual Outside Sales Summit, held this year, as last year, in a virtual setting. This energy-packed event allowed us to provide the over 400 attendees with education and tools to continue honing their selling skills, as well as to recognize and celebrate the impressive work and achievements of FASTSIGNS Outside Sales Professionals from locations around the world,” said Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS International, Inc. and Chair of the International Franchising Association.

One of the featured speakers included Ryan Serhant, star of Bravo’s hit series Million Dollar Listing New York and Sell it Like Serhant who delivered a highly energetic and advice-packed keynote session: How to Become the Ultimate Sales Machine.

Additional speakers from the FASTSIGNS International team covered a variety of topics including Industry Insights and Learning to Leverage Buying Trends, What Everyone Ought to Know about Selling Digital Content First, Achieving Success During a Pandemic Panel and more.

Sixty-four vendors participated at this year’s Virtual Outside Sales Summit Event, including six Diamond Sponsors. The Kickoff Session on Monday August 9th was sponsored by Orbus. Our Awards Event on Friday was sponsored by MUTOH America. FASTSIGNS also hosted fifteen Vendor Training Workshops from Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), Art Sign Works, Avery Dennison, Baker Sign Group, BEst Exhibits, ChromeSignage, Grimco, MUTOH America, Navitor, Showdown Displays, SignComp, SinaLite, Stouse, and TrueVert. There were also eleven Vendor Sponsored Commercials throughout the week and twelve Vendor Sponsored Gamification Games from 4Over, Avery Dennison, Clarity Voice, Clevertouch, Epson, Fellers, Grimco, Kapco, LexJet, Snap Frames, Stouse, and Trotec.

—Press Release

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Permitting, Fabricating, and Installing Digital Signs

By Ashley Bray

Sign shops have plenty to offer when it comes to selling and implementing digital signage for their clients, but where their skills truly shine is in the permitting, fabricating of custom elements, and installing the digital signage.

“Sign companies are a point of connection/leverage between manufacturers and end customers as well as important sources of installation,” says Taylor Nilson, market manager, On-Premise – Commercial Reseller & National Accounts, for Daktronics. “They also play a critical role of communicating knowledge of local sign jurisdictions to the manufacturers.”

First Thing’s First: Sign Permitting

digital sign fabrication
Photo: Complete Signs

That local sign jurisdiction knowledge is the first step in the install process where sign shops’ expertise is paramount. A digital sign manufacturer can’t know the rules in every individual county or town across the country. “They have an understanding of the signage codes within their jurisdiction, so being able to get permits and understand what the rules mean,” says Nilson. “What kinds of limitations are the city council going to put on animations or moving text and things like that—there’s no way for us as a manufacturer to understand that at all these locations, so they have a critical role to play in that regard.

“And it’s symbiotic—we can provide legislative support. If there’s a sign company out there that’s dealing with overly oppressive signage legislation, we have a legislative branch within our company that can figuratively fly in and help that sign company understand and maybe even help with some presentations to that city or county board. We talk about what other counties are doing successfully to keep signage reasonable but also supportive of the business climate in the area.”

Stuart Stein, president of ESCO Manufacturing, agrees on the importance of permitting knowledge. “There are so many wide ranging sign codes that vary from community to community,” he says. “All of those are things that have to be researched ahead of time with the end customer so that they fully understand what their options are.”

Getting Creative: Custom Fabrication

Once it’s determined that a digital sign is actually allowed and the restrictions and parameters it must meet are laid out, it is up to a sign company to make the client’s vision a reality.

Because manufacturers fabricate the digital display boards, some shops may think there isn’t much fabrication to do other than mounting provisions. However, this is where the creativity of sign shops can shine. Rather than just a display on a pole or a base, sign shops can make the signs really stand out through custom cabinetry and other fabricated elements. “Many times, [it’s about] incorporating a structure around it, so it’s just not a square box on a pole or in-between a pylon sign,” says John Danio, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Indigo Signs with locations across the midwest.

Justin Holland, co-founder and vp of sales and marketing for Complete Signs, agrees, “We hate selling signs that look like everybody else’s signs, so we try to design some creative and unique signs.”

