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Technology Increases Choice In Architectural Signage

Technology does not replace the artist's work, it enhances it.

By Henry Springs

In Ye Olde Sign Making Shop of old sign makers were artisans or masons, initially apprentices that refined their talents to the master level. They spent hours upon hours, days and nights carving, chiseling, and hammering out the right message for a client. The artisan's eventual masterpiece became the signature that clients and companies associated with the small or medium business. In many parts of the country, the sign maker's skill is still appreciated and admired. It is this philosophy that still produces great signage today, fashioned by the artisan and the cutting edge of technology.

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  • Enhancement of Architectural Signage
    Saying it loudly and effectively has always been a factor in a productive business. With the advent of high technology and the Internet you'd think companies would be less concerned with traditional electrical or architectural signage. Though it's a bit more complicated way of saying it and saying it well, there are more businesses investing in architectural signage to get their point across, and rather than new technology detracting from the more direct, precise message that architectural signage imparts, it has been a blessing.

    More and more sign makers are taking advantage of digital photography and “mock-ups”, to help the sign maker get closer to the clients' needs and wants while saving time and money for changes that may need to be made later. Technology has cut down on the time and variables. A job can be completed on a storyboard before the actual sign is complete. With computer-generated graphics, illustrations, photos of the site and proof photos, there's a very slim chance in not meeting the clients' expectations. Most clients in need of architectural signage know what they want to say, but the sign maker is much more aware of factors that go into consideration. In this day and age it's much more than putting the clients' name and logo in lights. It's still a way of life that's evolved from an artisan's skill, a skill that sign making technology has made a much more viable alternative for the salesman to produce architectural signs for his customer that continue the theme of their identity program.

    Dick D'Amico, the owner of Fast Signs, Northbrook IL. feels that current technology has only added to the degree of customer satisfaction. With the changing market and times, the needs of medium to large size corporations have also changed considerably. Di' Amico says that clients' needs for architectural signage have become "more sophisticated." He feels that customers are still opting for more precise, direct messages of indoor or outdoor architectural signage but they're also going for the new amenities that architectural signage offers such as custom graphics, dimensional logo, and lights; choices they wouldn't have had in the past. Fast Signs has become a new time sign provider by following the basic functions of the "old time" sign crafter. Technology has opened up a great many doors for the customer to do much more with the original concepts that merely complement the traditional sign crafter's role.

    Combining the Old with the New
    D'Amico feels there is still a place for traditional sign crafters in the business even with the wave of the future for "new time" sign providers. Salesmen can offer more of a choice for the sophisticated messages of the small business or corporation while encompassing the skills and work that traditional sign artisans have done in the past. Unfortunately he must admit that the artisan's role will have decreasing importance in the future taking into account current technological trends and needs of the customer.

    There's a steady increase in new businesses taking advantage of the wider scope of choice at the hands of technology, says D’Amico. The new technology has presented a wide variety of opportunities for clients to carry on the ideals of their traditional logo. D'Amico feels that within his own shop full-color graphics, new sign films, l.e.d. and neon signs are the most significant. Sometimes neon lights are used with l.e.d.'s. Neon signs have a higher light voltage than l.e.d.'s, or light emitting density lights but are sometimes used together in elaborate signs for banks where the sign tells you the day, time, and the weather while flashing an invitation to "Come in and see us about our new rates!"

    In his particular case, customers will come in with questions about the technology, he'll do the research to find out which may be best for their project and present them with the data. They're usually quite pleased with the research and the end result of their custom made architectural image or sign that wouldn't be possible without the new options in architectural signage. He seems to feel that it adds a further customization, uniqueness to their corporate identity. They in turn agree that the increase in cost is some justification for the job.

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    Variety of choice is prompting businesses to do some of the darndest things. D'Amico speaks candidly of a project where a company came in and ordered their logo mounted on a fabricated dimensional wall. Ordinarily it wouldn't have been anything new, logos are mounted all the time but since it was done with different fabrics and textures to create an overall three-dimensional effect it was quite unique and wouldn't have been possible without the new technology and his clients' goal of creating the most effective custom message possible, relying on the new perspective that technology has made available.

    Unlimited Potential for New Design
    D'Amico can safely say that the overall increase and effect of technology on business can't be limited to just the Midwestern region of the country. D' Amico's perceptions of an increase in overall business are reinforced by the evaluations of Andrea Hair of Fast Signs in Sacramento, California. She says there’s been a "slight increase" in the amount of architectural signage that they've done because of the more personalized message the technology can offer. She feels that the increase hasn't been limited to small or large businesses. In her case, she notes some "post and panel" work that was done for a group of apartment complexes where the technology made it a lot easier to customize the job for the client. They got a very customized product and the technology made it a lot quicker and easier for Fast Signs to deliver what they wanted.

    Although Hair could claim a small increase in business, D'Amico could claim a more noticeable difference. He feels there has been "a comfortable increase" in the amount of architectural signage his business does, a surprising 15% in comparison to the decrease of nearly 5% in vinyl signs. D'Amico feels the increase in signature designs with full color and digital graphics wouldn't have been possible without the wider choice from technology to give more attention to detail and individual familiarity that is truly unique and memorable.

    As with any other technology when it's first introduced, it's more expensive but as it's utilized more, it's initial production costs will go down, perhaps making it more viable for smaller businesses to take advantage of those options. The medium to large size corporation will still be trying to keep up with what's new next year.

    For the most part indoor or outdoor architectural signage is not a large part of the everyday consumer's worry. It typically requires "much more attention to detail" that someone with only your best interests at heart should handle. In most cases this is your local sign maker or vendor that can utilize the best of the old and new techniques to produce the best sign imaginable. Nowadays, it could be an extension of the corporate logo in the form of digital graphics, dimensional logos, l.e.d signs, and new sign films. Whatever the choice, the same age-old principles of communicating an idea, identity, and philosophy as effectively and personally as possible to the client’s target still apply. The sign maker of old and the modern day sign salesperson can be sure that technology will only assist in meeting its clients' signage needs in the future.

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