Header cabinets featuring the client’s name with illumination are typically elements that are custom fabricated for digital displays. However, Steve Clark, director of Sales at KC Sign & Awnings in Aston, Pennsylvania, cautions shops about the depths of these cabinets. “My biggest pet peeve on install that I see is they either buy or don’t make that top cabinet to match the depth of the LED display and then they go and just put a ten inch deep cabinet on top of a 20- to 24-inch deep LED display,” he says. “One, it looks awful, but two, they’re going to cause themselves headaches because all of that snow and rain goes off the top cabinet and now it just sits on the top of the display. We custom build our top cabinets to stick out a half inch further than the LED display’s so the rain or snow doesn’t touch it unless it hits it directly.”

Like with other types of signage, sign shops have the option of handling the fabrication entirely themselves or outsourcing parts of it to other companies and wholesalers. As a wholesaler, ESCO says they work closely with sign shops to help design the best solution. “The key part where we come into play is definitely in the mounting provision of setting the sign so it can be installed [in the way] the end customer wants it, and talking about any other alternative design that may accomplish the same thing but may be more feasible or economical for both the sign company and the end customer,” says Stein. “We sometimes manufacture the sign cabinets or the mounting provisions or the bracing, and then ship that directly to the sign company and then they will actually take the digital display and install it on our mounting provisions, our sign cabinet, and then install it in the field.”

digital sign installation
Photo: Sign Store Macon

Many sign shops opt to handle fabrication and installation themselves. Nilson says sign shops are critical in translating the ideas of a customer unfamiliar with signage into something that is possible. “I have a lot of respect for what sign shops do in that regard because they are talking to a business owner that maybe is in a line of business that’s so wildly different from signage. And the business owner knows what they are trying to accomplish, but they don’t know how to describe what they want,” says Nilson. “So the sign company has to interpret that and understand the outcome that the business is trying to create. Then they turn that vision into a reality. And I think that’s critical regardless of what signage you’re working on.”

Sign shops are also highly capable of steering customers to the perfect pixel pitch or resolution. Stein says sign shops frequently compute a sign’s copy size based on parameters like viewing distance and the speed of drivers going by. All of these same parameters apply to the pixel pitch of a digital sign.

This is also why demos of a digital sign, preferably in the place it will be installed, are critical to making sure end users understand what they are getting. “It allows the end customer to fully grasp what they’re going to be purchasing with no surprises,” says Stein. “Being able to see the product first hand, live in action is such a critical part of the process.”

Putting it in Place: Installation

When it comes to installing the digital display, each manufacturer will have different requirements for air flow, grounding, etc. To ensure these different requirements are covered, Mike Lewis, CEO of Sign Store Macon in Macon, Georgia, says digital sign manufacturers/suppliers typically give sign shops a check list of installation requirements. “If you can install a lighted sign cabinet or channel letters that have power, it’s no different,” says Lewis, who notes the manufacturers’ checklist will explain things like how to weld the sign to a pole, how to ensure air flow and circulation, the need for a grounding rod and where to put it, etc. “There’s a lot of things you have to do when you install them, but they’ll usually give you a cheat sheet or an itemized checklist, and if you do that, then you should be fine.”

Nilson says manufacturers have also helped to make the installation of outdoor digital displays in particular easier. “You’ve got power, you’ve got the display, and then you’ve got a cellular modem that sits on the display, and we’ve removed a lot of the technological impediments to getting that stuff installed. Because there’s no ethernet bridge radios around anymore, we don’t have to deal with customers’ firewalls anymore,” he explains, noting that for a while, sign companies had to be IT professionals, which is no longer the case. “If there are sign companies out there still using ethernet bridge radios and struggling through that part of the process, I really encourage them to come talk to us about how much simpler cellular can make their installs.”

digital sign installation
Photo: Indigo Signs

Holland also encourages sign shops to find a manufacturer who will serve as a partner and walk them through the installation process. “If it’s not going to just be something you install once every five years, if it’s going to be something that’s more regular, it’s worth investing in the training. Any of these manufacturers will fly you in, you and your team, and they’ll take you through a little two-day shop training class in their factory and show you everything,” says Holland. “It’s worth getting comfortable working with cellular modems and IP addresses, and it’s worth knowing how to use software, how to change the power supply, and all that.”

The post Permitting, Fabricating, and Installing Digital Signs appeared first on Sign Builder Illustrated, The How-To Sign Industry Magazine.

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3 Reasons Resin Ink is Poised to Elevate the Sign Industry

Resin ink is a new signage-focused, water-based solution that includes both resin and pigment color in the formulation. When working with the right hardware, resin ink is compatible with a variety of media types and is an ideal solution for printing on wallpapers, fabrics, and uncoated papers, in addition to traditional signage materials.

The following dives into what resin ink is and its benefits for the signage and digital printing industry.

resin ink printer sample
A sample printed on SureColor R5070

1. It’s a water-based ink. Resin ink is multi-purpose ink comprised of a water-based liquid, resin, and pigment ink colors within the formulation.

Unlike solvent ink, resin ink is odorless when printing and does not require an off-gassing period before lamination. Its ability to instantly dry allows for immediate lamination and quicker project turnaround times. Without the need to off-gas for six to twenty-four-plus hours or lamination on select media types, print shops can finalize projects quicker, saving valuable time for incoming projects and increasing revenue.

The instant-dry ink delivers scratch-resistant output, ideal for indoor/outdoor applications and installations that are being installed for an extended period of time and in high-traffic areas that often succumb to markings due to weather, animals, or general wear and tear.

In addition, wallpaper tends to work especially well with resin ink due to the high scratch resistance and low odor. Digitally printed wallpaper has become a popular trend among designers and is an ideal output for resin ink.

2. Color consistency is key. Print shops oftentimes have difficulties reproducing color for panel applications. Color consistency can be critical for larger, longer print jobs with multiple wall panels or multiple panel installations as well as repeat jobs that need to be replicated completely.

For example, if a customer orders a hundred posters with specific red and blue colors for a project in February, and returns to re-order the same posters in July, many print shops will have difficulties reproducing identical copies months later. A few months after any project is completed, printers have been recalibrated, printheads have been changed, ink packs have been swapped, and maintenance has occurred—all of which can have significant effects on the final output.

Another common order for sign shops is multiple panel wall graphics. This type of order can stem from a large retail customer who is looking to order graphics that require twenty four-by-eight-foot panels to cover an entire wall in the company’s solid colored logo. It is critical that the color, such as a unique red, is identical on panel two and panel twenty, so the image and logo color is consistent throughout.

Resin technology today has the ability to deliver consistent, repeatable color guaranteed to meet client expectations. When looking at resin-based printers, it’s beneficial to identify hardware that also leverages optimizer in unison with the ink technology. Some printers will offer separate optimizer and color ink printing by laying the optimizer first and then color ink, so color consistency is easily achieved.

3. Impressive versatility. It’s critical that a print shop is able to produce the output clients are looking for, whether that’s on traditional media, vinyl, canvas, textile, wallpaper, or more. Print shops are oftentimes looking to use the same printer for various customer requests and print full campaigns for larger customer orders consisting of multiple printed pieces.

For example, a retail customer may request and order a “Now Open” banner for their outdoor signage, as well as an adhesive vinyl P-O-P display and floor graphics to advertise a sale inside the store. That same customer may also be interested in ordering custom fabric for interior décor pillows and canvas prints to hang around the store. A printer that leverages resin ink can handle all these projects.

resin ink
A sample printed on SureColor R5070

Today the majority of printing technology is limited to one or very few media types, based on ink compatibility or the temperature the ink requires on select media. Resin ink can cure on an incredibly wide range of media types from fabrics and wallpapers to uncoated papers and adhesive vinyl.

Low curing temperatures allow for printing on even difficult medias, like thin wall coverings and gift wrapping. This can further increase a shop’s versatility and output scope to generate additional revenue through new products and SKUs that can attract new and returning customers.

Considering the Next Purchase

If looking to add new ink technology like resin, consider current and future trends to ensure the shop will keep up with present and forthcoming projects and demands—such as the increase in printing panel applications like wallpaper. This is a unique area for print shops and an ideal situation for resin ink.

Wallpaper is an adhesive application that can be created with a variety of textured media types that can be easily produced with multi-purpose resin ink technology. The market for custom wallpaper and textiles has massive growth potential, especially with designers working directly with large corporate clients looking to create unique designs. This can help propel a print shop to success with the appropriate technology, clientele, and projects.

With the appropriate planning and forecasting, introducing resin ink technology into a sign shop can help further expand applications and provide customers with high-quality, color-consistent output to meet evolving trends.

By Matt McCausland is senior product manager, Professional Imaging, at Epson America, Inc.

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Hey Buddy, Your Procrastination Is Not My Problem

Things you wanted to say to frustrating clients, but didn’t.

Years ago, I once had an old-time sign guy advise me to tell my customer, “Your procrastination is not my problem.” Unfortunately, it is my problem if we want to keep the customer. Even though they sat on the fact that they had a set opening date many months ago, they did not think about their signage until a few weeks from the opening. We need to survey, design, price, review specs with client to meet budget; re-price, engineer, submit to municipal design review for a blessing; then to the building department and then fabricate channel letters, blade sign, awnings and interior graphics. Sure, no problem. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but it happens frequently.

Woulda Coulda Shouldas are collected from the Signs of the Times Brain Squad and shared anonymously. You can join the Brain Squad at

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Sign Company Backed into Corner by Double-Dealing Business Baron

Raquel Wright put down the phone and jumped out of her seat. The River City Casino expansion sign package she had worked on with her designers for a month was sold. “That was Quatrefoil Gaming!” Raquel called across the hall, so that Robby Wright, her CFO younger brother, would hear. “They want us to handle the entire expansion. The owner, Densmore Quatrefoil, wants to meet in person ASAP!”

Wrightway Signs, a third-generation company with 38 employees, was recuperating after the death of Raymond Wright II, the visionary who built the company into a powerhouse after his dad, Raymond Wright, Sr., retired. Junior grew the small operation into a multi-faceted fabrication house with state-of-the-art equipment and a fleet of trucks.

Raymond Wright III put in a stint during high school and community college, but left Wrightway Signs after graduating. He never had a passion for the sign business or patience for his father’s stringent work ethic. When an opportunity with a group of college buddies cropped up, he jumped ship.


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are NOT a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


LAWRIN ROSEN is the president of ARTfx (Bloomfield, CT). Email him at

Robby, the youngest, was an accounting major who helped his dad set up advanced bookkeeping and estimating programs for Wrightway. Everyone knew Robby could find a nickel if it offset the balance sheets, so he took over the books when Rose, his mom, retired.

Raquel, the sister and smartest Wright sibling, enjoyed a burgeoning modeling career. She’d juggled college with working at Wrightway and runway modeling. Although she loved the sign business and was begged by her dad to join permanently, the hefty modeling salary proved irresistible.

Just after the death of Raymond Wright II, Robby ran the business, but it proved to be too much. Morale and production sank, sales sagged, and several employees left to work at a crosstown rival, Great America Signs, a new branch of a national syndicate, and now Wrightway’s chief competitor. Raquel knew she had to return to save Wrightway. And now older, she’d had enough with modeling.

Though Wrightway Signs boasted an impressive portfolio, when Raquel took the helm, she set up a marketing campaign and new website based around, “America’s Great, but let’s Make it Wright — Wrightway Signs.” The campaign paid off. Quatrefoil Gaming chose Wrightway over Great America Signs, reinvigorating the company.

Raquel, the designers and fabricators prepared numerous mockups and samples for Densmore Quatrefoil and his design team. The day of the review arrived quickly and Raquel, Robby and their lead staffers entered Quatrefoil’s office with armfuls of printouts, color swatches and finish samples.


Quatrefoil, his right-hand man, Billy Bob Morton, and three designers reviewed samples and drawings. Billy Bob and the design staff were impressed and interacted enthusiastically, but Quatrefoil himself seemed distracted. His eyes were riveted on Raquel.

During the meeting, except for glancing at his cell phone messages, Quatrefoil remained transfixed on Raquel. Exiting, he complimented her on her skirt and hair. Expressionless, she acknowledged his praise with a token, “Thanks.” Quatrefoil stopped her and said with a mischievous wink, “I know you guys will be perfect.” The meeting wrapped up and an excited Quatrefoil staff thanked their new sign team.

The job called for a huge number of complex channel letters delivered on a super-tight schedule. Though worried, Robby quickly suggested, “The deposit alone lets us swap our old channel-letter bender for a speed demon. Plus… we can lease that laser cutter we’ve been eyeing. Now’s our chance!” The group felt apprehensive, but optimistic.

When a deposit of $375,000 hit, Robby arranged leases on the letter bender and laser cutter. Even so, finishing nearly a million dollars of channel letters in two months involved 12-hour days. Despite the constraint, Wrightway delivered a first-class product on time.

Two days after completion, an overnight package arrived from Quatrefoil: the final $375,000, $500 in casino chips and a personal invitation from Densmore Quatrefoil to Raquel for the grand opening just a day away. “Geez, he could also have invited me,” griped Robby. “Oh, I’m sure he figured an invitation just to the president was appropriate,” Raquel said.

Raquel felt immense pride at the celebration when the switch was thrown and Wrightway’s countless signs lit up — drawing “oohs” and “ahs,” then applause from the assembled crowd. Densmore Quatrefoil cut the ribbon himself, bellowing, “Let the festivities begin!”

With the band playing “We Are the Champions,” Raquel seated herself at a blackjack table with the $500 in complementary chips. After Quatrefoil thanked the vendors for their efforts, the band slowed things down with “This Magic Moment” — a classic slow-dance tune. No sooner did the song begin than Raquel felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning, she met eyes with Quatrefoil who extended his hand as an invitation to dance.


Shocked, Raquel felt she had no choice except to oblige. While dancing with his arms around his sign vendor, the casino owner squeezed too tightly for comfort. Raquel pulled away and slunk off the dance floor. Quatrefoil stood startled in the middle of the crowded floor, red-faced and humiliated.

A couple of days after the casino episode, Raquel’s assistant screamed, “Our bank is on the phone. Quatrefoil’s $375,000 bounced!” As Raquel gulped, Robby yelled, “Let me get on!” He grabbed the phone. “This has to be a mistake!” he shouted to the bank’s VP, “Quatrefoil has billions. How can it bounce?”

“I am sorry,” the bank VP responded. “It appears there’s a stop payment.”

“Oh my God,” shot back Robby. “I’m sick.”

“Sorry,” consoled the VP. “Please investigate. We’ll stand by.”

Red in the face, Robby called Quatrefoil Gaming and demanded to speak with Quatrefoil, only to be redirected to Billy Bob Morton. “This is how things go, Robby,” Billy Bob quipped. “Mr. Quatrefoil was extremely unhappy with your company’s last-minute fumbling of critical details. He’s consulting our legal staff to determine a payment deduction, but it’s not good. I doubt you’ll receive anything.”

Raquel dashed to her phone, but before she could get a word in, Billy Bob hung up. She and her brother stood speechless, staring at each other as if their world as they knew it was about to collapse.

The Big Questions

  • How do Raquel and Robby save Wrightway Signs from imminent collapse?
  • Do they dare to sue the billionaire?
  • Do they try to settle — as long as the loss won’t bankrupt them?
Andrew J.
Plano, TX

On any project of magnitude, pre-liens are a must, as is a good contract. While you cannot prevent ending up in court, you certainly can have an impact with their bank/insurers. The payee will make you sign a lien release upon payment, but you have legal options with the fraud that the cancelled check initiated. No bank or insurer wants to see liens on the job. While most think, “Casino, they self-fund,” but with very few exceptions, casinos complete expansion/new construction with bank financing and pay down the loans. Thirty years of building casino/hotels for the largest gaming companies in the US gives me the experience to protect both the casino [and the sign company].

Rocco G.
Pennsauken, NJ

This is a tough situation. While this seems to me (as a non-attorney) like a clear case of sexual harassment and breach of contract, the sign company will be fighting a difficult battle against a very rich person’s army of attorneys. They will have to document how they did the work and show that it all was done correctly. Still, it’s not a spot I’d like to be in. This illustrates the real need for good contracts, getting acceptance paperwork immediately, and photographs of the signs once installed.


Mike C.
Murray, KY

Time to discuss this situation with a good lawyer. Your customer is dishonest and this problem will require a legal solution.

Ed M.
Seabrook, TX

What a terrible situation — so sorry for Raquel! After the first hint of this or that first meeting when he was staring you down like a hungry lion, I would have made sure to not be around him alone! I would only hold the thought in your mind and manifestation of a positive outcome! Write it down and everyone focus on it!

Manifest what you want! … Good luck!

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3 Tips for Solving Channel Letter Lighting Issues

SO YOU DESIGNED and fabricated a set of beautiful reverse channel letters. You test each letter on a clean work table and the lighting looks flawless! The perfect, diffused halo light outline is bouncing off a white cutting mat. Time to hurry up and get that bad boy installed for everyone to see.

Let’s now imagine that sign was for a new store opening at a nearby shopping mall. You decide to walk by to admire your work, maybe take a photo or two and — it looks terrible! Turns out that the storefront has a glossy, tile-like surface. Now your reverse channel letters are spitting out LED dots, lines or shadows instead of that perfect halo glow. What do you do now? Honestly, that’s entirely up to you and/or your company, but if you ask me, I’d fix the sign — or forever hide under a rock.

Regardless of whether that imaginary sign’s lighting is fixed, as a sign expert you should always be aware of what type of wall or environment your signs will be installed on and how those factors will affect the sign’s lighting. If you can avoid glossy/reflective walls like tile, acrylic and polished metals when working with reverse channel letters, don’t think twice, but if you’re stuck with any of them, consider the following tricks to help reduce hot spots, weird lines, shadows and LED module dots.

  1. Diffuse the letters’ polycarbonate backs with diffuser films/vinyls or by sanding the polycarbonate until obtaining a frosty finish. This will reduce unwanted reflections and help “trap” the light.
  2. Experiment with LED module placement. This can require extra hours of work, but don’t shy away from putting more effort into an unusual project to ensure a positive outcome. I have used a zigzag pattern to reduce hot spots that are normally not visible on non-reflective backgrounds. Be mindful of the size of the LED module, depending on the size, thickness and depth of your channel letters. Unlike neon, which provides lighting throughout the entirety of the glass tube, single-sided LEDs do create little rectangular shadows, so finding the right LED module is worth the extra time.
  3. Up next are dark-colored walls or backings, which I learned about in a very awkward way. A few years ago, I designed an interior sign for a lobby in a corporate office. My rendering basically got me the job; I drew a set of shiny, brushed aluminum reverse channel letters with a bright, white halo light. The client was overly excited to have their logo look this way in their new office — until reality set in. I wasn’t aware that a dark blue wall would not only suck all the lighting reflection out of my letters, but turn the very little amount of lighting left into a soft blue color. To make matters worse, there was a lack of additional room light, causing my brushed aluminum to have zero shine. I was embarrassed and tried to improve the sign. I added additional spot lighting to make the aluminum shine, and I switched the spacers on the letters to allow more light to bounce out. I wasn’t able to attain the original proposed look because my rendering was unrealistic.

Now, I keep a checklist to consider when working with reverse channel letters. This experience made me a better sign designer and salesperson. I either learned my lesson or live with trauma, but designing a more accurate rendering has never let me down.

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Meet the LightFair Pilot Mentorship Program Class of 2021

LightFair has announced the eleven mentees in its first annual mentorship program, a six-month program which enables emerging lighting professionals to connect with experts in the industry to learn about lighting design and architecture.

“LightFair’s Pilot Mentorship Program is expanding educational and networking resources past the trade show floor, providing access to up-and-coming professionals that help shape the future of the lighting industry,” said Dan Darby, show director. “Our eleven mentors, handpicked from IALD, IES, and leading design firms, have been meeting with our mentees since April, giving them one-on-one direction. We are excited to see this program grow and benefit the future of lighting.”

The mentee Class of 2021, carefully selected from a pool of qualified applicants on the LightFair website, includes: Daphne Agosin, MFA candidate for Lighting Design at Northwestern University; Tyler Dellea, assistant engineer at CHA; Mark Ekberg, project designer at Aurora; Elizabeth Kline, lighting designer at Shop12 Design; Justin Kobayashi, electrical engineer at Clark Nexen; Elaine Liang, lighting designer at WATT Lighting; Grace Mennell, junior lighting designer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; LeeAnne Osborn, designer and deputy director of strategy at UNOLAI Lighting Design & Associates; Nathalie Quadrio, lighting designer trainee at Licht Kunst Licht; Ryan Seffinger, junior designer at Electrolight; and Nishat Tasnim, lighting designer at STANTEC.

Each of these eleven mentees were placed with one of LightFair’s expert mentors based on their area of learning interest.

The eleven mentors, introduced in March, are: Lee Brandt, principal, HLB Lighting Design; Jessica Krometis, senior designer, Hartranft Lighting Design; Mark Loeffler, principal, Mark Loeffler Design Consulting, LLC; Caitlin Mulligan, specification sales manager of business development & key accounts, SCI Lighting Solutions; Giulio Pedota, partner, Schuler Shook Theatre Planners/Lighting Designers; Kathy Prysgoda, founding principal, Light Studio LA; Lisa Reed, founding principal, Envision Lighting Design; Daniel Salinas, president | lighting design systems designer, Salinas Lighting Consult; and Chrysanthi Stockwell, associate vice president, senior lighting designer and engineering market leader HGA.

Participants in the Pilot Mentorship Program can take part in LightFair’s Mentorship Panel, moderated by Sam Koerbel at The Designery on October 29 at 10:30a.m. Information on panel participants will be released in coming weeks. Admission to the Mentorship Panel is granted with LightFair registration.

LightFair 2021 will showcase the newest designs in commercial and industrial lighting, October 27-29, 2021 (Conference October 25-29) at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York.

The post Meet the LightFair Pilot Mentorship Program Class of 2021 appeared first on Sign Builder Illustrated, The How-To Sign Industry Magazine.

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A Game Promotion Features Life-sized EPS Foosball Figures

Life-sized EPS foam Sporting KC-inspired foosball figures greeted riders along various stops on the KC Streetcar line.

This past April, transit riders at eight stops along the KC Streetcar line in Kansas City, Missouri were greeted by life-sized foosball figures representing Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC Club. These colorful sculptures were part of a promotion ahead of the soccer team’s first home match with full-capacity spectators at Children’s Mercy Park.

Fans were encouraged to visit all the host locations along the KC Streetcar line the day before the big game to scan a photo of the QR Code located on the base of each Sporting KC foosball player in order to redeem exclusive offers from Club partners.

Photo by Midtown Signs.

These eleven figures are also a part of Sporting KC’s season-long Fountain City Foosball campaign (celebrating the long-time table-based game). Each foosball player-inspired sculpt is decorated with a specific uniform from the club’s twenty-six-year history.

Midtown Signs, a full-service sign company in Kansas City, Kansas, took the field to fulfill this sporting project. This sign shop was an ideal choice here since they are always on the lookout to try out new techniques and outside-the-box ideas, plus they have worked with Sporting KC for several years already.

A young fan stands between two of the six-foot-tall foosball figures.

“Sporting KC is always looking for us to make cool signs for their stadium, and they knew we could do something unique for them [with this promotion],” says Dennis Baughman, co-owner of Midtown Signs.

According to Baughman, this project came about because Sporting KC was making foosball beer taps for a new beer they were releasing. Club officials thought that placing these foosball figures all around town would be a way to generate buzz for not only the beverage but also the opening day game.

The EPS foosball figures were decorated with jersey’s throughout Sporting KC’s history.

Sporting KC provided Midtown Signs with concept art featuring the foosball players wearing eleven different jersey styles that had been used since the team’s inception in 1995. The player number on each figure’s back represents the year that the jersey was used.

Midtown Signs Designer/Sign Engineer Jeremy Cadero came up with a 3D model of these figures using Fusion 360 CAD/CAM software. “I designed the sculpted body with a steel pipe through the arms and down through the body into a steel base,” he says. “We needed to make sure all the pipes fit snug and were freestanding, if they couldn’t be bolted down.”

Midtown Signs Designer/Sign Engineer Jeremy Cadero.

During the project’s planning stages, Midtown Signs had to be cognizant of the fact that these figures had to be movable around the city, as needed, by one or two people. Since Sporting KC already wanted the figures to be somewhat lightweight, Midtown Signs knew expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam would be the best substrate here. The company has enjoyed a working relationship with EPS foam supplier and fabricator Signs By Benchmark out of Watertown, South Dakota for many years now and brought them onboard their fabrication team.

Eleven unique foosball figures were made out of one-pound-density EPS foam for this promotion. Each one stands six feet tall and measures twenty inches wide. Midtown Signs was responsible for the base plate and supporting pole, while Signs By Benchmark fabricated the remainder.

Signs By Benchmark carved the figures out of one-pound-density EPS foam.

“We collaborated with Midtown Signs on the body and structure of the foosball figures,” says Jamie Kakacek, lead designer at Signs By Benchmark.

“Luckily both of us have the ability to work in a 3D environment, so that made creating much easier.”

Once Midtown Signs got approvals from Sporting KC, they worked up the 3D models of the upper portion of the foosball figures in Fusion 360 and sent it to Signs By Benchmark for fabrication.

Signs By Benchmark employees stand next to the carved foosball figures.

Signs By Benchmark used a combination of CNC hotwire equipment and their MultiCam CNC router. “The head of the figures needed to match existing pieces,” says Kakacek. “We were fortunate enough to get a model of the existing piece, which made scaling and cutting much easier.”

To help secure the figure onto the pole, Signs By Benchmark pre-drilled holes on the backside of their sleeve so they could be bolted in place.

Kakacek says one idea proposed was maybe later putting the figures together in groups elsewhere, so they pitched installing additional sleeves through the chest in order to connect them like foosball players. “Whether they’re used or not, this leaves options open for future installations,” he says.

Midtown Signs paints the figures.

After assembly, Signs By Benchmark coated each figure with their polyurea hard coat and primed it for later painting.

Each foosball figure ended up weighing approximately fifty pounds. “Having to embed a steel sleeve into the body of each figure affected their weight considerably,” says Kakacek.

Applying paint masks to the foosball figures.

Signs By Benchmark managed to nest all eleven figures into one crate for shipping. Upon arrival, Midtown Signs produced paint masks for them and applied custom-mixed Sherwin-Williams Resilience® Exterior Acrylic Latex paint to decorate the figures. They also added vinyl decals and QR codes to them.

Midtown Signs added mounting holes on the base plates they created so that the figures could be permanently mounted, if needed.

Photo by Midtown Signs.

Officials from Sporting KC picked up the eight freestanding foosball figures and delivered them to each location for installation. As mentioned, a central steel sleeve ran up through the center of the body. “All that was needed was to put the base down and slip the Sporting KC foosball figure over the support pole and bolt it to the base plate,” says Cadero.

The Sporting KC foosball figures are standing throughout the current MLS season as part of this Fountain City Foosball campaign and are a testament to the creative playbooks that shops can employ to make these types of projects a reality.

Measuring the backside of the figures.

Baughman says this was a fun project for his company to be involved with from concept to 3D to paint. “We would love to make more things like this,” he says.

Kakacek adds that this unique installation was one of his favorite projects to work on this year. “These figures embody what’s capable with our medium, and I would love to see more of these projects come across our table,” he says. “Granted there are some limitations, due to the material and coating process, but many times those limitations can be worked around with minimal changes.

“It’s our job to help coach things along so they turn out as intended.”

—Jeff Wooten

Initial painting of the figures.
Photo: Midtown Signs.
Photo: Midtown Signs.

More Videos:

Painting the Foosball Figures

Greeting from the Sporting KC Foosball Figures

The post A Game Promotion Features Life-sized EPS Foosball Figures appeared first on Sign Builder Illustrated, The How-To Sign Industry Magazine.

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